Male Caregivers – Leading the Way at Easterseals

Chances are that if I ask you to picture a caregiver you’ll picture a woman. That’s not surprising – according to Michigan State University, 66% of caregivers are women. In previous blogs I’ve often highlighted the disproportionate impact of caregiving on women; and as we emerge from COVID, that has been exacerbated by childcare difficulties as discussed in my recent Washington Post OpEd.

As we approach Father’s Day, though, I want to take the opportunity to highlight some unsung heroes – male caregivers. Among the thousands of friends and neighbors who benefit from Easterseals programs every year are men like Michael Smith, who have become caregivers themselves. I’m also proud of the diverse team at Easterseals that includes many men in caregiving roles and honored to highlight three today. Marcus Bolston, Larry Johnson, and Dr. Shea Lott are wonderful examples of our commitment to creating a hopeful, inclusive community where all people realize their potential and live meaningful lives. They embody our Core Values of Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Innovation, and Care – listening to our participants’ needs then adapting programs to realize the participant’s goals.

Marcus Bolston: Director, Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Adult Day Services

Marcus (left) celebrating the 100th birthday of an ADS participant.

Marcus Bolston takes pride in connecting with people from all backgrounds, “Anytime you get to work closely with families and the individuals you serve, you build a great connection that lasts for a long time.” In his role as Adult Day Services Director, Marcus enjoys creating a socially enriched environment, connecting with patients, and also ensuring high quality care for participants with a wide range of diagnoses, including Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, and Down syndrome. For Marcus, respect means taking every opportunity to learn from those around him. For example, Marcus recently drove a patient with no transportation to get his vaccine in Baltimore, and, “When he came back he shared how much he learned about the individual and the good conversation they had,” notes Marcus’ supervisor, Liz Barnes.

For Marcus, connecting with those around him is natural. His favorite memories from his years with Easterseals are the times with his staff and participants during holiday parties or events. He hosts regular holiday-themed parties for Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, New Years and the occasional cookout, “Most importantly I get to meet people from all walks of life, hear their stories, and learn from them which is both inspiring and humbling.”

Larry D. Johnson, Jr.: Director, Easterseals Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Child Development Center

Larry’s supervisor, Tara Phillips, speaks highly of his aesthetic eye and keen ability to prepare classroom environments that are inviting and comforting to children based on their needs. However, the memory of Larry that resonates strongest for her exemplifies his true character, “Soon after Larry was hired, he recognized the landscaping at the Child Development Center needed an upgrade.” He wanted the center to look warm and welcoming for children and their families, so he took that upon himself. “One Saturday morning,” Tara continued, “Larry came to the center with his personal lawn mower and lawn bags and he cut the grass and trimmed the hedges. He was sweating, but noticeably intent on cleaning up the last debris that were on the sidewalk.”

If you ask Larry, he’ll tell you there’s no better feeling than having a conversation with a child and listening to his or her innocent take on the world. His time with children brings him joy every day, but his role as a leader is not lost, “It is extremely rewarding to have team members further their education because I’ve inspired them. To know that I have had that kind of influence on someone feels good.”

Dr. Shea Lott: Lead Clinician, Clinical Psychologist The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals

When he joined the Easterseals team in October, Dr. Shea Lott set out to ensure that veterans, active duty servicemembers, and their families have access to the highest quality care so they can fully participate in our community. As Lead Clinician and Director for Clinical Training at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, Shea wears many hats and juggles many administrative priorities – but if you ask him, none are more important than helping veterans and their families, “When treatment has concluded and the clients say the services changed their life or the life of their family member for the better – that’s a priceless and timeless experience.”

At Easterseals, Shea takes pride in using evidence-based care to ensure his clients heal. He recently treated a client with PTSD caused by observing and experiencing discrimination in the wake of the DC protests, riots, and insurrection. “Working with this individual and leveraging prolonged exposure therapy has been a game changer for the client, whose symptoms of PTSD are now in remission,” says Shea. “This is a great example of therapy leading to improved interpersonal interactions and self-concept development so that the individual can participate fully in our vibrant community.”

For Marcus, Larry, and Shea, their profession is so much more than a paycheck. It’s an opportunity to heal, serve, and learn; and we are a better organization for having men of their character on our team. To Marcus, Larry, Shea and the rest of our team, I appreciate your unwavering commitment and dedication.

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