Cindy Polfelt has lived in Columbia for six years.
Cindy’s mother has Alzheimer's, and since her father passed away, Cindy has taken on the role of her mother’s personal caretaker. She feeds and clothes her mother every day, and can’t leave her house unless she finds someone to watch her mother – even then, it’s only for a few hours at a time.
Cindy says that it has affected her social life, and her independence. She spoke with her daughter, Jessica Hosack, about some of the stresses of being a caretaker.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Jessica Hosack: When I always tell you all the time, because I know it's so stressful and it wears you down mentally and physically, it is always so important to still practice mindfulness for yourself. I mean, you have to have some time for yourself being a caretaker.
Cindy Polfelt: Well, and you know, in the beginning, I could do that. But now as it has progressed... I often said - one day I think I told you this - I said, "you know, I feel like going outside and going to Walmart and buying some cheap dishes, and just throw them in the backyard and breaking them." Because it's such a frustrating disease.
Although you need to show sympathy, empathy, compassion. And this - you're looking at a person that you love. A person that brought you into this world, a person that brought you up, and now it's reversed. I don't think I was ever prepared for that. I don't think you can ever prepare yourself. You know what I'm saying?
Jessica: I don't think that you can either.
Cindy: Before your Pa-Pa passed away, I mean, he took care of it everything.
Cindy: He took care of your grandma. And it just, it was like, I sort of got angry about... it was like, "Okay, now you're gone. Now what am I going to do?"
Cindy: You know. And I could feel that stress building up and that every day -
Cindy: Same routine every day. I used to dread to getting up in the mornings. And... I didn't like that. I mean, I still have a life. I mean, it's still my life going on. But right now, my life centers around her. And that's okay. I love my mother dearly and I wouldn't want it any other way. But, you know, I'm not gonna sit here and say that I haven't had days where I've talked to you and it's just like, you know... the dishes thing. I want to go outside and scream or I want to just -,
Jessica: Well you lose yourself in it too. You are so worried about taking care of somebody else, and you just don't even think about yourself at all. You just think about what can you do to make her life better? In her condition.
Cindy: Right. I just want... I guess my hope was when I started taking care of her was that she could have the best quality of life that I could provide for her. And now -
Jessica: And you still do that.
Cindy: Well, I do. But you're right. I've lost myself in the middle of it because I worry more about her than I do anything.
Cindy: I mean, I put myself last and it's not a very healthy thing to do.
Cindy: And I think as a caregiver, you've just got to realize that basically, I don't think your mind ever relaxes. You're waiting for that minute for her to get up and what comes next. So, I don't know how long she'll be around, that's not my decision, but -
Jessica: You're enjoying the time you have with her.
Cindy: I'm enjoying the time that I have with her. Whether it's the kind of quality time I would like to have, no. But I do have that time with her and that's a blessing. It's something that I know - when she's gone - that, that I'll remember.
This piece was reported and produced by Trevor Hook.