Help For Wife With Dementia

Four years ago my wife, Ellen, was diagnosed with dementia and last year she had a PET scan with diagnosed early stage Alzheimer.

The Alzheimer Association posted this on their Facebook page. 

And here is a link about how Ellen and I met. 

Until 2014, my wife and I ran a video production business. I did the video work and she did mostly everything else. In 2014 she started having problems using the computer and in June of that year she was diagnosed with dementia.

Since that time she has not be able to do any kind of work and I have not be able to keep our business running at any kind of a level that allows it to bring in any kind of income. My time has been spent taking care of Ellen, driving to doctor visits and support group meetings.

My calendar use to be filled with business appointments and now it is filled with doctor appointments.

Our only income is the Social Security we both receive .  The associated health costs have virtually overwhelmed our Social Security incomes and wiped out our savings.

We only have one car, a 2002 Suburban. It is starting to show it's age and has needed major repairs and will continue to require expensive repairs. In addition it is a gas guzzler. I get about 11 miles per gal.  Several of our doctor's are in Baltimore, a 60 mile trip each way, and the cost of gas alone has been running me just over $200 per month.

I've looked at a lot of options. Even selling the home and moving into something smaller, but our mortgage payment is just below $600 a month and I know I could not find anything in our area that would rent at less that that or buy a home with a lower monthly payment.

At one of the support group meeting we learned that care givers have a life expectancy that is reduced by 8 years because of the stress they are under being a care giver. And in many cases, the care give does not live as long as the person they are caring for. After more than four years as a care giver for my wife I completely understand how these figures are a reality.

Our local newspaper recently interviewed me for an article they were doing on Alzheimer. The first picture that appears is that of our neighbors. Next to the picture is an arrow that you can press to see the next two pictures which are of Ellen and I.

A newspaper article about us and our neighbors. 

When Ellen was first diagnosed with dementia her doctor prescribed a therapist for her. She came out and visited Ellen for about an hour and then turned to me and said, "Your wife is doing okay, but how about if I come out and see you on a regular basis. I told her she was the second therapist who told me that and that she must be seeing something in me that I'm not seeing so I agreed. And now I have a therapist who sees me twice a month.  And even with that, I'm just able to hold myself together. And some days I'm not even sure about that.

I figure it will cost me about $25,000 for a used car that is less expensive to operate then my Suburban and yet still big enough for me to comfortably drive. I have some leg problems and just cannot sit in or drive a small car. I've been looking at a Toyota Highlander as a possible car or something comparable and found a few used ones for around $25,000. My 16 year old Suburban gets about 11 miles to the gallon and is costing me about $1,000 a year in repairs. Something newer would lower my gas purchases by 1/2 and certainly reduce yearly repairs.

My wife attends an adult day center and we have not be able to stay current on our payments for that. The total currently owed is $960.00. If she were unable to attend it would be devastating for her and emotionally could do her great harm. She is a very gregarious person and needs to be around people. The center picks her up in the morning by bus and brings her home in the late afternoon.

The days that she does not go to the center she just sits home and watches TV. Usually movies on the Hallmark channel. I try to keep her busy during the day by going out and walking around the different shopping centers. I am also still trying to operate our business and need a few hour a day to do that which could bring in enough money to pay someone to stay with her and also cover some of our expenses that our Social Security checks do not. But I don't have the money right now to pay an agency to provide an aid or some kind of nurse. $2,000 of the money that comes in through this fund would pay for that. Then once my time is free to get some video work done, there should be enough coming in from that to pay for both a nurse and home expenses. I just need some up front money to allow me to have that time.

The other bill that needs to be paid is the home owners association. I own them back dues of $2,000. They have the ability to put a lean on our home. So I need to get that paid.

And if all of that wasn't enough to keep me inches from depression, back in May our county's sewer failed and caused a sewer backup into our basement where our home video business is located. It has taken from May until just a few weeks ago to get all the repairs done. However, I have a $1,000 deductible. There was also $4,000 worth of equipment damaged beyond repair and the insurance company only paid me $670 for that loss. So I'm out just over $3,000 to replace the equipment. Our insurance company is suing the county for their loss and my deductible of $1,000. But that still leaves me with just over $3,000 of equipment to replace.

Sewer Backup Article in Frederick Post Newspaper. 

This breaks down to $25,000 for a newer car, close to $1,000 for the day center and $2,000 for the home owners association, $2,000 for an agency to provide someone to stay with my wife several hours a week and $3,000 to replace the equipment destroyed by the sewer backup. A total of $33,000.

There are hundreds if not thousands of families that are using a medium like this to obtain help. I don't consider my wife and I any more special than those others looking for help.

All I can ask is that if you have read this far, you can probably understand that we need help. Alzheimer is a disease that has no cure. It can strike anyone at almost any age. And the damage that it does goes beyond that of the person who has the disease. Money is not going to cure my wife but it will allow her to live a more comfortable life and reduce the stress that both of us are now under. And that reduction of stress could possible extend both of our lives.

I have waited a very long time to post something like this. I find it very uncomfortable to ask for help. But I don't know what else to do. To say that I am desperate is an understatement to our situation.

If you are able to help I will be forever grateful. 

Below is an interview the Baltimore Sun did with us.

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Fred Berney 
Walkersville, MD
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