In the last six months, my mom and brothers and I had to make a tough decision about her future.
Her health was failing and our efforts to keep her in our childhood home, or one of ours, wasn't working.
Like many of you, we all work and when she was alone she had a couple of serious falls.
So she picked out an assisted living facility and, while it's not home, she is thriving and staying active with people her own age with similar issues.
And as tough as it is making these decisions about your parent, imagine being told your 59 year old husband has Alzheimer's and your role has changed from wife to caregiver.
Judy and Steve Nye of South Bend have been together for 32 years.
Today, Steve is 71 and in the final stages of Alzheimer's.
Judy says at first they weren't sure what was wrong.
“When he was 59, I started noticing things that were not quite right,” she said. “Because he's a very accomplished and articulate individual, very aware and could do just about anything.”
Steve, an environmental engineer, who owned his own business, and has a masters from Notre Dame, thought it was the stress of work but Judy finally convinced him to see a doctor. His diagnosis was heartbreaking.
They learned he had Alzheimer’s 12 years ago and Judy says her heavy caregiving began about six years ago. All while working full time for Crowe-Horwath which she still does to pay for Steve's care. She says her company made arrangements for her to work out of their home, which wasn't always easy.
“I would be on a conference call and he's jabbering and interrupting and playing with my work papers,” she explained.
For the last three years, Morning View Nursing and Rehabilitation has been Steve's home, but it wasn't Judy's decision. One day he jumped out the car and took off. Police found him and took him to a geriatric psych ward and it was decided Steve was no longer safe at home.
As much as Judy loves morning view that didn't stop her from being a caregiver. She says other than work she spent every waking hour with Steve.
Through Real Services and support groups with Alzheimer's and dementia services of northern Indiana, and advice from her doctor Judy realized she needed to cut back.
She says it's also important to understand what you are dealing with.
In fact, Judy now serves on the executive board of Alzheimer's and Dementia Services of Northern Indiana
They, along with Real Services can help you make the best decision for your family.
“We have a tremendous amount of resources and we're very turned into the caregiver. They are the ones that keep people at home for as long as possible,” she said.
Judy says she now visits about four nights a week, and she knows Steve is well cared for.
“I go an visit the children on vacation and when I do that the staff here are aware of it, I'm in touch with them daily.”
Judy's never regrets the care she gave her husband at home, just that he has to suffer from this insidious disease.
And while their lives changed dramatically from carefree days of working, vacationing and visiting family, Judy says the time they spend together is something she cherishes.
“Even if he's not aware that I'm his wife, he holds my hand all the time,” she said.
“There are moments of clarity when I know he does,” she explained “His eyes light up and he'll look at me and get the biggest smile. He'll give me kisses.”
Whether taking care of a spouse or mom and dad, Cuson says, as painful as these decisions are, caregivers have to also take care of themselves.
“Just because that parent is in a nursing home or assisted living that does not mean you have walked away from your responsibility, it actually means you've made the tough decision and you've done the right thing for the parent and you should be proud of that.”
Both can help you find the proper care for your loved one.
Many of their services are free but some are based our services on a person's ability to pay.