Milwaukee woman hopes to become 'essential caregiver' to take care of husband in assisted living

Posted at 10:44 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 23:44:29-04

MILWAUKEE — A local family indirectly affected by COVID-19 ahead of the holiday is looking for ways to help care for their loved one, who is dealing with a form of dementia.

Jennifer Whetter and her husband Roy Whetter have been happily married for thirty years, living in Milwaukee and raising two girls.

Now Jennifer fears her husband’s holiday season could be spent in isolation.

TMJ4 News asked Jennifer about her biggest fear after not seeing her husband in months.

“That he dies alone,” was her response. “He loved being there [with his family], and the four of us were together, as a family.”

Life looks a lot different for the Whetter family now.

Roy has spent the last three years here at St. Anne's Salvadorian Assisted Living after developing frontotemporal dementia. His wife was by his side, almost daily, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Shortly after, anyone who was not employed by St. Anne's was no longer allowed to enter in order to protect residents.

“He isn’t as cooperative with things like taking his medicine. So now nurses would call me and I would try to get him to take his medicine,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer said she understands the situation and he's getting good care at St. Anne’s, but not around complicating her ability to help her husband. She believes having a familiar face around could bear significant benefits for his health.

“If a decision has to be made about his healthcare, I can’t really make that decision. I would be relying on the staff and the caregivers there at St. Anne’s,” Jennifer Whetter said.

She hopes to someday become an essential caregiver - a loved one allowed to enter a facility to help take care of a patient. Right now, just seven states allow for such a caretaker.

State Sen. Chris Larson believes his colleagues on both sides of the aisles would be open to essential caregivers and other ways to find COVID-19 relief.

“There should not be a partisan fight behind this. It shouldn’t matter which party brings it forth. It’s common sense,” Larson said.

The Wisconsin Nurses Association said the help would be appreciated by understaffed nurses trying to provide care during the pandemic.

“We would welcome any kinds of support these individuals can give,” said WNA CEO, Gina Dennik-Champion.

Hopefully, the help would also aid a wife hoping to take care of her husband through what she believes could make all the difference in her husband’s health during the holiday season.

“I want to be a part of his care team and I need to be a part of his care team,” Whetter said.

Jennifer Whetter said while no one in their family has personally contracted COVID-19, she encourages everyone to continue doing the right thing so families like hers can get back soon.

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