Caring for a Centenarian

Ninety-nine-year-old Roy McKinley is an amazing man. For many years he was the primary caregiver for his beloved wife, Vivian, who was confined to a wheelchair due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder. During his time caregiving for Vivian, Roy was referred to the Aging and Disability Services (ADS) for respite care services. The Respite Care Program's help and support made a crucial difference in enabling Vivian to remain in their home for the rest of her life.

After he lost Vivian, Roy's own health issues—long overlooked, as often happens with caregivers—became more apparent. His daughter Peggy "stepped up to the plate." Peggy is happily married, but for five years she has spent the majority of her time away from her husband as she cares for her father in his home 25 miles away. Her husband has been wonderfully supportive of her endeavors but it has been challenging for both of them. From time to time, other family members take care of Roy so that Peggy and her husband can spend a few days together.

Roy is accompanied on walks as part of his falls prevention plan.

Peggy loves her Dad but admits that she gets tired. She knew about respite because of the help it provided during her mother's life. She self-referred to what had by then become the ADS Family Caregiver Support Program and was approved for in-home respite services.

Peggy says she doesn't know how they could have managed to keep going these past few years without the regular breaks she has come to depend on. During her respite time, Peggy is able to take care of essential errands, shopping and her own appointments.

As we age, activities once routine take on a whole new dimension. For example, a walk out to the mailbox to pick up the mail has become a daily adventure for Roy. After taking a fall doing just that, Roy no longer goes out to the mailbox alone. Peggy or a respite worker accompanies him as part of their falls prevention plan.

Walking out to the mailbox has become a daily adventure for Roy.

Despite the health issues he has faced, Roy maintains a wry sense of humor and always has a joke at the ready. His sense of adventure has been strong throughout his life. Family members take him on outings, like visits with a cherished niece and great-nieces and nephews.

A while back, Roy participated in the studio audience of "The (206)" TV show as an honored guest of local comedian and then-host John Keister. It was a great thrill for him. Recently, Roy went for a ride on a paraglider, an experience he says he can now take off his "bucket list."

Peggy and other family members are making plans for Roy's birthday celebration in December. Happy 100th birthday, Roy!

Contributor Carole Bourree coordinates caregiver services in Aging and Disability Services' Family Caregiver Support Program. For more information about local services, visit the King County Caregiver Support Network website at www.kccaregiver.org.

The King County Caregiver Support Network helps unpaid caregivers of adults age 18 and older. By helping to reduce caregiver stress, network services enable care receivers to remain at home and independent. These may include:

  • Referrals to local support groups, counseling, and other resources.
  • Training on specific caregiving topics.
  • Advice on use of supplies and equipment.
  • Practical information and caregiving suggestions.
  • Respite care, if you need a break.

Most services are free. Respite care is available on a sliding-fee scale. For more information, visit www.kccaregiver.org.