Singing elderly caregiver Paula Perez wins Visiting Angels highest honor

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — “I learned as much from MaryAnn and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as she learned from me,” said Paula Perez.

Perez, originally from Bethlehem, has learned to be patient and compassionate when caring for her mother and grandson. Her love for others also shone through when she worked as a school crossing guard.

But she found her true calling responding to an advertisement for Visiting Angels in Bethlehem and Northampton. It started out as a part-time job, but soon became her full-time passion.

One patient who changed her life is MaryAnn Ofchus from Bethlehem. Ofchus worked as a receptionist in a dental office and has been married to her husband for 59 years. But the latter proved difficult after showing signs of dementia.

That’s when Perez and Ofchus’ paths crossed.

“Visiting Angels gives us a care plan to take care of her, but MaryAnn doesn’t like staying home,” Perez said. “Taking her to places she used to go, activities, photos she used to take, songs, it’s like therapy for her.”

Between singing in the car and stopping at the Ritz Barbecue for lunch, the two ladies have become more like best friends. Ofchus’ daughter, Denise Force, saw the difference.

“Paula just takes her back to that age where she was carefree and loving and she’s not anxious anymore like she was when she was home alone,” Force said.

This year, Perez’s dedication to his work spurred a nomination for Visiting Angels’ “Caregiver of the Year” award. To her surprise, she was chosen as caregivers from hundreds of franchises nationwide and received a check for $5,000.

“I’m just the tip of the iceberg because you recognized me, but that’s the whole group,” Perez said. “MaryAnn and her family, my family, my colleagues, caring and respecting the dignity of life that the person can have.”


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