Tina just wanted to help. Her husband’s sister Nancy* lost her spouse when they were both in their 50s, and her mental health took a turn for the worse.
“It was really difficult for her,” Tina says. “She experienced a lot of depression, which created other issues with nutrition and hygiene and isolation.”
Nancy lived out of state, and Tina and her husband decided to invite her to move to where they live in West Springfield, Massachusetts, so she could be closer to family. Less than a year after she moved, she had a stroke and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
“That created additional problems on top the problems that were already there,” Tina says. “Now it became the challenge of medication management, and there were also some mobility issues.
“It became increasingly obvious to us that, even though we were only five minutes away, the majority of the time she was isolating herself, not eating properly, not taking care of herself,” Tina continues. “We felt responsible because we had encouraged her to move up here.”
No More Date Nights
The stress of caregiving seeped into every aspect of Tina and her husband’s lives.
“It’s energy-draining and time-consuming,” Tina says. “When my husband and I got together to go to dinner, inevitably we’d talk about his sister. All we seemed to be doing was brainstorming how we could improve the situation because everything we tried wasn’t working.”
From a financial standpoint, the couple spent a lot of their personal spending money caring for Nancy.
“We tried different nutritional programs. We hired a personal trainer. We had her join a gym,” Tina says. “All these things we thought would help her engage and work on her health. None of that seemed to be working.”
Tina and her husband aren’t alone. According to AARP’s Family Caregiving and Out-of-Pocket Costs Report, 78 percent of family caregivers incur out-of-pocket costs. In 2016, family caregivers spent an average of $6,954 as a result of caregiving, typically about 20 percent of a caregiver’s income.
Tina cut back on self-care, too: “I work 60 hours a week, and I can’t cut back on work. So, what I had to cut into was personal time for myself. If I wanted to go for a run, I couldn’t because I had to go do something for her.”
Heard It on the Radio
Every Wednesday, Tina hosts a radio show called Wake Up, Wednesday. As the director of the Westfield Council on Aging, Tina has a passion for helping older adults as well as the community in general. One Wednesday, Tina invited Bianca Syriac, who was working as the marketing director at The Arbors at Westfield.
“One of the things she talked about was how The Arbors has units that were for people with more of a limited income,” Tina recalls. “My husband was listening to the show, and when I got home, he said, ‘We need to look into that for my sister.’”
Although Nancy was only 63, she and her family were excited about the possibility of assisted living.
“The age thing isn’t really a factor,” Tina says. “We were trying to be proactive and say let’s make this move while she can enjoy this and while she can engage with other people and get the most out of it — as opposed to after she has the next stroke or ends up in a diabetic coma. We didn’t want to wait for that.”
A New Life
Shortly after Syriac came on Tina’s radio show, Tina and her husband reviewed their finances, reached out to The Arbors, and got the necessary medical forms filled out. Nancy moved into The Arbors at Westfield shortly after Labor Day 2018.
“I am happy to report that it has gone swimmingly well on a lot of fronts,” Tina says.
She and her husband rest easy knowing that Nancy has three meals a day and is socializing with people in the dining room and through the assisted living community’s programming.
“I always like to say to people that you’re renting an apartment with services right outside your door,” says Alicia Dessereau, the current marketing director at The Arbors at Westfield (Syriac is now the marketing director at Ivy at Ellington, an Arbors assisted living community in Ellington, Connecticut). “Those services could be as limited as meals all the way to help in the shower. Knowing your loved one is getting the proper care that you want for them really takes the stress off.”
Assisted living has taken the stress off for Tina and her husband.
“For my husband and me, I think it’s peace of mind that we’re sharing the responsibility for her care with someone else, The Arbors in this case,” Tina says. “Also, it’s about quality of life. When we moved her up here, we wanted her to be happier and more engaged. But that wasn’t happening. That creates a stress and, quite frankly, a sadness for the family.
“But now when I visit with her, she’s much more talkative,” Tina continues. “We’re laughing together again.”
Tina isn’t the only caregiver to take on the emotionally, physically, and financially demanding job and realize she needs help. If you’re looking for ways to lighten your load, download our eBook “How Moving My Loved One to The Arbors Eliminated My Caregiving Challenges” to read more stories from families who experienced caregiving challenges that were then eliminated by moving their loved one to assisted living at The Arbors.