Gertrude and Robert Hackl
2012 marked the end of a long, exhausting journey for Sue Bosman. Her mother and father, Gertrude and Robert Hackl, died just 44 days apart that year. Ten years prior to their deaths, Sue began caring for her parents on a part-time basis. Gertrude lived with Alzheimer’s disease, while Robert exhibited symptoms of a neuropsychological disorder known as Capgras Syndrome.
“When this all started,” said Sue, “I handled the caregiving tasks on my own. It was hard. I was working full time in the medical field, so I went over to my parent’s house every night after work. One day I just couldn’t handle things by myself anymore.” At that point, Sue called a family meeting – and she immediately received additional caregiving support from her son and her sister.
But even with that additional support, a very unique situation provided immense challenges for the family. Sue’s father lived with Capgras Syndrome, a disorder that causes an individual to believe that family members have been replaced by imposters. “It was very difficult to administer medication and insulin shots to my father,” said Sue. “He recognized our voices and faces, but he thought we were imposters masquerading as his family. Some days he thought we were out to kill him.”
Caregiving for the couple eventually became more than the family could handle alone. Family members took shifts caring for the couple during the day, but hired professional caregivers to staff overnight hours. “We totally had to give up whatever life we had to care for them,” said Sue. “But I don’t regret one minute of it. We took the time to discuss their wishes with them, scheduled an appointment with an attorney, made funeral arrangements, and talked about how they wished to spend their last days. It was very important to them that they spend their final days in the comfort of their own home.”
Sue’s 10 year journey as a family caregiver has now come to an end, and she feels like a completely different person. “Before, I was constantly under stress and always wondering when my phone would ring.” Sue admits that she was also so busy and overwhelmed at the time that she did not take time to care for herself. She truly regrets not knowing about the multitude of resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Association, and its vast education and support programs for family caregivers. But moving forward, she can now personally attest to how important it is for every family to prepare and understand the true commitment of what it means to be a family caregiver.
Robert Hackl in the last photo Sue took of her father