A Penticton, B.C., senior is using her own personal experience to help others cope with the hardships of being a caregiver to a loved one with a serious illness.
Barbara Jensen knows all too well the emotional toll of being a caregiver and has written a book about it, at the age of 86.
“It’s hard to be a caregiver,” she said. “Thousands are alone and lonesome and ready to give up, I’m sure. I was ready to give up. I mean, I did give up.”
For years, she provided care to her husband Kaj, who lived with Alzheimer’s disease.
“He was completely dependent on his legs. They wanted to go all the time. So I mean, even in the bathroom, just out the door he went and I couldn’t lock him in,” she said as Jensen described her husband wanting to wander all the time.
But she said the emotional toll it took was even harder.
“The emotional is I’m losing him, I’m losing him,” she told Global News.
Called Alzheimer’s Wife, the book was recently published and she hopes it offers hope and encouragement to others facing the same kind of struggles.
“It takes time, it takes will. It takes people to help people. You have to accept help, ” she said. “You have to work at it. You have to learn to believe in yourself.”
Her positive outlook is a stark difference from where she was once at.
She said she hit rock bottom when one day she got a call that her husband had to be placed into permanent care.
“When they said…you have to give him up, ” Jensen said. “I went over the top. That was too much for me, so I took pills and I drank alcohol.”
She said she did it to numb the pain.
Eventually that got her admitted to hospital, where she ended up on suicide watch.
“I just couldn’t face it anymore,” she said.
Over time, she got better and decided to write the book.
She said the first part of the book is about endurance while the second part has to do with picking up the pieces and moving forward.
Penticton resident Liz Annesley has read the book.
She said she has witnessed family members and friends take care of loved ones with dementia and says the book provides hope and encouragement.
“I got that it’s a long haul,” Annesley said. “And she learned how to gain strength and not blame the rest of the world for all her problems and that she had to take care of herself first before she can take care of her husband.”
Jensen’s husband Kaj passed away just last week, not long after her book was published.
“I think it’s serendipitous, really,” she said. “The timing, the timing is just extraordinary.”
She hopes her book shows others they are not alone and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“You can have a new life and I have a lovely life now,” she said.
Alzheimer’s Wife can be purchased online on Amazon.