Gary Reed’s short-term memory is almost gone.
At home, “he dusts all the time. He folds napkins and towards nighttime he gets more confused now,” said his wife, Jeannette Burkert.
She has a way to calm him when he is confused. Burkert said, “I just tell him I will take care of it. It seems to help,” she said. As a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, she knows, “you cannot live in your world. You have got to live in theirs.”
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. In Northwest Ohio, 96,000 family and friends care for 32,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease. That’s important because statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association show that nationwide approximately 70 percent of the people who have the disease do not live in care facilities but are cared for by family and friends.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias can be demanding. The level of assistance provided by caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s tends to be extensive, compared with caregivers of other older adults. For example, dementia caregivers are more likely to assist with activities like bathing or showering, handling incontinence, and giving medication. In addition, caregiving responsibilities often persist for many years – even decades.
Burkert, of Findlay, cares for her husband and her mother, Blanche Burkert, who has dementia. Once a week, she drives to Fostoria to visit her mother in a nursing facility. In addition, her husband’s brother has Alzheimer’s disease. “You’ve got to smile a lot. They feed off your emotions. I am kind of learning as I go,’’ she said.
Burkert said Reed, 73, was diagnosed about three years ago. “Looking back, you can see there were signs,” she said. “He worked at Whirlpool. He was in maintenance. The guys on the maintenance crew would cover for him.”
Although they have been together for 35 years, she and Reed got married after he was diagnosed. “I had to call the ambulance one time and they would not let me in the house because we were not married.” She said she wants to ensure that Reed can be cared for in their home as along as she can handle the responsibilities.
She knows there will come a time when her husband will need more care than she can provide, but “right now I take it one day at a time. I try to make as many memories as I can. I take pictures. He likes to travel so we take a ride,” Burkert said.
She attends the monthly caregiver support group sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio Chapter at Birchaven in Findlay. She’s protective of that time for herself.
When asked how she finds the strength to care for multiple people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, she said, “I talk to God a lot.”
If you need immediate assistance caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.