Support is needed for caregivers.
Caregiving is a labor of love. You take care of your loved one’s personal needs, you are their safety officer, their advocate.
My wife, Deb, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. Deb used to read two books a week. That went away. She started having cognitive problems. Her condition continued to worsen, and she stopped working.
At first, life was not too different. Deb still got around and volunteered at Meals on Wheels. Slowly, the ability to cook, to read, etc. went away. In 2013, I reduced my work hours to give Deb greater care. Finally, in 2014, I stopped working, retiring three years earlier than planned. We lived on Social Security and savings. Medical insurance was over $1,000 per month until I was eligible for Medicare.
Caregiving is on the job training. You regularly change routines and activities as your loved one’s condition deteriorates. Deb’s condition worsened and safety issues developed. She now lives in an assisted living facility. Even though Deb has a new residence, it is still my job to be her caregiver, particularly as her advocate.
Caregiving is costly. Not just in dollars, but in the physical and emotional toll it takes. In my case, I had to retire three years early, coordinate adult daycare services for Deb, and ultimately place her in a facility. These services are expensive.
I think of other retired caregivers who are unable to afford services for their loved ones and the son or daughter caring for a parent who must reduce their work hours. The financial burden on the whole family can be devastating.
Caregivers need support so they can do the best job possible for their loved ones. I urge our elected leaders to do all they can to bring supports and services to Maine caregivers next session.
Deb Weldon/Tom O’Connor