Three generations of family caretakers, taking care of each other

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- During Family Caregiver Month, one Madison family shares the journey of caring for a loved one with dementia.

Melva Schmeiser lives with her husband, daughter and granddaughter in Madison.

Melva Schmeiser has dementia, suffering mostly from short-term memory loss. Since she was diagnosed several years ago, the three generations of her family has been by her side, under the same roof.

The family admits, caregiving is not easy. According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers say there’s high emotional stress that comes with the task.

Melva’s granddaughter Sam, who’s 12 years old, describes the emotional toll this way: “When you know the person who is hurting or is ill, it's more difficult to help them. You feel like you're in a box. You want to reach out and touch them but you can't.”

Aware of potential burnout, the Schmeiser caregivers say they act to protect themselves from it.

Melva’s husband Larry said that keeping busy with physical exercise is one of the most important ways the whole family stays emotionally healthy.

Sarah Schmeiser, Melva’s daughter, added that having more family members is helpful.

“We do have more people who can help and collaborate,” she said. “Even if you just need a few minutes or an evening. (You can also) make sure that dad can go to book club and not just feel like he's stuck in the house or stuck all the time with mom.”

Governor Tony Evers proclaimed November as Family Caregiver Month. His task force is also working to address how best to support family caregivers.