Caregivers make do seeing loved ones through windows during pandemic

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 9:38 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Over 66,000 Iowans are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, some of which are in care facilities. The pandemic has been especially challenging for their caregivers who are not able to visit the way they used to because of social distancing.

Karen Osar and her husband Richard have been married for 58 years.

“When you find that certain someone, it’s a strong bond," Osar said.

They celebrated their October anniversary sharing a meal, separated by glass. Richard developed vascular dementia after having a stroke 31 years ago. Karen was his primary caregiver until he moved into the Mill Valley Care Center in Bellevue 2 years ago. Before the pandemic, she would visit every day.

“I used to come over and play cards, we’d play dominos, we’d play games," Osar said.

Things look very different this year with COVID protocols in place. Osar can’t reach out and hug her husband, but the facility is doing what they can to help loved ones keep in touch.

“The speaker system here makes it very easy to talk to him," Osar says.

James Harkness, an administrator at the facility, said it’s about putting yourself in their shoes.

“How would you feel not to be able to touch your children for nine months? How would you feel not to be able to hug your spouse for this amount of time," Harkness said.

Osar said her friend David Nylander has been a good person to talk to, as his wife is in the care center too.

“We talk whenever we need to and sometimes when we don’t need to we just check on each other," Osar said.

She says it’s hard for anyone to fully understand the separation who isn’t going through it and for her leaving Richard behind never gets any easier.

“Okay bye-bye," Osar told him through the window. “I hate leaving him. I hate leaving him anytime. Pull up your bootstraps and move on. That’s about all I can do,” Osar said.

The Alzheimer’s Association wants caregivers to know they offer free resources for them including virtual support groups and education programs. They even have a 24/7 Helpline you can reach by calling 1-800-272-3900.

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