SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A former Georgia Southern student has overcome her disability to help senior citizens overcome difficult situations.
Kasey Hayes can get so engaged in helping a senior client deal with Alzheimer’s that she doesn’t even think about her own challenges.
“I don’t look at myself as a learning disability. I look at myself as another person,” she said.
Kasey is much more than that to Miss Anderson at Statesboro’s Willow Pond Senior Living. She can be a facilitator, a friend, and even, seemingly, a family member.
“She calls me her granddaughter sometimes. If she’s in a sad mood, we’ll talk at dinner or play a game or something to get her mood off of being sad,” Kasey said.
Kasey received her caregiver training through Georgia Southern’s Eagles Academy - an inclusive post-secondary education program for students with mild intellectual disabilities.
This spring, Kasey became the first student to complete the program and graduate alongside Southern’s senior class.
“If I hadn’t been through that program, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Being picked on in high school has shut me down, but in college, I was like, ‘okay, this is not who I am.’ Being at the Eagle Academy, it has perked me up to become a better person - not saying 'okay, I have a disability, I can’t do this.”
Eagle Academy, combined with her own experiences, also helped Kasey become an exceptional, empathetic caregiver.
Kasey has a big heart. It shows in her work."
“I really enjoy it. It has really opened up my eyes,” she said.
“Someone that’s had to deal with struggles just to maintain or get through their own daily navigation of life’s path understands what it’s like for someone who is dealing with that in their old age. So, to put those connections together, I think it makes Kasey a perfect person to work in memory care," said James Wiggins, Georgia Live-in Senior Care, Regional Manager.
Georgia Southern’s Eagle Academy is a two-year Associate’s Degree program.