'Most people want to be in their homes until they die'

'Most people want to be in their homes until they die'

EUGENE, Ore. - Married for 62 years, Harold and Donna Leonard have been inseperable.

Two years ago, their lives were turned upside down when Donna had a stroke after leg surgery.       
Donna first went to a nursing home for 2 months.

"I was there morning til night because I didn't like it so well," Harold said. "She didn't like it."

Harold decided to take her home to care for her.

He's not alone: A 2009 survey by AARP shows more than 42 million Americans provide family caregiving for an adult who needs help. Another 61 million provided at least some care to elders. 

"Most people want to be in their homes," said Nancy Nessmith from Home Instead Senior Care. "They want to be there until they die, and that takes planning."

NesSmith said that just hoping for the best is not planning - and leads to massive stress.   

Nearly half of family caregivers that go it alone provide complicated nursing-style care.

"Absolutely, your body feels the physical stress of being a caregiver for 3 years after you stop doing it," she said.

Grace Riggs said it took 3 to 4 years of talking before her parents would agree to any home care option.   

"Definitely, I do have that sense of responsibility that they are my parents and they took care of me so I want to take care of them," she said.

Too daunting a task on their own, both Riggs and the Leonards turned to outside help from Home Instead Senior Care. The company provides in-home caregivers, from a few hours a week to, in the Leonard's situation, comphrehensive care five days a week.     

"They would prefer to stay where they have been, and with a little bit of help he can keep her at home," said Sandy Bryan, a caregiver with Home Instead.

With a little remodeling at home, Harold said he and Donna are making it work.

"She's more happier," he said. "You can see her smile over there."