The hardest part of Ines’ day is in the early evening. When most people are heading home to relax after their 9 to 5 jobs, Ines is on edge, nervous. Her husband, Herbert, is often confused at night. Some evenings, he does not even recognize Ines, his wife of more than thirty years.
Herbert has Alzheimer’s. For the past three years, Ines has been his primary caretaker, ensuring he is dressed in the morning, helping him get daily exercise, testing his blood sugar, and making sure he rests. Herbert loves watching soccer, listening to music from his native country of Uruguay, and eating a healthy meal—but like so many people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, evenings are difficult for him.
Caretaking is such a difficult job; whether you are caring for a young child, a loved one with a serious illness or an older adult like a parent or grandparent. But for caregivers like Ines, the difficulties are even greater because Alzheimer’s and dementia robs their loved ones of their memories, leading to confusion, even anger. For caregivers, it is an excruciating process.
This is why, says Sheila Williams of Sunnyside Community Services, caregivers often become overwhelmed and isolated. The labor is both physical and emotional, which takes a toll on their health and well-being.
Luckily, there are programs throughout New York City that can help, including Sunnyside Community Services’ CARE NYC program. Programs like these help caregivers learn more about Alzheimer’s and memory loss diseases, find help with caring for their loved one, and get resources to assist with long-term care planning. Unfortunately, Ms. Williams says, caregivers often wait until a moment of crisis to reach out. “Our goal is to make sure we reach caregivers before the crisis,” she says.
One of the most challenging things Ines realized as she continued to care for her husband was that she could not do it alone: It was a 24-hour-a-day job, and Ines was only one person. So, Ines reached out to organizations around the city. At Sunnyside Community Services, she found staff who could speak with her in Spanish and assist her in finding a part-time home health aide who could lessen her burden. Today, Ines attends a bimonthly support group at our senior center, learns more about Alzheimer’s at free workshops, and works with her home health aide to prepare healthy meals, manage housework, and ensure Herbert takes his medication. “These programs were like a life preserver,” she says, “I felt like I was up to my neck in water. I hung on, thanks to the help I received.”
If you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and you need help with your loved one’s care, you can find help throughout the five boroughs by calling CARE NYC at 877-577-9337.