Program offers Oregon family caregivers relief

Program offers Oregon family caregivers relief
LouVee Walker, 75, talks Nov. 7, 2012 in her Sweet Home, Ore., home as her husband Jim sits nearby. LouVee primarily spends her time caring for her husband. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times she could use a break. Because of that she found the Family Caregiver Support Program, run by Oregon Cascades West Senior & Disability Services. It’s a service that has reached out to nearly 100 family caregivers in Linn and Benton counties. (AP Photo/Albany Democrat-Herald, David Patton)

ALBANY, Ore. (AP) — LouVee Walker doesn't complain. She doesn't feel sorry for herself. And she never shuns what she considers her duty.

Her tireless effort is all about love.

At 75, LouVee is a family caregiver who spends almost all of her time on call for her husband, Jim, 77. He has Lewy body dementia, which has left him immobile and requiring constant care. It's a disease most haven't heard of, but it's not that rare.

"Over a million people have it," LouVee said. "It's very devastating."

The Walkers live in Sweet Home next to the home where Jim was born. He can do little for himself now. LouVee washes, dresses and feeds him.

"I never think about not doing it," LouVee said.

That doesn't mean there aren't times she could use a break. Because of that she found the Family Caregiver Support Program, run by Oregon Cascades West Senior & Disability Services.

It's a service that has reached out to nearly 100 family caregivers in Linn and Benton counties.

"It can be 24/7 for some in our system," said Deb Scobie, who heads the program from her Albany office. "Our job is to connect them with the kinds of services that are available that can make their job a little easier."

Scobie said one of the most difficult things about family caregiving is that caregivers often fail to take care of themselves.

"They can wear out. It's stressful and they need support," Scobie said. "We try to give them a break."

That might be finding someone to relieve a caregiver for a couple of hours to visit a doctor or go shopping. It might be finding a resource that makes the caregiving job just a little easier.

LouVee used the service to find Home Health, which provides someone to relieve her three times a week when she needs to get groceries or other supplies. The group also provides contacts for other agencies or individuals who may be able to help.

LouVee has been with the program for two years. She is typical of many family caregivers, according to Scobie.

"Sometimes there are friends and family who can help but sometimes that's not possible," Scobie said. "We make it a little easier for them to do what they do."

LouVee said her daughter Kathleen comes in several times a year from Idaho to help and her son Steve in Philomath is over twice a week. Her sister-in-law and a neighbor also provide help and companionship.

"It's very lonely," LouVee said. "Friends don't come around much and I understand. It can be difficult."

Neighbor Gary Linkel, a lifelong friend of Jim's, makes brief visits almost daily.

"He's a tremendous help," LouVee said. "And he is someone to talk to."

Scobie said there are many caregivers who aren't a part of the family caregiver program. She said spouses, children, friends and partners all are providing the care.

The Caregiver Program is for those caring for people 60 or over and also for people of any age dealing with Alzheimer's or related diseases. Scobie visits homes to assess the needs and then makes recommendations.

LouVee said the program has been a valuable resource.

"I go to their support meetings," she said. "It's been a very good thing for me."

LouVee isn't looking at turning over care to anyone soon. She is dedicated to Jim.

"It's not his fault," she said. "I'll keep at it and be here for him as long as I can."

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Information from: Albany Democrat-Herald, http://www.dhonline.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
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