One sick dad. One 16-month-old. Plus: A job, a mom, a husband, and a jam-packed schedule. This Wellthy care coordinator is in the thick of caregiving with you. Discover how she makes it work: for her and for you.
A few months ago, Bina Colman relocated with her husband and son from California to Arizona to be closer to her parents. Until the family of three found a house in Arizona, they moved in with her parents: my mom, a vibrant 61-year-old, and my 62-year-old dad, who was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2015.
"It's a horrible disease," she says of this progressive brain disorder with symptoms that can mimic those of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. "He's lost all function in both hands, and can't bathe or feed himself. He can't be left alone, so he's very needy. My own father is a lot more work than my son at times. He's a 6-foot-tall man, and lifting and helping assist a bigger man than you can be a real challenge."
"Caregiver burnout is real,"? says Colman. What helps her keep it away? Some of the same strategies she helps implement for people as a care coordinator at Wellthy. Now that companies all over the country offer Wellthy in their benefits packages, "Wellthy is helping clients of all types. Some are already at their wit's end. Others are just at the beginning of their journey and want to know what they can do if they notice, for instance, that their mom is getting forgetful," she says. There are systems, strategies, and resources that can make a difference at every stage, and Colman spends her days matching the right options with the person who needs them. "Caregiving can be very confusing, and so much of what I do is help people who don't know what to do next."
Just as she does for her clients, she's worked with her family to devise a plan for next steps that involves moving their dad into a facility where he can get round-the-clock care ("it helps to go to the facilities together and find something that your loved one will feel comfortable in. Hopefully, a person can be satisfied in at least one of those places,"? she says.
Her degree in gerontology has been valuable in helping her manage the situation, but so has what she's gained through the school of life, including these hacks that could work for you, too:
Use your calendar for relief. Colman's days start at 5:30 AM, giving her about 90 minutes to dash off some emails and work out before she needs to get her son out of his crib and get breakfast ready for the oldest and youngest members of the family. Then, there's preschool dropoff and pickup, meals to be made, work to be done, groceries to be shopped for and everything in between (sound familiar?). "My mom and I share caring for Dad and my son, so every night we compare calendars. We set a schedule for who will be doing what for my son and my dad, and every night, we confirm it for the next day. When he first saw us do it, my husband was blown away by how much there is to figure out. But that's the life of someone who has a sick loved one at home," she says.
Be aware that a disease can change your loved one. "Lewy Body Dementia can make people become very needy. My dad is often extremely all about himself now, and he wasn't like that before," Colman says. “I remind myself that it's not him, it's the disease.” In other words, try not to blame the person for what the disease is making them do.
Don't go it alone. Especially since you don't have to. Not only does Colman use the tools in the Wellthy toolbox, she's also in two support groups? one in-person and one online. Experts and caregivers alike agree it's important for the caregiver to take care of themselves, and that can sometimes be the hardest thing to do, Colman says. "But a support group is something you can put in your calendar: it's time blocked out for yourself."