CLEVELAND — It's no secret that caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia is difficult. It can take a toll on a caregiver’s mental and physical health.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, 83% of care at home is provided by family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers and nearly 60% of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as "high" or "very high."
Jan Castora knows how stressful caring for a loved one with dementia is.
His wife of 62 years, Josephine, was diagnosed with Aphasia Frontotemporal Dementia in 2009. As her condition worsened, Jan became her full-time caregiver.
“I would get her up in the morning, I would change her, she was incontinent," said Castora. "I would brush her teeth and comb her hair and exercise her and feed her."
Castora was fortunate enough to have aids come and help while he cared for his wife at home.
“They would share with me some of the experiences that they have with caregivers and how stressful it is to be a caregiver," he said. "There’s nothing in this world that is more stressful than being a caregiver. You have to make sacrifices in order to provide the care."
Jo Castora died Oct. 7, 2019. Noe less than two years later, Jan is working with the Alzheimer's Association in her honor.
“I wanna try to help people that don’t have the ability to help themselves," said Castora.
He donated $1 million to launch the Jan and Josephine Castora Family Caregiver Relief Program, which will provide home care free of charge to families of Alzheimer's and dementia patients.
"Individuals are actually going to have the break to go to the grocery store and not be reliant on somebody else to do it. To go have lunch with a friend," said Lindsay Walker, Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Association Cleveland Chapter. "Mental health is such a big component as well and so when you look at the memory component and we’re looking at Alzheimer’s. The caregivers need to be healthy in every way: emotionally, physically and mentally and his gift is going to help so many individuals."
The Caregiver Relief Program is available to families in 22 counties and launched July 1.
“It’s beyond comprehension," said Castora. "It’s so gratifying to know that people now have an opportunity to get some time away, to recharge their batteries."