Your Stories: The Burdens of Caregiving

By: Carrie Hutton
By: Carrie Hutton

How many free nights do you have without any obligations? That freedom happened only six nights in 10 years for a woman taking care of her mother in Rothschild.

Eighty-year-old Marcella Jane Kort lost a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic health problems on February 17 of last year. When she died her daughter Mary was left with obstacles she never saw coming.

"I have gone through a terrible depression since my mom died, I've had a lot of fear,” says Kort, "but I want to work and I'm a good worker.”

Mary says working outside their Rothschild home just wasn't possible with her mom's confusion and sensory hallucinations, and Marcella even wandered off once trying to visit a friend who'd passed away.

The medical journal "Neurology" reports as many as 80 percent of people with dementia are cared for in the home by family members.

Mary didn't have nursing experience but learned to help her mom with medications, personal care and whatever else she needed. She was willing to do it but that doesn't mean it wasn't a major challenge physically, mentally and financially.

Kort says, "I worked hard with her here, I'm not complaining about it and would do it over again if I could but I need a job or I'll lose the house.”

Those who qualify can receive a stipend from the Community Options Program toward caregiving but with that gone now, and the home's mortgage transferred to her name, Mary's facing foreclosure.

As a result of her extended unemployment while caring for her mother, Mary's job history is virtually blank now which is hurting her chances at a new career and the ability to make house payments.

A pastor friend suggested she get signatures from neighbors to try to convince her bank to forgive the mortgage. She owes about $75,000 and is determined to stay in the home her parents built.

Mary Kort isn't alone in her struggles as a caregiver and with no program in place to help her transition back to the workforce now, she's also planning to write her legislators to make a difference both for her herself and thousands of others like her.

***********Local Training:
Thurs. April 7 1:00-3:30PM at Marathon County UW- Extension Building on River Drive, Wausau
"Powerful Tools for Caregiving"- Meets Thursday for 6 weeks. Focus on how to get help to relief stress of caregiving and take better care of yourself.

Some related facts:

    - 25 Million Americans care for elderly or critically ill family in the home.
    - 85 percent of Wisconsin's seniors who receive care, get it from family at home.
    - The typical caregiver is a woman in her mid 40s who's also raising her own children.
    - It's estimated a caregiver will pay $171 in monthly out of pocket expenses to pay for things not covered by insurance.
    - By 1990 amounts, a caregiver paid $35,517 per year for expenses.
    - Job services (Title 5) to help caregivers find work again only help those over the age of 55.

Links for caregiver resources: