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Relief for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

A woman we’ll call “Carolyn” first realized something was wrong the day she went to Walmart and left her husband “Howard” at home to watch the grandchildren. When she was checking out at the store, Carolyn noticed her husband standing behind her. He didn’t realize he had left the children home alone. That was the day Carolyn realized her husband of 40 years had Alzheimer’s disease.

“I first noticed the forgetfulness, not knowing where he was at. A couple of times he called me by a different name, or asked me how long we’d been married, how many children we had, how come I never told him we had kids. Are they mine? Questions like that.” Carolyn said. “I’d ask him if he knew their names. Sometimes he did. Sometimes he didn’t.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is a debilitating illness that affects 340,000 people in the state of Texas, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Howard is living with Alzheimer’s and Carolyn is his main caregiver. With the help of United Way’s LIVE WELL health initiative and the Easter Seals North Texas respite care service, Carolyn is able to take breaks from caregiving and run errands or visit her grandchildren. In 2016-2017, United Way is investing almost a quarter-million dollars in respite care services.

“It was difficult. Even though I knew what I was dealing with, I felt like everything was closing in on me. I was stressed out, concentrating on him and not myself, until I got Gary’s help from Easter Seals,” Carolyn said. “He’s been a godsend to me. I can get out for a little while, do something for myself. At the end of the day, I just felt like I couldn’t breathe, it was too much, so he’s been a lot of help.”

By reducing the stress of caregiving, respite care enables care recipients to keep living at home rather than go to a care facility. With the help of the Easter Seals respite care program and her children, Carolyn hopes to keep Howard in their home as long as she can.

“It takes everybody’s help. And I know it’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse, but I’m ready for it. I’m prepared for it as much as I can. I said I’ll do this until I feel I can’t do it anymore, and then I’ll have to figure out what to do from there,” she said. “He’s always been there for me. I battled cancer myself 16 years ago, and he was there for me. We’re there for each other. It’s my obligation to take care of him. I can’t see putting him away in a home because I’m still able to take care of him. As long as God gives me the strength to do it, that’s what I’m going to do.”