Dementia forces a life detourJerry Cords, 73, was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia three years ago. At first Linda thought her husband was getting depressed, because he was withdrawing and seemed sad following surgery.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
Linda and Jerry Cords planned to enjoy an active retirement.
“We love to travel,” Linda said. “We were going to buy a motor home and travel across the nation.”
But the Star Prairie couple was sidetracked with health challenges that knocked them off the path they’d expected. Today, most days are spent dealing with Jerry’s ongoing battle with dementia. Linda’s own health has been a challenge as well, with back problems and other struggles.
Jerry, 73, was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia three years ago. At first Linda thought her husband was getting depressed, because he was withdrawing and seemed sad following surgery.
Jerry retained about 40 pounds of fluids and eventually developed pneumonia. He also seemed to never recover from his ailments.
“This was a man who has never been sick,” she said.
Along with growing forgetfulness, Jerry developed vivid dreams and began hallucinating. One night, Linda found her husband awake chasing non-existent cats.
“He didn’t want me to open the bathroom door because he had the cats trapped in there,” she said.
Linda talked to her daughter, Jackie Waalen, who works at The Deerfield senior living complex. Waalen’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias helped her to quickly realize that something was seriously wrong.
The family has been dealing with the progressive nature of the disease ever since. About a year ago, Jerry entered the second phase of Lewy Body disease, which is closely tied to Parkinson’s.
Jerry is losing weight as his brain can no longer tell his body to absorb nutrients from food. He no longer can tell time and he has a difficult time making change with his money.
“It’s very apparent that the left side of his brain is shutting down,” Linda said. “He can no longer make decisions. He cannot be left alone.”
Jerry connects well with his grandson, Seth, 6, as they can enjoy simple puzzles together and complete word searches.
“It’s good for his (Jerry’s) brain to keep active like that,” Linda explained.
Another helpful activity is Jerry’s daily workout at The Centre in New Richmond. He attends various classes like body core, Zumba and relaxation throughout the day. His workout sessions also provide Jerry with the socialization he needs to keep connected.
“It’s hard coming here four or five times a week,” Linda said. “It takes up my whole morning. But he would not be in as good of shape today if it wasn’t for this.”
Linda said she’s thankful that she was able to attend the Regional Caregivers Conference, sponsored by the Aging and Disability Resource Center, at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond in September where she learned a great deal about dementia.
She was also able to connect with Interfaith Caregivers at the event. That organization has been able to provide her with occasional respite care so she could get away from her daily responsibilities with her husband.
“I was to the breaking point at that point,” she said. “The conference showed me that I do need outside help. I can’t do it all for 24 hours, seven days a week.”
Still, Linda is committed to caring for her husband for as long as she’s able.
“We don’t want to be a burden on anyone,” she said.
Linda also started to attend the Caregivers Support Gro
up once a month at the New Richmond Civic Center. The group helped her realize that she is not alone, and other members provide the information and encouragement she needs to continue to care for Jerry and herself.
“This is our life together now,” Linda said. “It’s not what we would have chosen, but we’re walking God’s path together. It hasn’t been the easiest, but we’re fine and we’re content.”
As for the future, Linda said she is planning for a time when the couple will move from their home into an assisted living situation. She hopes to delay that eventuality for another year or so.
“I’m already starting to downsize,” she said, “so we’ll be ready when we have to leave.”
More than 1,000 individuals in St. Croix County have some form of dementia.
There are more than 65 types of dementia including Lewy body, frontal-temporal lobe, Alzheimer’s disease, vascular, Down syndrome with dementia, normal pressure hydrocephalus, etc.
The diseases can strike anyone of any age and young onset cases (those being diagnosed between ages 40 and 60) are increasing.
Dementia in Wisconsin has increased from 100,000 people in 2000 to 110,000 in 2010.
In Wisconsin, caregivers number 178,748 giving 13,432,044 hours of unpaid care per year.
Almost half of those caregivers give more than 40 hours a week of care with the majority of those being adult children and between the ages of 35 and 54. Dementia disease can last up to 20 years.
Area resources for caregivers include:
* Adult Day program in Hudson and New Richmond called DayAway Club. Limited financial support may be available through the ADRC.
* Interfaith volunteer to support the adult day program or do in-home companionship and respite. It’s coordinated by the Aging and Disability Resource Center Caregiver Support Coordinator Nancy Abrahamson. Call 1-800-372-2333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
* Support groups in New Richmond, Hudson and River Falls. A resource library for print information and videos on caregiving and personal care tips is available.
* The annual regional caregiver conference, Seasons of Caregiving, is planned for Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 at WITC-New Richmond. Karen Kaiser Clark, nationally renowned speaker, author and caregiver will be the keynote speaker; and many breakout sessions designed for caregivers of disabled adults and aging individuals.