CONWAY, Ark. — A constant battle many adult children face as they make the decision to become caregivers to their aging parents is figuring out how to take care of a person who has always taken care of you. That has been a question Kerry Jordan has had to learn how to navigate.
Four years ago, Kerry made the decision to have her father and mother, Charles and Jean McGinn, move into her Conway home. The retired Air Force pilot and his wife of 67 years had been living in North Carolina.
“It was very generous of Kirk and Kerry to have us come here and to take care of us because in essence they have to take care of us,” Jean said.
That’s because Charles has dementia and Jean is showing signs of early cognitive impairment.
“Four years ago, I went to visit them and that’s when it became apparent that they couldn’t live alone anymore,” Kerry said.
During the day Kerry is a professional nurse who works with Alzheimer’s patients. She’s also a nursing professor. By night she’s a full time caregiver to her parents.
“Just because I’m a professional caregiver does not mean I do not have my moments of profound frustration and I don’t necessarily respond in the way I would like all the time,” Kerry said. “I get frustrated just like anybody else would.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 93,000 Arkansans are caregivers to a loved one battling the disease and 73 percent of caregivers have a chronic health condition.
“I started having some serious health consequences as a result of it. I think the anxiety was that high that it was actually affecting my physical health,” Kerry said.
Despite that battle, Kerry considers her family fortunate because they are able to have a professional caregiver come to their house during the day while she and her husband go to work. However, she had this advice for others in her situation.
“Being willing to let go of those expectations that things are going to go smoothly and that things are going to be a certain way, I think is huge in terms of helping a person’s emotional health,” Kerry said.
While every family is different, Kerry believes you must do what’s best for your family, whether that’s taking on the responsibility of being a caregiver or putting your loved one in a nursing home.
Kerry also has a unique perspective. She’s experienced both sides of the equation being in the healthcare system for decades and now being on the receiving end of it. She feels there needs to be changes within the healthcare system and more medical professionals need to have a skill and understanding regarding people with dementia and the burden of caregiving. For more information on caregiving and resources for Alzheimer’s and dementia, click here.