Elderly man sitting on a bed

Barbara spends a lot of time grieving.

“I cry a lot,” she quietly explains. “I know it won’t help or change the situation, but the anger and frustration have to come out.”

It’s only been a year since her husband Ren was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Barbara continues to grieve the loss of the life she thought she’d have.

“Ren and I had a lot of dreams,” said the 70-year old Barrington resident, her voice filled with disappointment. “I thought I’d be in a rocking chair reading or traveling. We planned to take some big trips after retirement. We’ll never go on those trips.”

Instead, Barbara endures the daily struggle of paying bills, keeping up the house and providing needed care to a 71-year old man fighting to keep his memory.

“He’s filled with anxiety and I think that’s worse than the Alzheimer’s diagnosis,” said Barbara. “He follows me around all day long and talks excessively, repeating himself. He’s very clingy.”

That’s very difficult for Barbara given that Ren – and she — were both fiercely independent.

“Ren was a highly intelligent sales manager for medical equipment,” she remembers. “He traveled a lot and was known to be a walking encyclopedia. He was just so smart. I was an office manager and enjoyed my independence.”

And it’s independence that Barbara attempts to recreate for both Ren and herself at various support programs and services hosted by the Barrington Area Council on Aging.

BACOA provides activities, education and support to adults and caregivers. Nearly 1,000 Barrington-area residents benefit from the wide-range of BACOA programs and services including a day respite program that allows caregivers like Barbara a much needed break from their caregiving responsibilities. The Day Respite program is led by a licensed professional with the help of trained volunteers and provides an engaging, interactive and safe program for health-challenged loved ones.

“I’m able to drop Ren off at BACOA’s Respite Program so I can enjoy some time to myself,” said Barbara. “And Ren loves going. He’s engaged and participates in the different activities.”
BACOA also provides a series of caregiver support groups that enable people to educate themselves about various diseases while giving them an opportunity to gain insight and coping skills to better handle their situation.

“BACOA recently cancelled a caregiver support group because of weather,” said Barbara. “You would have thought that a big party was cancelled with the way I felt. I was so disappointed. Those support groups are so important to me.”

BACOA also provides information and referral services to assist seniors with such things as Medicare and Medicaid. Last year, our well-trained Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) counselors walked nearly 700 vulnerable seniors through the convoluted government process to ensure they received the medical attention and medication they need to live.

Additionally, BACOA provides critical support programs to those struggling with such debilitating diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. BACOA offers vital socialization programs not only for active seniors but those with early to mid-level Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Additionally, nutrition programs for those who are unable to prepare meals for themselves either because of poor health or low income are offered.

“BACOA caregiver services have been a blessing to me,” said Barbara. “Finding BACOA was literally like finding a piece of heaven.”

Founded thirty years ago, the Barrington Area Council on Aging exists to promote #AgingBetter, or vibrant, healthy aging through activities, education, and support to adults and caregivers. BACOA serves approximately 1,200 individuals a year and assists the community in the following ways:

Information on housing options or in-home care services * Meals-with-Wheels * Enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid * Counseling on insurance, benefits and Medicare Part D * Support and education groups for seniors and caregivers * Activities and programs for active seniors * A day respite program for older adults * Educational programs and services for the community on issues related to aging

To see how BACOA embraces their mission daily, search #AgingBetter for their social media updates via Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest and find more information about their programs at BACOA.org.

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