Caring for a spouse or loved one is a rewarding, but often difficult journey. Caregivers struggle with powerful feelings. Trying to balance love, commitment, responsibility and reality can feel overwhelming. Very often caregivers think the responsibility of caring for their loved one lies solely with them. What they may not know is that there are resources that can make it easier for themselves and for the person they are caring for.
Frank Mancuso attends the support group in Venice, and his wife, Pat attends the Living Room, his story, because it reflects the same experiences and struggles many caregivers are going through and what a difference having help can mean.
“My wife and I are together. That’s it,” Frank Mancuso says simply. Married for 60 years, they are like many couples who have shared a long life together, and he is devoted to her. When his wife, Pat, began exhibiting the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia six years ago, he at first tried to do everything himself. But as he began to realize his wife wasn’t going to get better, he knew something needed to change. His daughters urged him to check out the Friendship Centers’ Living Room adult day services in Venice.
With the help of Adult Day Services Manager Holly Urban and the staff, they developed a strategy that allowed Pat to have something to look forward to, while Frank had time to care for himself. That included attending the Caregiver Support Group, where he was able to talk to others in the same situation, to learn how they deal with problems and different approaches to use.
The Living Room and the support group gave them help and the possibility of feeling hope. They still worry about each other, but now Frank has the support group, where he is learning how to care of himself so he can better care for her. “I know I don’t have to go through this alone,” he says.
The situation is still painful, but his mindset is different. “Before, I was always on the defensive, wanting to change her. Now I’ve learned to accept it, and it’s a lot better knowing that even though she’s not going to get better, a happier attitude makes life a lot easier for both of us. Throughout my life, I have always been handy, able to fix almost anything, but this is something I can’t fix, and the doctors can’t fix. It’s heartbreaking, but you have to accept what you got with dignity.”
“I still take her to breakfast or dinner, and we find pleasure in spending time together,” he explains. “Even though she’s compromised, I still look at her in a loving way and enjoy time together. She still knows me and the kids. Every once in awhile she comes up with a gem that makes my day. We don’t argue, we just get along with what we got.”
Now 86, Frank’s been a caregiver for six years, and says, “I’m better off now than I was two years ago. Pat is at the Living Room three days a week, where she is safe and happy and I don’t have to worry about her falling or getting hurt. Now I can even cut the grass without having to stop and check on her.”
It’s estimated that one in four people will be caregivers at some time in their lives. With help and support they are able to cope and manage these challenging times more effectively. To learn more about how the Living Room adult day program and Caregiver Resource Centers at the Friendship Centers can benefit your life, contact:
The Living Rooms, adult day services:
Venice: Holly Urban at 941.584.0044, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarasota: Debbie Morrill at 941.556.3227, email@example.com
Fort Myers: Jill Modell-Dion at 239.275.1881,. firstname.lastname@example.org
For caregiver support, Caregiver Resource Center
Venice: Jane Van Emburgh 941.584.0071, email@example.com
Sarasota, 941.556.3268, firstname.lastname@example.org