The Long Goodbye: Finding Support

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Don and Char Harell met in San Francisco.  

"We had a lot of fun and Char wanted to come back and live on a farm," Don said. "So we did that, bought a rundown 80-acre farm in West Plains."

Don used to play in a band and still makes music.

"But Char, back when I was playing, she never had any desire," said Don. 

It wasn't until after her Alzheimer's diagnosis they were singing together in the car one day and Char said she'd like they sing together. So, the couple performed at a few Alzheimer's fundraisers.

"It was amazing to see her when she starts singing, she just comes alive," Don said. "She puts her hand on her heart sometimes. She is the star."

April of 2017 was their last performance together. His wife's condition was deteriorating and Char a nurse herself now needed more help. 

Through word of mouth, Don learned about the Regional Hospice 

"I always viewed hospice as an organization that would come in at the very end of life, " he said. 

But he quickly found that wasn't the case. An RN came to his home twice a week, she ordered and organized char's medicine and doctor appointments. 

"That seemed like a full-time job right there," Don said.  

The hospice program also sent someone to clean the house and provided a social worker who introduced Don to a new idea - a patient stays at a nursing facility for five days to give caretakers a break paid for by Medicaid.

During that time, Don and the family realized it was best Charlotte stay at the nursing home due to her condition. 

Don stayed involved with the Alzheimer's Association advocating for more funding in Jeff City. 

"Something I was really proud of," he said.  

Don has been to a few support group meetings but isn't a frequent flyer.

Marcia Hansen, who was a caretaker for both her parents, on the other hand, has been faithfully attending meetings for three years. 

"After my first one, I wanted to go back," she said. 

Marcia, like Don, first went to the Alzheimer's Association for help at first on how to take care of her parents. But it seemed there was another person she was forgetting to care for. 

"She was more concerned about what are we going to do for mom? I was sitting there thinking, what are we gonna do for you?" said Kirk, Marcia's husband.   

Kirk suggested a support group after seeing signs at Willard Baptist Church. 

"I wasn't able to give her everything she needed," he said. "I can be the husband. I can be there, but I didn't know the right things to say. She needed some help." 

It seems most families are always more concerned with the emotional impact of Alzheimer's, but there are legal matters that should be addressed early into a diagnosis. 

"The biggest misconception is if you have a diagnosis you are already incapacitated," said Sativa Boatman-Sloan, an elder law attorney in Springfield. "They still have full capability of making their own legal decisions and signing their own name." 

Sloan says the first thing families need to do is get a general durable power of attorney. 

"As long as you still have the capacity to make legal decisions you can change it whenever you want. You can go out and undo something that your agent did, you are still in the driver seat of all of your legal decisions, you are just appointing the agent that also has an equal capacity as you do to sign your name," she said. 

You can appoint one or more people and decide what rights to give them. 

"And do you want it to be effective immediately, or only when one doctor or two doctors say you're incapacitated," Sloan said. 

She says a will helps in the future but won't necessarily avoid probate - that's when a person's property goes to court for a division. She says estate planning and putting a beneficiary designation on everything a person owns is best. 




Alzheimer's Association
 3645 South Ave, Springfield, MO 65807
Phone(417) 886-2199


The Regional Hospice 
3405 W Mt Vernon St #100, Springfield, MO 65802
(417) 832-0577

Alzheimer's Support Group - Willard Baptist Church 



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