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Clinton's caregiver plan could help millions

Clinton has proposed a tax credit to help the elderly and disabled cope with long term care
CNN's Tony Clark reports
Windows Media 28K 56K

January 4, 1999
Web posted at: 11:24 p.m. EST (0424 GMT)

From Correspondent Tony Clark

DALLAS (CNN) -- President Clinton has proposed spending $6.2 billion over the next five years to help families cope with the long-term care of elderly and disabled relatives.

The measure, the largest new health-care initiative in the president's budget, would provide $1,000 each year in tax credits for 2 million American families who are trying to care for their ill or disabled relatives at home.

Charles and Abbie Pickle are one couple who would benefit from the initiative.

Charles, 61, spends much of his day sitting in front of the television. Abbie is never far away.

"He gets really panicked if I'm gone too long. He'll say 'Well, I thought you weren't coming back,'" she says. "He's afraid I'm going to abandon him."

Her husband, who has Alzheimer's disease, is one of millions in the United States who require long-term care because of illness, disability or simply old age.

A former telephone company engineer, Charles began showing signs of Alzheimer's seven years ago.

 The Pickles
Charles Pickle's wife, Abbie, says he is afraid she will leave and never come back  

"He began to not be able to find things in his closet, like ties or a pair of slacks or a shirt," his wife says.

Now dressing can take him a couple of hours, and remembering everyday things can be impossible.

"He's getting more and more where he doesn't like to eat," Abbie says. "We have a real problem finding things to eat."

Despite his worsening condition, he lives at home. His wife, a former nurse, is his primary caregiver.

But she herself has a medical condition that places both their futures at risk: a kidney problem. She may require a transplant later this year.

Their situation sometimes is overwhelming, Abbie admits, but she says she just takes it a day at a time, an hour at a time.

'A great start'

Oscar Ponder of the Greater Dallas Alzheimer's Association says people like the Pickles are in dire need of a helping hand.

"Its a 24-hour-a-day job and there aren't any days off and it becomes mentally and physically taxing to the point of exhaustion, so people need some respite, some relief from this constant care and worry that they find themselves in," he says.

That's one reason the president's initiative to provide some relief to family caregivers is being endorsed by groups like the Alzheimer's Association.

"I'd say it is a great start in a long-needed assistance to people with home-care problems," Ponder says.

For Abbie Pickle, Clinton's plan could allow her to do what she considers most important: caring for her husband as long as she can -- at home.

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