Chris Gingrich retired from his job as a road construction company estimator in 2017, and he and his wife, Paula, live on a fixed income.
“I heard about an Avista energy fair at the Spokane fairgrounds and I said, ‘You know, with what we’re living on, we just might qualify for this.”
They went to the fair thinking they’d learn about energy assistance eligibility, get some LED lightbulbs, and a few energy-saving tips. They left with resources to help their family cope with a serious health setback.
At the fair, Chris picked up a booklet about caregiver support, thinking of his 93-year-old mother living in her own home next door. “I never expected to find that at an energy conservation day. It turned out to be quite helpful,” Chris said.
Shortly after attending, Chris’s mother fell, breaking her wrist. Unable to independently care for herself, she moved in with Chris and Paula.
Chris was accustomed to the juggling act of preparing road bids—material costs, size and complexity of projects, weather conditions, and competitors. Now, the Gingrich’s were juggling helping his mother eat, dress, bathe, and manage her pain and her physical and occupational therapy appointments.
There’s an emotional toll to caregiving, too. “How to be a caregiver—that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame,” he said.
Chris remembered the booklet he’d picked up at the energy fair. In it was information about a 6-week class for caregivers and a caregiver support group. The support group, sponsored by Frontier Health, meets twice a month.
“Caregivers deal with depression and being overworked,” said Chris. “It’s good to have people who can relate to that, have ideas about ways to adjust and know about resources.”
Chris is grateful he found out about the support group at the energy fair. “I thought we were just going there for electricity and gas assistance and energy savings. We found a lot more.”