Oct 15

Navigating Caregiving Challenges with Love

Springwell Caregiver specialist with a woman and her husband

Sandy and Bob of Wellesley have been married for 49 years, raised two children and are the happy grandparents of 5. Before retirement, Sandy managed a dental office and Bob was a Program Manager for the US Department of Transportation. Sandy describes Bob as a “numbers guy” who always had full understanding of his work with big budgets. A few years ago, Sandy noticed a change; Bob was struggling to do their personal tax returns. A PET scan revealed plaque in his brain that led to his dementia diagnosis. In retrospect, Sandy realizes there had been subtle changes prior to the tax challenges.

The wedding vow she made nearly 50 years ago, “in sickness and in health” is very important to Sandy. Her goal is to provide care at home for Bob through the various stages of his illness and to have the support she needs that will allow her to remain both physically and mentally well as his caregiver.

Sandy’s involvement with a support group for couples dealing with dementia led her to Springwell, and our Caregiver Support Program. Through Springwell, Sandy and Bob were the recipients of a technology grant that provided them with an iPad and headphones giving easy access to music for Bob. Listening to music pleases Bob and the headphones block out startling, overwhelming background noise thus allowing him to enjoy activities, such as mall walking with Sandy. Rebecca Petersen, Springwell Caregiver Specialist, checks in periodically with Sandy and acts as a resource for everything from getting answers to insurance questions to seeing if she qualifies for a dementia coaching program to inviting Sandy to a self-care day for caregivers at Springwell.

Sandy has enrolled Bob in an adult day program a couple of days a week. For the most part, he enjoys his time there and seems to understand that Sandy needs that time to get “work” done. Their children, Jennifer and Richard, also each spend time with Bob weekly, both to stay close with him and to give Sandy a much needed break from caregiving.  Sandy also connects with other caregivers to share feelings, resources and frustrations.

Despite the support, Sandy acknowledges that recently she ended up in a “caregiver funk.” Additional stresses in her life and sleep deprivation had taken a toll on her. Sandy knew she needed additional support to keep her well and sought it. Sandy strongly encourages caregivers to reach out for support from others. She emphasizes that “connecting with peers who truly understand her day to day life” is vital for her. “We caregivers need to communicate with other people who are in the same boat.”

Sandy knows that as Bob’s illness worsens, she will likely need more help with him at home and, with Rebecca’s help, is making sure she has a plan in place for that. As a self-described open minded problem solver, Sandy continually seeks support both for Bob, who suffers from the difficult disease of dementia and for herself so that she can continue to take good care of the man she loves dearly. Learn more about our Caregiver Support Program.