Ken’s road map to caregiving
For years, Ken Barberi and Mary Lou Pelletier enjoyed a close friendship, keeping each other company and sharing favorite activities like taking walks.
When Mary Lou was diagnosed with dementia, Ken’s role in her life grew to include full-time caregiver. But he hasn’t been alone. Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator (MCN) program is by his side.
Navigator Marty Finley has offered a wealth of information about community resources and helped Ken develop an action plan so he can better care for Mary Lou. The information and education have given Ken peace of mind.
“It’s an enormous help. I don’t know how you would approach this without having an organization like Sun Health,” Ken said. “You know what to expect. You know what resources you can access. It’s not a big unknown anymore.”
The Memory Care Navigator program, offered at no charge, helps patients, family members and caregivers navigate the emotional, psychological and physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Since its inception in 2013, the program has helped more than 1,200 individuals.
The MCN program is funded through donations to Sun Health Foundation, which supports a variety of community wellness programs.
Ken, a retired Foreign Service Officer, and Mary Lou live in the same house and are navigating the dementia journey together. After Mary Lou received a diagnosis in 2014, Ken reached out to the MCN program for help.
Marty visited the couple at home, working with Ken to create emergency care and transition plans and directing him to helpful resources. She also gave him a better understanding of what the next few years might look like as Mary Lou’s condition changes.
Since the diagnosis, Marty has offered plenty of practical advice too – everything from eliminating trip hazards like rugs to taking a “sweet and soft” approach to caregiving with chocolate treats.
These days, Ken and Mary Lou stay busy with a range of activities, such as walking, going to the gym, and visiting places like the Arizona Science Center. They indulge in comfort foods like pizza and ice cream and spend time enjoying movies. Ken says, “Caregiving is challenging, but rewarding, and has changed me for the better. I’ve become a more compassionate and caring person with more empathy for others who are going through health issues. Caring for Mary Lou has made me a better person.”
Ken doesn’t know exactly what the future holds for Mary Lou, but he knows he can turn to Sun Health’s Memory Navigator Program as needed.
“I find it extremely useful and I think anybody going through this would need an organization like this,” Ken said. “Marty gave me a road map.”