Stress and the senior caregiver: Memoirs of three Sun City caregivers
Part 7 in a series on stress
Hilda Schmidt cared for Don, her husband of 57 years, through the last two years of his life. Don suffered from congestive heart failure and needed around the clock help. Hilda’s two sons, who live in the area, told their mom to call them first for any kind of needed assistance. Hilda says, “They were always there for me.” Her son Don and his wife are physical therapists who offered physical help and advice. They advised against Hilda doing heavy lifting with her husband.
Several times, the Sun City resident was fortunate to catch her husband before he fell. Hilda was able to take short breaks to engage in her stress-relief exercise of swimming.
“In the last two months of Don’s life, I sought help from Alexian Brothers Hospital, Elk Grove, who provided Home Health, and, then with the end in sight, provided Don with hospice services and spiritual readings about death,” Hilda said. “I read them with Don, and I still read them now, months after Don died in April. Alexian Brothers Hospital still gives me support through a grievance counseling group I attend, as well as my attending memorial masses that are open to all denominations.
“Family especially can come into play when a son might be able to do things that are difficult for the wife to do for her husband, such as shaving the dad’s beard,” Hilda said. “Conversely, a daughter might help put makeup on her mom, something difficult for a husband to do for his wife.”
Dave Kadolph, 85, became caregiver for Pat, his wife of 51 years. The mother of 14 children died last year of problems with Alzheimer’s disease. This Sun City husband began researching ways that he would take care of his wife’s ailment when he and Pat first saw signs of the debilitating form of dementia, which had already claimed his mother-in-law.
“Way in advance of the disease, I read and read for help to learn what to do,” Dave said.
He searched out local health expos and discovered Family Alliance of Woodstock, where he traveled for four years to become involved in self-help support groups of 30 to 40 people. Here he learned more on how to approach this kind of caregiving. With the disease having worsened to a later stage, and after qualifying for state financial help at Senior Services Asociates, Elgin, he was able to get needed help for Pat.
After a nurse evaluated her, an aide bathed Pat three to four times weekly. Other helpers washed Dave’s and his wife’s clothes and stayed with Pat while Dave pursued his love of swimming.
Once a week, communion was given to his wife through his local church.
“Sometimes a child of the loved one has to assist the caregiver to understand how difficult the caregiving situation has become,” Dave said.
Two of Dave’s sons visited 60 nursing homes in two months to get the “right one,” a promise Dave had earlier made to his wife. Traveling to Elgin daily, Dave was able to eat dinner nightly with Pat at the nursing home. Then driving back to Sun City, Dave stopped his car often on a side road to cry.
“Pat was there for me when I suffered a terrible stroke; now I would be there for her. Prayer is my greatest asset,” Dave said.
Dave cautions other dementia caregivers: “Don’t get mad at your loved ones if they make mistakes even if it might lead, as in my case, to an appliance flooding in the wrong places in your home. Also include them, if you can, in special rides with you. When I didn’t understand medical terms used about Pat’s condition in the nursing home, I went up the ladder of hierarchy until I received some satisfaction.”
Catherine Ennis quit her job five years ago to take care of Jim, her husband of 51 years who had Alzheimer’s disease.
“Years ago he helped me fight cancer; now it is my turn,” Catherine said. “It’s a two-way street. You can wallow in self-pity or you can do something about it. I’m trying to make it the best that it can be for Jim. We both rely on our religious belief for support.”
Catherine, too, has enlisted the help of Family Alliance, in this case for their day programs.
“This is how I met Juliana Krupka, a Sun City resident and my husband’s intake nurse there. Juliana (a recently retired registered nurse with a masters degree in gereontology and a specialty in dementia care) has been amazing,” Catherine said. “She has a comforting way about her. She tells you what to do and what will be coming.”
According to Juliana, her services in Sun City exclusively “allow caregivers with dementia/memory loss patients to take a break, run errands, be involved in activities, and just have some personal time.”
Catherine says, “Everyone tells you to stay healthy, but no one tells you how. Now with the help of Mrs. Krupka, I plan to continue making my Stonehenge quilt as part of my quilting club.” She adds, “I would like to also continue engaging in yoga classes for strengthening my back, a problem brought on by caregiving.”
Juliana Krupka can be reached at 847-515-1873 or email: MPK97JLK@comcast.net
Juliana adds that Family Alliance has a staffed Care of the Caregiver Support Group that meets on the second Monday of the month (no meeting in August) at 10:30 a.m. in Fountainview Center’s Breakout Room. A “Caring for the Caregiver” Lecture will take place on Wednesday, November 7 in Meadowview Lodge’s Willow Room from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Adult day care programs may be found at Family Alliance, Woodstock (815-33S8-3590); Cherished Place, East Dundee (847-568-5774); and Heritage Woods, Huntley (847-669-5185). A variety of funding sources are available for these programs. Senior Services Associates, Inc., Elgin (847-741-0404) is also available for those who qualify financially.