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Caregiver Stories

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My dad was diagnosed with dementia in March 2006. This news came hard after going through a very rough time caring for my mother from 1996 - 2000. She passed from a rare brain disorder, Progressive Supra Nuclear Palsy. Several events took place with my dad but it became clear that I had to take away his car in March 2009 (and his freedom), which was extremely hard because of course he was in my face blaming me for taking his life away. I knew it was the right thing to do. I arranged home health care that was paid partially from his long term care insurance. Because of this insurance my dad has been able to so far stay in his home with private duty nurses which has made this terrible situation more pleasant for my dad and of course us (kids). I don't know what we would do without these "Angels" taking care of him.

It has been a rough road and every day brings a new challenge. I usually get several phone calls a day if anything changes from his normal routine (Thanskgiving is throwing him for a loop). I spend alot of time dealing with his insurance company, his doctors, his private duty nurses and of course most importantly him. I am very fortunate to have a supportive husband that never hesitates to lend a hand.

My biggest message with this story is that we are fortunate enough that my mom and dad were smart enough to buy long term care insurance. This provided them the means to get the best quality of care without draining them financially. It has been a big responsibilty for me and I need to stay on top of everything (paying bills, bank account, insurance payments, private duty scheduling, prescriptions, etc) but he is my dad so I want to protect him to be safe, comfortable, and financially sound.

My dad tells me just about every time I see him that he loves me and he appreciates what I do for him and that is the greatest gift.

Crandall Jones Family CaregiverCrandall Jones
74-year-old full-time caregiver

Since 1991, 74-year-old Crandall Jones has been providing full-time care for his aging mother. At 96 years old, his mother remains in good health overall, but a serious fall in which she broke her pelvis and a pair of subsequent falls have left her with balance problems which make it difficult to get around. As a result, full-time, live-in care from her son is a necessity.

To support his mother, Crandall cooks her breakfast each day, does her grocery shopping and runs all other needed errands. He also pays his mother’s bills and works to ensure she receives all the medications she needs each day.

While currently retired, Crandall was employed full-time when he first began providing care for his mother. Realizing he could use some extra help with his caregiving responsibilities, he contacted St. Andrew’s Senior Solutions after hearing about the organization from a neighbor who had recommended its services. 

For the past nine years, home care assistants from St. Andrew’s have been helping Crandall with laundry and general housekeeping duties, in addition to providing his mother with much needed companionship. Crandall notes that St. Andrew’s has been a huge help to him as he navigates his changing caregiving duties.

“I’d recommend St. Andrew’s to anyone in need of help,” said Crandall. “They have been a huge help for me. The assistance they provide allows me to get a break, so that I can get other things done during the day, and my mom really looks forward to visiting with our (home health) aide each day.

The Caregiver’s Prayer

Good evening, my dear heavenly Father.  I am now at rest and have my patient tucked safely in bed.  The covers over him and the oxygen turned on.  I am free.  But where are you?

Sometime ago, as I was in contact with you, in prayer, I asked you for one thing to relieve me of pressures in caring for this darling person, and as I asked you at that time, I only wanted you to give me ‘strength’ to care for him.  I told you that I didn’t need all the luxuries of life, I only look forward to beautiful days and quiet nights.  I tried to explain to you my desire to please my patient and keep him comfortable. Daily I have tried to feed him with many smiles and lots of loving, “I love you”.  We have watched, together, the birds at the feeders, the deer in the garden, and neighbors in their passing by our window.

But time marches on and I wonder where you are to give me the ‘strength’ to accept those chores I do each day.  I know you are watching my every move and maybe the ‘strength’ is surrounding me in the love we share.  I know you must be busy with all the people who are more unfortunate than I and I appreciate that they need you for more than I.  So maybe the ‘strength’ I feel is your warm smile in the face of my loving patient. 

Ah, there you are, my heavenly Father, with the touch of your hand on my heart and another beautiful day together!  Amen!

— Genie Keller

Caring for Louise

My mother, Louise, worked her entire life as a registered nurse enjoying every minute of it until the age of 75, when she finally had to leave her position due to vision difficulties.  However, Mom still remained living entirely independently with diminished vision.  Since Mom never drove she was very familiar with all the bus routes and could navigate them even with poor vision.  At the age of 80 her eye sight was gone completely.

It was at this time that I began to transport my Mom to the stores, run errands, visit the doctor and assist with all transportation needs.  She kept her independence by helping her friends – they had good vision, and because she had great knowledge of bus routes she and her friends still did many outings without assistance. 

I didn’t know that I was only at the beginning of my caregiver days. I didn’t event know that I was a caregiver. I was simply a daughter doing what a mom needed her to do.

The years went on and my Mom could no longer navigate out of her living environment by herself or with her friends.  I then started caring for her on a daily basis – besides doing the errands, transportation chores – she needed helps with bathing, laundry and medication set up.  

This went on for years, approximately 12, then my Mom started becoming frailer and I again progressed to another stage of caregiving.  Every day after work I went to help Mom and ensure things were going okay. 

I knew I needed to get extra help during the day while I worked and had someone to take my Mom on outings during the week as well as a weekly massage – which was a blessing for her arthritis and her spirits.  My Mom was also in and out of the hospital, taking an emotional toll me. Each ER visit I asked the same question – was this the time I would lose her for good? 

Now at the 15 year mark and at the highest stage of caregiving I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I had no more reserve.  I had feelings a guilt – lots of guilt – feelings of helplessness – of being overwhelmed – of being alone against a battle I could not win – I had to face the unbearable – my Mom would not be with her for long.

Finally I sought out help – I found a counselor that understood the role of a caregiver – I received support, guidance and care for myself.  With this new founded support I carried on for another two years until Mom died.  I was lost and alone and continued with counseling for months thereafter.

Viola Breunig - Caregiver ProfileViola Breunig,
Human Resources Manager
St. Louis Business Journal

For the past five years, Viola Breunig has served as a caregiver for her mother who turned 80 in December and now suffers from dementia. Over the past several months, Viola has watched her mother’s condition continue to worsen, and she has seen her list of caregiver duties grow.

Viola’s mother continues to live in her own home and cares for her own physical needs, but with her dementia progressing, Viola and her siblings are now forced to keep a watchful eye on her to ensure her safety. Initially, Viola’s caregiver duties included taking her mother to doctor appointments and checking on her daily, with her siblings pitching in to help with house and yard work. But in recent months, Viola has assumed responsibility for her mother’s finances and many other duties that her mother can no longer handle due to her declining mental state.

As a Business Journal employee, Viola learned that the Caring Workplace® program was available through her work site. She has since utilized the program to gain access to important medical resources for her mother and has also taken advantage of the program’s counseling services.

“Employees can expel a lot of time and energy trying to find much needed help on their own,” said Viola. “For individuals like myself who are dealing with issues related to caring for an aging parent, the Caring Workplace® is a great benefit.  It not only saves time, but also helps me to know that I’m not alone and that many people are dealing with many of the same challenges, which helps me put my own situation in perspective.”

Today, Viola and her siblings are exploring assisted living options for their mother. As they do, Viola continues to take advantage of the services available through the Caring Workplace® and encourages others to do the same.

“The most important thing to remember while you’re caring for someone else is to take care of yourself,” said Viola. “As a caregiver, it’s great to know that Senior Solutions is there if I need them, and I highly recommend anyone in the same position to reach out to them for help.”

Dr. Linda Chapman
Vice President of Academic Affairs, Lewis & Clark Community College

Until two years ago, 59-year-old Linda Chapman had no idea she’d soon be serving as a long-distance caregiver. That was until a conversation with her siblings changed everything.

After speaking with her family members, Linda learned that her 83-year-old mother was becoming increasingly forgetful and was experiencing poor balance and intermittent confusion. Knowing that their mother needed help, but unsure where or how to find it, Linda’s siblings turned to her for advice.

Living more than 1,000 miles away from her parents and siblings, who reside in Massachusetts, Linda was tasked with helping her family locate geriatric specialists on the East Coast who could evaluate her mother. Rather than attempting to tackle this research on her own, Linda decided to take advantage of the resource services offered by the Senior Solutions Caring Workplace® program.

“I remembered that the Caring Workplace® was a benefit offered by our worksite, and immediately contacted (eldercare specialist) Heather O’Brien,” said Linda. “She suggested that it would be good to have a specialist look at my mother’s medical history to get a holistic view of what might be going on. Within days, she supplied me with a list of resources located near my mother’s hometown.”

Linda’s mother continues to live independently with assistance from her husband and children. Linda notes that she and her siblings continue to utilize the information provided by Heather O’Brien and the Caring Workplace® as they consult about their mother’s condition and work together to provide care.

“Heather’s knowledge, compassion, humor and support have helped me to intervene appropriately and helpfully in my parent’s lives, and I’m grateful to her and for all the help I’ve received from the Caring Workplace® program.

Sheila Swisher - Caregiver ProfileSheila Swisher,
Human Resources Director,
DRS Technologies

With signs of dementia beginning to appear in her 86-year-old mother-in-law, Sheila Swisher has recently assumed part-time duties as a long-distance caregiver. Through most of her golden years, Sheila’s mother-in-law has remained independent and active, but things began to change a year ago in the wake of her son’s death, as family members began to notice signs which signaled the onset of dementia.

Residing in a small town outside Macomb, Ill., Sheila’s mother-in-law now receives direct care from her daughter who lives nearby. But, with her condition continuing to worsen, it quickly became clear to Sheila’s sister-in-law that a professional medical evaluation was needed for her mom. Not knowing where else to turn, she looked to Sheila for advice, and Sheila turned to the Caring Workplace® program.

As a St. Louis resident, Sheila was unfamiliar with the senior care services available in the Macomb area and knew a great deal of research would be needed in order to find the right health professionals to help her mother-in-law. Rather than attempting to tackle this extensive research project on her own, Sheila decided to contact a care manager from the Caring Workplace® program. With the care manager’s help, Sheila was able to locate a health care facility in Galesburg, Ill. to evaluate her mother-in-law.

“For a minimal cost, the Caring Workplace® program is a great benefit that DRS Technologies offers to its employees,” said Sheila. “In these tough economic times, the company has considered cutting the program, but it remains because the many benefits it provides far outweigh the costs.”

Sheila notes that more and more of her co-workers are taking on caregiving duties, making the program increasingly popular at her worksite.

“With so many baby boomers now becoming caregivers, it’s important to remember that we don’t have to go at it alone,” said Sheila. “It’s okay to reach out for help, whether it’s from a resource like the Senior Solutions Caring Workplace® program, or from friends, doctors, church or a support group. We don’t have to take care of everything ourselves.