KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – In 2020, Mary Skinner became the sole caretaker of her brother, Andy. They lost their father that year due to complications from exposure to Agent Orange, the infamous herbicide …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – In 2020, Mary Skinner became the sole caretaker of her brother, Andy. They lost their father that year due to complications from exposure to Agent Orange, the infamous herbicide used in the Vietnam War. Since then, their mother has suffered from medical ailments that prevent her from tending to Andy’s own severe health problems.
“Andy has cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and is cortically blind,” said Skinner. “He was born this way due to our father’s exposure to Agent Orange.”
She assumes sole responsibility for her brother’s daily needs – bathing, feeding and medication.
“He is physically and mentally unable to assist with his day-to-day needs,” she said.
She coordinates with Veteran Affairs, Medicare and Medicaid to ensure Andy continues his medicine and medical exams. She oversees her family’s finances and cooperates with lawyers to report medical expenses to the state, VA and Social Security. Still, she finds ways to spark joy. She takes Andy on family vacations, the park and fishing trips, with weather and his health permitting. “Where we go, he goes.”
Skinner supports her brother with her small jewelry business, Something Really Nice LLC. Founded in 2021, the business allows her to follow her passion for crafting while granting the flexibility needed for her brother.
“I have always made crafts and when I could no longer maintain a work schedule to take care of my brother. I chose starting a business as a way to do both,” she said. Working from home, Skinner tirelessly creates resin journals, cutting boards, coasters
Skinner says that her faith in God and her family are the twin pillars supporting her continuing strength.
“My husband helps me out a great deal and babysits for me when I do markets or need some downtime,” she said.
In her time off, Skinner enjoys gardening, crafting, outside, and fishing.
“My in-laws are awesome and help give us time together as a couple by sitting with Andy,” she said.
Skinner said having a priority list and an outlined schedule keeps her organized as she manages Andy’s needs, her home, and her career. She empathizes with families in similar situations.
“Don’t give up. It eventually becomes a routine, and you learn a balance through trial and error,” she said. “Take time for yourself. It’s tantamount to keep sane, and you will be a better caretaker for it.”