By Allys Becerra
Benny and Becky Luntsford, of East Hill, are in their early sixties and thought they had their retirement all figured out. One day, however, an early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis changed all that.
Benny Luntsford worked in upper management in the grocery and beverage industry and was the main provider for his family throughout their thirteen-year marriage. After his diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Becky Luntsford took over their finances, sold their home and adjusted her work schedule to be able to care for him. For her, the changes were difficult and hard to process.
“Literally overnight, he had to stop working. Our whole lives just changed in a moment at a point where we were making great plans for our future,” said Becky Luntsford.
In 2021, Florida caregivers provided 1.3 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $20 billion. With a decreasing workforce available to provide care, many families are looking inwards to support their loved ones.
Despite the changes, Becky Luntsford feels grateful to be by her husband’s side.
“The isolation is very hard, but you cannot give into that,” she said.
During National Family Caregivers and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November, the Luntsford’s are sharing tips on how to navigate the journey for the more than 800,000 caregivers in Florida.
Benny Luntsford’s parents both had dementia and he says he recognizes firsthand how challenging the road ahead may be for his wife as his caregiver. He hopes other caregivers in a similar situation are able to find the proper resources to help them get by.
“I personally know how difficult it is for my wife to have taken on the responsibilities we used to share, so that’s why it is so important for caregivers to find support wherever they can. Caregivers should reach out to family members and friends to be able to take some time off,” said Benny Luntsford.
For those who don’t have family or friends available, there are other options to explore.
Among those is home and community-based services waivers (HCBS) offered in some states to help meet the needs of people who prefer to receive long-term care services in their home or community rather than in an institutional setting. Florida offers HCBS Waivers which will cover care for daily activities. To learn more visit ahca.myflorida.com.
A care consultation can also be an option to help family members work through tough decisions, anticipate future challenges and develop an effective care plan which can include local resources, support groups and educational programs. The Alzheimer’s Association offers free care consultations through its 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900. Help is available in more than 200 languages.
In addition, Medicare covers care planning for individuals with cognitive impairment. Many family caregivers overlook or are not aware of this valuable benefit, which reimburses health professionals to provide affected individuals and their caregivers with information about medical and non-medical treatments, clinical trials and support services available in the community.
Benny Luntsford wants others to remember the importance of focusing on the positive throughout these kinds of hardships.
“My wife and I never thought we would find ourselves in this situation, but we do everything we can to live and love every moment we have together. I hope you can do the same with your loved one.”