When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, or any form of dementia, many questions will run through your mind. One of the most prominent is how long you’ll be able to care for them at home and whether they might need assisted living or skilled nursing care as their disease progresses.
Most of us hope to keep our loved ones with us, but it isn’t always possible. Their safety is paramount and caregivers often have jobs and other responsibilities that prevent them from devoting every minute to the patient for whom they are caring, even if they are physically able.
I was concerned about this when my wife was diagnosed in 2014 and as her disease gradually took away her skills, I soon knew she would not be able to care for herself at home much longer. One day in 2018, I came home to take her to lunch and found she had fallen and had a gash on her head, but could not tell me what had happened. Luckily, she was not seriously injured.
Enter Valley Adult Day Services (VADS). I had heard of this wonderful community organization but had never expected we’d be in need of their services. Even if I were the best caregiver for my wife, I would not have been able to do so 24 hours a day. Few can. Plus, I had to work during the day or neither of us, nor our son, would have a roof over our heads.
I first arranged to have my wife spend just a day a week at Valley Adult Day Services on Oak Street here in Porterville. She was reluctant at first, but like a kindergartner, was able to adjust within a few minutes. She played piano, sang, and interacted with the kind staff and other participants.
Later that year, a series of seizures meant that Beckie could no longer be home alone at all. Her participation became daily and part of our routine. I would drop our son off at school, my wife off at VADS and spend the day at work, picking them both up on my way home.
Dementia progresses, always, and the staff at VADS was there for our journey, adjusting their interactions with her as her needs changed and supporting me as her caregiver. The center closed briefly early in the COVID-19 pandemic, before reopening with safety protocols to prevent infection among staff and participants. My wife passed early in the pandemic, having spent her last few weeks in a skilled nursing facility.
If not for VADS, my options would have been limited, and very difficult. I could have quit work to care for her, but I needed to support my family. Or, I could have placed her in an assisted living facility earlier than I thought necessary and struggled to find a way to pay for it.
What VADS gave us was a year and a half of her being at home, with her family, her life as normal and loving as we could make it. There are no easy answers or happy endings with Alzheimer’s, but this is a gift greater than I could have asked of anyone.
I joined the VADS board in late 2020, hoping to help the organization navigate the difficult financial times we are in and keep it going for the next generation of participants and caregivers. It seems the least I could do.
Valley Adult Day Services provides respite care for adults dealing with dementia and other cognitive disorders. For more information, contact them at 559-783-9815 or [email protected].
Michael Carley has written a just-published book about his caregiver journey, “Diary of a Bad Husband: One Man’s Journey as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, from Diagnosis to the Very End,” available on Amazon.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.