A year in the pandemic as a hidden helper

Local News

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCBD) – Caregivers are describing challenges during the coronavirus pandemic they faced, being stuck at home in isolation with loved ones.

For Karen Sheppard family comes first. “She is the matriarch, so we gravitate around her,” she said.

Sheppard cares for her mother, Queen Victoria Dingle, who sits on her throne at the comfort of her couch.

“We spent hours and hours of just shopping and talking and just going out to eat and reminiscing on when I was a little child,” said Sheppard, but then Dingle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about eight years ago, the disease taking a toll on their relationship.

“It takes her from being my mom as I know her caring for me as a child,” she said.

For almost four years, Karen has been taking on a new role as caregiver.

“My life as I knew it became a new norm and then when the pandemic came in, we had a new norm on top of the new norm,” said Sheppard.

The biggest challenge for both mother and daughter – isolation.

Before the pandemic, Sheppard said the family used to have a private sitter come in whenever they had doctors’ appointments or events where they couldn’t take their mother.

And then when businesses started shutting down, she couldn’t take her mother to get her hair done or take her to the senior respite Alzheimer’s center because it closed.

When she couldn’t get to places like the beauty salon, she brought the salon home.

“I bought this little gadget that goes around the neck and its plastic, so you put it in the sink, and she can lay back and I can wash and rinse her hair, so I learned to do that during the pandemic as well,” she said.

Dingle stays busy while in isolation with activities like reading and coloring.

One of Sheppard’s greatest lessons that she’s had to learn is to take care of herself and she’s had support.

“Teach them self-care and keep them going to thriving instead of just surviving during the journey as a caregiver,” Noah project director Jan Hyatt, who has stayed in contact with caregivers during the pandemic, making sure one year into it, they’re well equipped and not burnt out.

“A candle when it’s lit it illuminates all the experiences, lights the dark path as we are going through that gives us that encouragement to go forward with this journey and then it is only when we are at our best that we can be that light and then when we have that light, we can go through any treacherous thing that comes up any scary dark path during this journey,” said Sheppard.

According to The Ark of SC, across South Carolina there are 95,000 people 65 years and older living with Alzheimer’s disease and nearly 1,300 families in Charleston are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

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