“Getting older isn’t easy,” said 83-year-old Byron Schroeder. “One day you wake up and can’t remember when you were born, where you were born or even if you were born. Sometimes not remembering everything isn’t so bad.”
When asked when he moved from Alameda County to Colfax, the retired machinist replied, “I don’t know, maybe 10 years.”
“No, Dad, you have lived in Colfax for 30 years,” his daughter Margaret Berberich gently reminded him.
Berberich and her husband, Mike, moved from Modesto two years ago to help care for Schroeder.
“We knew it was time to step in when it was obvious that people were taking advantage of him,” she explained.
Berberich vividly recalls when she made the commitment to take care of her dad.
“I was 8 years old,” said the petite blonde whose two sons are grown. “My dad said he never wanted to be put into a home. Even though our relationship wasn’t the best while I was growing up, I am enjoying what we have together now. I know it is not forever and I don’t look at it as a sacrifice. We are taking it one day at a time.”
“She is good company and a good cook!” interjected Schroeder.
Berberich also believes caregivers need to have a creative outlet. She runs a small alterations business out of the converted garage on property her grandparents purchased as a family cabin in the 1940s.
“I have my sewing machine and a wonderful friend, Cat Tenerio of Chicago Park, who comes every Tuesday to spend the day with Dad,” she said. “Sometimes they go out to lunch or go on car rides.”
After Schroeder’s wife passed away two years ago, he updated his will, giving Margaret the power of attorney over his finances and his medical care. He felt strongly that legal and health care issues be clearly defined.
Reno resident Joan Yates stated in a phone interview that her mother, Phyllis Day of Alpine Meadows, made decisions about home health care as well as financial provisions long before there was a need.
“I knew I couldn’t take care of her. I am too far away and I don’t know if I have the patience,” admits Yates.
In keeping with her mother’s wishes, she has hired Dutch Flat resident Tanya Joy, owner of Assist You, to provide the 24-hour care that her mother, now nearly 90, requires.
“They are remarkable,” said Yates, who occasionally visits her mother despite the fact she no longer recognizes her. “I am thankful everyday for the loving network that is involved with my mom’s care.”
Joy, who employees five women, has been Day’s primary caregiver for three years.
“We have been on this journey together,” she said.
Joy went on to say she realized her passion for caring for others while volunteering at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital through the Placer High School ROP Program.
“When I first started caring for Mrs. Day, she was walking, talking and inquisitive,” she said. “At times this has been a challenge. When a patient has severe Alzheimer’s or dementia, they have a hard time connecting the dots and processing information, but they still have the same emotions such as fear, love, anger and anxiety that we experience. “
A recent stroke has left Day severely handicapped. Fortunately, she is able to remain in the home that she and her deceased husband, Rufus, built in 1986.
“Recently her daughter Joan, came to visit,” said Joy. “I had just discovered a box of old photos. We held one up that we thought might be Mrs. Day’s mother. She took it in her hands and held on to it.
“The other day after I had helped her into an overstuffed chair, she looked at me with her familiar lovely brown eyes, reached up and tenderly placed her hand on my cheek,” Joy continued. “This is part of the long good-bye. She is still a person who deserves respect and needs human touch.”
9/24/09 – by Marci Seither, Colfax Record correspondent