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Overworked caregivers should seek help

In 2012 Andra Quinn, a data specialist in University Medical Center’s cardiology department, worried her mother would die from the stress of caregiving.

For three years, Patsy Quinn took care of Virgil, her husband of 55 years, at home. Because he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, emphysema, blood clots, colon cancer and failing kidneys, she had to frequently check on him at night and often took her barely mobile husband to more than 10 medical appointments a month.

“Mother was often so exhausted,” Andra Quinn said.

Once, the 82-year-old retired meteorologist mistook his 77-year-old wife for an intruder in the bedroom and struck her, which caused her to sleep in a chair for months for her own safety. On another occasion, he lost his balance and fell on her, leaving her fighting to breathe until she could move him.

“After dad died in 2012, she was just so tired,” 57-year-old Andra Quinn said.

What Andra Quinn advises baby boomers to do — as does Leah Eskenazi of the Family Caregiver Alliance — is to let others also care for an ill loved one.

“I tried to get Mother to do it and neither she or Dad would hear of it,” she said. “They didn’t want a stranger in the house. I had other members of the family try to talk to Mom and Dad and they wouldn’t change their minds. I helped her as much as I could, but Mother said it was her job. I couldn’t make her. We could have afforded it.”

Andra Quinn’s mother rebuffed suggestions to join a support group at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health or to take Andra’s father to an adult day care center.

Andra Quinn now lives with her mother and says that if her mother’s health seriously declines she won’t hesitate to hire full-time help at home through government and private insurance and her own pocketbook.

“This time it’s not both my mom and dad against me,” she said. “My sister and the family all agree. It’s not only good for the caregiver, it’s good for the loved one being helped. It will allow the family to be more positive.”

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Thursday in the Life section. Contact him at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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