Caregiver Voices – Mike and Sharon
My name is Jennifer Brackett and I am the Health Educator with the Caring for the Caregiver program and this month I would like to share a conversation I had with my friend Mike.
I recently had the honor to sit down and share breakfast with family caregiver, husband, and all-around wonderful man Mike. Over the course of about an hour and a half, Mike and I shared our personal experiences with dementia and how it affects everyone in the community. Mike shared with me how he is caring for his wife Sharon (a well-respected retired nurse) who has dementia and what a typical day looks like for him and Sharon. Mike and Sharon lead very active lives spending time going out to eat, to church, to the movies, and a variety of other activities. During the course of our conversation, Mike also shared some of the challenges he faces as a caregiver and how he overcomes these challenges that can at times be very stressful and uncomfortable. Mike is an advocate for his wife, caregivers, and those within our community. Through our conversation, we discussed the importance of creating a Dementia Friendly community and how we can all work together as a community to address the many challenges caregivers and persons living with dementia face.
Below Mike answers questions about his life and what it is like to be a caregiver for his wife Sharon.
Who do you care for and for how long? – I am my wife Sharon’s caregiver – she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in June 2015, when she was only 61. Sharon turns 68 in September 2021.
What is the most difficult part of being a caregiver and why? Most recently, Sharon’s frequent “agitation” has increased to a few times per day. It is unpleasant. Also, Sharon wants to be on the go all the time. I feel like a full-time activities director.
What is the best part of being a caregiver and why? Caregiving has actually brought us closer together. Prior to Alzheimer’s we each had our own life. We had a good marriage, but we often went our own way.
What resources do you wish you would have had earlier on in your caregiving role? More friends and family who are willing to help us.
How do you care for/make time for yourself? I have a paid caregiver 6 hours per week. I also get an occasional brief respite when a family member or friend sits with Sharon.
What is one thing you would like to share with a caregiver who just recently took on the role of caring for their loved one? Get in a support group.
Anything else you would like to share?
“I try to focus on what Sharon can still do and not what she can’t. Everyone says how great her SMILE is! She likes being one on one with people and loves watching funny TV shows like America’s Funniest Videos or Golden Girls. We enjoy getting out together and she likes drives in the car and eating out. Sharon loves seeing babies and little kids and is very protective of them at our neighborhood pool and other places.”