The Beginning of Stonewall Farm Caregiver's Respite Retreat
In 1997, my husband, Skip and I decided to make a big lifestyle change and follow our dream of owning a Bed and Breakfast. Our children were finished with college and it was finally time for US!
How exciting! We bought a 1785 farmhouse and proceeded to make the necessary changes, slowly but surely. Then we were ready for what we loved most….people…..our guests! We greeted hundreds of guests from all over the world for the next nine years, and everyone who walked through our door was treated with love and respect. It was a joyful time for us.
We continued breeding our beloved Labrador Retrievers and made hundreds of families happy. We had pigs, horses, and goats, sheep and even a baby steer! There was always an ongoing project at “This Old Farm.”
And then, after nine years, our lives were changed forever when my dear Skip was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. In his usual good spirit, he declared that I should not worry, as we would go to BU Medical to take part in the many studies for AD offered there. Surely we could “fight” this disease with no cure! So our next four years began fighting what I call “The Monster Alzheimer”.
We continued to operate the Bed and Breakfast full time, as he was no longer able to work, and I had to leave my other career in real estate as it was not safe to have him home alone.
In the beginning, he would tell the guests with his great sense of humor, which “someone by the name of Alzheimer had called on him,” so if they had any questions, “please speak to my wife”! As the weeks and months went by, he was no longer able to remember the history of this great old house that he so loved to tell everyone about. Eventually he could only smile sweetly and say hello to the guests he had loved so much over the years. I would always let the new guests know that he had Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease and therefore, some things he might say may seem strange. We were very lucky to be blessed with kind guests that understood. It was my choice to keep him in his own home during the course of this disease. I did it for many reasons. One was because I could. I had a facility where we had our own private quarters and we could lock doors so he was unable to wander. He also remained his sweet, kind self and never became violent. We also had the support of three loving children and wonderful friends.
That being said, the one problem remains and that is the CAREGIVER. Often it feels like there is nothing anyone can do to help the caregiver. There is no place for the caregiver to turn and have someone care for them! Research has found that Alzheimer’s / Dementia caregivers often suffer from depression and stress related illness. They are in need of support, relaxation and stress reduction. This is what any caregiver can experience. It is not isolated to just caregivers for AD, but to caregivers for cancer patients, autistic children, and the list goes on.
We offer onsite services, massage therapy, Reiki, yoga instruction and classes, a grief counselor and support groups. You may indulge in any of these services or you may simply “chill.” Read a book, take a nap, in the summer go to one of our lovely “swimming holes,” pick some blueberries in our field and in the winter grab a pair of snowshoes and take a “walk” in the woods. Find the time for your own personal peace and tranquility, you deserve it! Therefore, my new endeavor was born! I will continue to lecture, educate and be an advocate for caregivers and particularly Alzheimer’s. My husband and I always had a passion for helping others and bringing them comfort. This will now continue as it is a way I can always remain connected to the man I was married to for 43 years.
Meg Curtis - Support Group Facilitator - CDP
In the winter of 2013, I received a call from a woman I call “my guardian angel.” She was a complete stranger, but a caregiver in desperate need of a break. She felt like she was totally out of control. She arrived the next day on my doorstep. Weary and exhausted, she went to bed and slept. She woke up and we had a cup of tea and a very long conversation. It was called “support” and understanding. After several days of complete rest, banana bread, a great breakfast every day, and many cups of tea by the fire and long conversations, she returned home, ready to face the task ahead, as caregiver. Because of the caregiver, Julie, a brain storm began, and the Stonewall Farm Caregivers Respite Retreat was born.