The word caregiver is defined by Merriam Webster as “a person who provides direct care (as for children, elderly people, or the chronically ill.” And while that definition is true, it lacks the profusion of sacrifices, effort and emotional strain that every caregiver must endure. One of the most resilient caregivers is Amy Washuta, a native of Mineral Bluff, Ga, who spends the majority of her time caring for her husband.
“[Being a] caregiver means day in and day out of my situation, 24/7,” said Washuta. “You must be a keeper of the record, problem solver, punching bag for his frustration and understanding of the roller coaster of his feelings and emotions that he cannot explain.”
Washuta’s caregiving journey began when her husband, Paul, was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). The Lewy Body Dementia Association describes the condition as “a progressive brain disorder in which Lewy bodies (abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein) build up in areas of the brain that regulate behavior, cognition, and movement.”
Paul was once an adventurous spirit, who saw an opportunity in every situation. He was able to reason and rationalize and make sense of chaos. His passion was to work and his hands were his greatest tools. He would spend hours in his workshop, crafting wooden gifts such as beds for the animal shelter to benches to frames.
“He was the problem solver, he was the visionary that could create something in his mind and build it exactly as he imagined,” said Washuta.
However, Washuta began to notice changes in Paul’s behavior. It began as misplacing and mistaking common household items such as car keys and stumbling more often. It became unsafe when he began taking scorching items out of the oven without any protection. But, Washuta could not ignore the changes when Paul began hallucinating or forgetting he was driving and drifted into the median.
“The biggest thing was when he woke me up in the middle of the night asking “where the bathroom was in this joint,” said Washuta.
With all of Paul’s seemingly sudden changes, Washuta had to accept a new normal, a new reality where she was the captain of a sometimes sinking ship. Washuta had to adjust to handling their finances, driving both of them everywhere, and realizing that simple tasks of their daily routine required strenuous labor.
But, the acceptance of Paul’s new reality was Washuta’s biggest challenge.
“He wants to work, he has always loved to work,” said Washuta. “This bothers him that he can no longer provide for me, but he does help with what he can remember and can do.”
Washuta has found comfort in the inspiration she found within Alzheimer’s Association. At a conference hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association in Blue Ridge, Washuta met Teepa Snow, who challenged and encouraged her to change her way of thinking in order to communicate and help her husband.
“He loves to hike still and fish in the Toccoa,” said Washuta. “And is he is very open to talking about his illness and I also believe it helps.”