Real Life Strategies and Solutions

The 2014-15 John A. Hartford Foundation Story Contest

Congratulations to the contest winners! Read their winning stories below

We are very pleased to announce the top three prize winners of this year's John A. Hartford Foundation Story Contest: “Better Caregiving, Better Lives: Real Life Strategies and Solutions.” Congratulations to first-place winner, Halima Amjad, and to our two second-prize winners, Rosemary Rawlins and Marielena Zuniga.  We congratulate all of the other finalists, whose stories can also be found below.  Thank you to everyone who contributed stories and to our panel of judges.  Follow us on Health AGEnda for more posts about the contest and how these stories can benefit your work to improve health care for older adults.   

About the Story Contest

Storytelling is powerful. Throughout history and across cultures, people have used stories to create shared meaning out of human experiences, change mindsets, and spur action and social change.  In our work to improve the health of older adults, we know that stories can help draw attention to the dangers and failings in our health care system for older people.  Stories can also shine a light on solutions to those problems. 

That is why last year we launched our “Heroes of Geriatric Care Story Contest,” showcasing how geriatrics expertise among health care professionals can save the day for older adults.  This year, our second story contest focused on what is perhaps the most critical member of the health care team for older adults, family caregivers. 

In this year’s contest we asked for stories that both bring to light the challenges of those who care for older adults and clear examples of how to overcome difficulties and obstacles.  We asked for compelling, powerful stories that are rich with detail and drama.

The contest closed on January 15, 2015 and we received 107 entries that represented the diverse range of experiences and situations of family caregivers.  Spouses, children, siblings, friends, and other “family” members of older adults shared their caregiving stories.  Health care providers and representatives of organizations that serve older adults and caregivers shared their stories, as well.  

We are very pleased to announce the following winners of the contest and we thank our panel of judges: Lisa Gwyther, Duke University Family Support Program; Kathy Kelly, Family Caregiver Alliance; and Yannick Rice-Lamb, multi-media journalist and educator (more information about the judges can be found below). 

Enjoy these winning stories, along with the other finalists’ entries and a story that Rice-Lamb wrote about caregiver Todd Shurn. You can also read more about what we learned from the contest on Health AGEnda, why we focused on family caregiving and how you can use these stories in your own work.

Family Caregiving Story Contest Winners:

First Prize Winner ($3,000):
“Caring for Dementia: Returning to the Village”
by Halima Amjad

Halima’s story revolves around her father, a retired dentist, who was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). She uses the adage that “it takes a village” and shows, through the efforts of her mother and entire family, how a community of people can help effectively engage in dementia caregiving. Read the full story here.

About Halima Amjad: Halima Amjad is a clinical and research fellow in geriatric medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with a focus on improving care for older adults with dementia.

Tied Second Place Winner ($750):
Gratitude for End of Life Lessons
by Rosemary Rawlins

In caregiving for her father, both Rosemary and her mother drew from that experience and learned to more gracefully cope with difficult end-of-life decisions. Her story shows just how much of a difference hospice care can make in allowing us to live and die with dignity. Read the full story here.

About Rosemary Rawlins: Rosemary Rawlins is a caregiver, author, speaker, and editor for BrainLine Blogs.

Tied Second Place Winner ($750):
Sitting with Raymond: The Zen of Caregiving
by Marielena Zuniga

As Marielena comes to terms with her father’s condition following a stroke, she learns that an important aspect of caregiving is acknowledging circumstances that are beyond her control--advice from her father that she takes to heart. In doing so, she learns that the “zen of caregiving” is about letting go and accepting what is. Read the full story here.

About Marielena Zuniga: Marielena Zuniga is a creative writer and award-winning journalist of more than 35 years. For the past 15 years, her writing has focused on spirituality and women’s issues. 

Congratulations to all our Story Contest Finalists:

“How I Became a Caregiver”
by Kathryn Adams
A geriatric social worker learns the elaborate dance of the long-distance caregiver as she helps care for her mother with Parkinson’s disease.  

by Judy Donoghue
As dementia took its toll on her husband over the last eight years of his life, the author found ways to cope, including seeking help from a local caregiver support group and taking classes.

“The Right Room”
by Amber Herrick
The author learns that even the best-designed program to provide help to keep older adults living at home instead of a nursing home cannot fill every need. So much depends on the caregiver.

“My Parents, Myself, and My Children”
by Carolyn Iverson
After her mother’s failing health led to an addiction to sleep medications, a daughter becomes not only a caregiver, but an “elder activist.”

“Two Peas in a Pod”
by Karalee Jacobs
When Alzheimer’s disease begins to take away her mother, the author reaches out to family, friends and organizations for help, learning to find treasures in the present and to celebrate moments.

by Lisa Johnson
The anguish of caregiving is overwhelming, the author writes, but through all the difficulties involved in caring for a sister with frontotemporal dementia, there are lessons to be learned.

“More Than A Bath”
by Elizabeth Mulvaney
The task of giving her mother a bath brings a geriatric social worker to the difficult realization that her knowledge and training would not be enough to help her ailing mother regain her independence.

by Rosemarie Robotham
As her mother grows increasingly fragile from dementia, the author learns to just be with her, now.

About the Judges

Lisa P. Gwyther, MSW, LCSW, is a social worker with 37 years of experience working with family caregivers of individuals with dementia.  She serves on the Hartford Change AGEnts Dementia Caregiving Network, the Hartford Advisory Committee on Geriatric Social Work Centers of Excellence, and the 2015 National Institute of Medicine Committee on Family Caregiving for Older Adults.  She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Duke School of Medicine where, as a Senior Fellow of the Duke Center for Aging, she directs the Duke Family Support Program and the Duke Employee Elder Care Consultation Program.


Kathleen Kelly, MPA, is the Executive Director of Family Caregiver Alliance and the National Center on Caregiving.  Ms. Kelly has over 30 years of experience in program and state system development regarding integration of family caregivers within health and social service systems.  Ms. Kelly has overseen the development of state service programs, consumer information systems, caregiver data reporting, and numerous research projects. She has advocated for family caregivers in public policy, service development, professional staff development and the media.


Yanick Rice Lamb, who teaches journalism at Howard University, is co-founder of She is a John A. Hartford/MetLife Foundation Journalism in Aging & Health Fellow, a project of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America now supported by AARP. She was also an Alzheimer’s Disease Fellow through the National Press Foundation.  She has also been a guest author on Health AGEnda.





Entries are due by Jan. 15, 2015 (midnight Eastern Time).

Stories must be true and, in the case of health care providers, either made anonymous consistent with the ethics of the health professions or should be accompanied by signed release/permission documents from patients, as needed. When you submit your entry, please include a note in your email telling us how you heard about the contest.

In cases where a loved one being written about by a family caregiver is capable of giving informed consent, it should be obtained.

Stories may be submitted in written, video, or photo essay format.

  • Written stories must be 1,200 words or less. Illustrations, graphics, and visual images in written submissions are encouraged, but not required.
  • Videos must be 3 minutes or less.
  • Photo essays must contain 6 or fewer photos, with captions of 200 words or less per photo.

Stories should have beginnings, middles, and ends. Stories should have drama from challenges, complications, and tribulations. Stories should be rich in specifics and reasonably detailed, but not assume technical knowledge.

Stories should be submitted electronically as file attachments or links to downloadable files to with the words "Caregiving Story Contest" in the subject line. When you submit your entry, please include a note in your email telling us how you heard about the contest.

Multiple submissions by an individual are not allowed.  Original material will be given judging preference over previously published stories. If a previously published story is submitted, the author must be able to grant full rights to the story as described under Intellectual Property Rights below.

Contest Prizes

First prize: $3,000
Second prize: $1,000
Third prize: $500


Contest is open to individuals over the age of 18 with a valid US taxpayer identification number (i.e., Social Security Number, Employer Identification Number, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), including Hartford Foundation grantees and non-grantees, geriatric and other health care providers, and geriatric services recipients, their families, friends, and caregivers.

Employees of the John A. Hartford Foundation and Strategic Communications & Planning (SCP) are not eligible.

The competition is subject to all applicable federal laws and regulations. If required by law, state and/or federal taxes may be withheld from awards made. In addition, winners are responsible for reporting and paying any income taxes or other taxes that may apply to accepting awards.

Participation constitutes contestant's full and unconditional agreement to these Official Rules and administrative decisions, which are final and binding in all matters related to the competition.

Eligibility for an award is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.

Judges and Winners Selection:

Submissions will be judged by a panel selected by the John A. Hartford Foundation at its sole discretion.

The panel will judge the submissions on composition, overall impact, and the incorporation of principles of exemplary geriatric caregiving.

The John A. Hartford Foundation reserves the right to reject any entries and to decline to award any or all prizes if the entries are not found to be worthy.


Except where prohibited, participation in the competition constitutes the winners' consent to the contest's sponsors and its agents' use of the winners' names, likenesses, photographs, voices, opinions, and/or hometown information for promotional purposes in any media worldwide, without further payment or consideration.

Intellectual Property Rights:

Contestants will retain all rights to any stories they submit, including ownership if applicable. Contestants shall grant the John A. Hartford Foundation royalty-free, non-exclusive, irrevocable rights in perpetuity to use submitted stories to advance the mission of the Foundation, including, but not limited to, publication on the John A. Hartford Foundation Health AGEnda blog, the John A. Hartford Foundation website, social media platforms, and in communications and/or other publications.

Disclaimer and Liability:

Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, or delay in operation or transmission; communications line failure; theft or destruction of or unauthorized access to Contest entries; or alteration of entries or entry forms. Sponsor is not responsible for any problems with or technical malfunction of any telephone network or lines, computer online systems, servers or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of any email entry to be received on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, human errors of any kind, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to entrants' or any other persons' computers related to or resulting from participation, uploading or downloading of any materials related to in this Contest.

Use of Contest site is at user's own risk. Sponsor is not responsible for any personal injury or property damage or losses of any kind which may be sustained to user's or any other person's computer equipment resulting from participation in the Contest, use of the Contest site or the downloading of any information from the Contest site.

The contestant shall be liable for, and shall indemnify and hold harmless the John A. Hartford Foundation against all actions or claims for loss of or damage for intellectual property infringement, any type of defamation, right of privacy, or personal injury claim, or to property of the John A. Hartford Foundation computer systems or to those of the users of the applications resulting from the fault, negligence, or wrongful act or omission of the contestant.




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