A Real Feel Good Caregiver Story
By Brenda Avadian, MA
Sometimes, we get to know people who deserve more from life than they’re getting. Caregivers are one group of people whose role extends beyond what seems humanly possible. Your heart aches wishing you could ease their journey along some of the rougher roads.
Be careful what you wish for. It may come true!
In early March, a representative for the Kathi Koll Foundation reached out to The Caregiver’s Voice to help spread awareness about Kathi’s Caregivers. Kathi created a California-based charitable foundation after serving as a full-time caregiver for six-plus years. Her husband Don suffered a stroke that “left him paralyzed from the neck down.”
From the Kathi’s Caregivers website:
Kathi started the Kathi’s Caregivers program to help ease the burden of struggling caregivers who are facing financial or other challenges while juggling their caregiving and family responsibilities. The program offers meaningful, short-term financial subsidies to help ease the struggling caregiver’s overall burden and improve their quality of life.
When the Kathi Koll Foundation reached out, one caregiver came to mind – Sheri Zschocher.
Sheri cares for her husband, Robert, who lives with Alzheimer’s and fronto-temporal lobe dementia. What makes caregiving more challenging is Bob doesn’t realize he has dementia – he has anosognosia.
Sheri’s life has traveled along some very bumpy roads. First, her husband, Bob was laid off after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Next, the economic crisis curtailed the scope of her job and salary. With severely limited income, their house went into foreclosure. After 22 years at her job, she left. She figured the family could move from Minnesota to Texas where she could help care for her mom who was paralyzed following a car accident… and care for her husband. In fact, the moving pods were packed and ready to go when they learned that the college scholarship her daughter received was partly based on being a Minnesota resident. The Zschocher family decided to stay put.
The Zschocher family of four were a week away from homelessness.
“Through the grace of God,” she says, “the owner of a small home for rent agreed to let us move in. I had no job nor prospects for one. But I sent out applications, had an interview, and got hired.”
She has to be careful about meeting expenses. Adult day services for Bob runs about $400 a month, and then there’s the rent, utilities, and food.
During the eight years she’s cared for Bob, she’s never taken a caregiver respite.
In late October, she broke her foot and had surgery. In early November, her mother died. Three weeks after breaking her foot, she’s flying to Texas for her mom’s funeral while trying to figure out how she’ll meet these unexpected expenses.
What a pleasure when the Kathi Koll Foundation agreed to help Sheri Zschocher. They will help pay for her adult day services expenses and even throw in funds for a little fun.
Sheri writes, “Photography is my relaxation, and it would be awesome to photograph these birds…” The Kathi Koll Foundation will pay to give Sheri exclusive access to photograph raptors (owls, vultures, and eagles) at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
A well-deserved respite and assistance for a caregiver who didn’t want this gift at first, feeling others deserved it more. Yes, there are others who need help, too. The Caregiver’s Voice nominated Sheri for her commitment and devotion to her husband’s care–an inspiration for caregivers. Even a brief respite like this will give Sheri the strength to endure ongoing sleep deprivation when Bob gets up to wander each night.
A Message to Caregivers
In keeping with Sheri’s FUN photo opp with raptors, I close with these words of advice.
Picture an exhausted caregiver lying on the side of the road. Near-death, the caregiver doesn’t think to ask for help; instead tries to brush away an unkindness (name for the group) of ravens. There’s a limit to what one human can give, even a careGIVER.
After the ravens have had their fill, a turkey vulture spots an opportunity…
DON’T WAIT for a Turkey Vulture to take the last bite out of your life!
ASK FOR HELP.
Then ACCEPT the HELP you receive.
You deserve it.
Congratulations, Sheri. And thank you, Kathi Koll.