Eau Claire (WQOW) - Imagine a loved one not remembering who they are. Who would they turn to: a parent or child, a spouse? In many cases, the expense of care is too much for families to bear, which means they take on the care-giving responsibilities themselves. Deciding when to seek professional care is not always black and white or easy
Kathy Dennis has taken care of her husband Steve since he was diagnosed with dementia three years ago.
"After the diagnosis was made and I looked back, knowing the symptoms more, I would say it had been ongoing for another three years, so six years total. It's like a child, very much like a child but a child learns and this is un-learning, backwards," Dennis says.
Kathy went from vacationing three times a year to planning grocery trips days in advance. She is an at-home caregiver.
"More and more it's becoming the norm. Most of these caregivers are unpaid. They're having to take sick time, vacation time to care for their loved ones," Paula Gibson of Azura Memory Care says.
With life expectancies on the rise and baby boomers becoming of a certain age: the number of at-home caregivers is increasing.
"Right now he can do all the physical things, shower, shave and all that stuff. When it comes to a time when he can't do those things...I'm not sure," Dennis says.
"A lot of times, you hear the wedding vows: to have and to hold, in sickness and in death. But what it doesn't say is where that sickness will occur or when it will occur. Placing a loved one in a home, like Azura, is one of the hardest things a loved one can do," Gibson says.
Even after 39 years of marriage, Kathy says it's not just the emotional strain, the financial burden weighs heavily as well.
"I'm going to have him stay as long as possible because it's pricey for him to go to a memory care unit. It's all out of pocket," Dennis says.
And for a retired teacher, a $5,000 per month expense was not included in her plan for their golden years.
Paula says it's important for caregivers to get the support they need, whether it's financial or emotional. There are resources available and an upcoming event will help caregivers get in touch with the right people.
The event is called "Detours and Speed Bumps." It will be held on Veterans Day at Peace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire. It is free but reservations are needed to secure a dinner spot. Attendees will be able to explore local care-giving resources and talk with experts and others who are dealing with similar issues. To reserve a spot, call the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Eau Claire at (715) 839 – 4735.