Redfield farmer juggles wife’s Alzheimer’s, unplanted fields

Farm Forum

REDFIELD — Just by talking to Roald Amundson, you would quickly learn two things: He is thankful for Farm Rescue, and he truly loves his wife.

Farm Rescue and other local businesses came together to help Amundson plant his crops last month in his time of need.

Things have been hard on the Amundsons. Eleven years ago, he began to notice small symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Irene. They went to a couple of doctors, who diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s.

“With Alzheimer’s, it’s pretty much a downhill slide with a variation of how steep the slide is,” Amundson said.

Before the Alzheimer’s, things were vastly different.

“She was such an ambitious person,” said Amundson, explaining that they both participated in the daily chores. “Working around the house, cooking and baking, and doing everything.”

But now, Amundson takes care of Irene in all aspects of her life.

“Looking back, I’m glad we did everything together so I can just take over now. I can do everything for her, and I don’t need a bit of help,” said Amundson, who has learned to cope with what he has to do to make sure his wife is well taken care of. If she has to go to the bathroom or needs to be moved to the dining room table for supper, Amundson physically carries her.

Daily life

Amundson has a daily routine with his wife. It begins by waking up in the middle of the night to take her on a bathroom break. He then puts her back to bed. When the morning comes, he wakes her up for another bathroom break. At 10 a.m., he gives her pills, then lets her sleep for a little while longer. At 11 a.m., Amundson will wake Irene, shower her, dress her, then feed her lunch. Another bathroom break follows. While Irene sits on her favorite spot on the couch, Amundson will do some chores around the house. At 4 p.m., he gives Irene her pills and another bathroom break. Later, he will get her ready for bed. More pills at 10 p.m.

“I’ll get ready for bed, then crawl in there and hug her and kiss her and pull her up tight to me,” said Amundson, beginning to choke up with tears swelling in his eyes. “I’ll say a few prayers. Maybe sing her a song. A made up a song about how much I love her. And next thing we’re falling asleep.”

“By far the best thing I ever did was marry Irene,” said Amundson of their ceremony that took place Oct. 7, 1961. “She made me the man I am. Irene planted a seed in my heart, and it’s been growing ever since.”

Amundson has been farming for 28 years. He bought his property west of Redfield in 1975, a year before a statewide drought hit the area hard.

In recent years, when it came time to plant seeds in the field, Amundson would hire someone to do it. He would then run back and forth from the field and check on Irene.

That’s when his neighbor, Dustin Maher, mentioned Farm Rescue. Maher mentioned Amundson to Wheat Growers, who then contacted Farm Rescue. Amundson filled out an application on a Friday, and, by Monday, it was approved.

“I was so happy they approved it,” Amundson said. “It’s a load off my shoulders.”

Farm Rescue is a nonprofit organization that plants, harvests and hays crops free of charge for family farmers who have suffered a major injury, illness or natural disaster.

Help arrives

Help came to Amundson’s farm on April 19. They started planting at 5 p.m. and didn’t stop until they were finished at 1 a.m the following morning. In total, they planted 165 acres of wheat using a 60-foot seeder.

“It looked really good when they planted, and I told them I hope it looks that good when it comes time to harvest,” Amundson said with a chuckle.

Amundson placed his hands into the hands of a volunteer to symbolize the passing of farming power.

“I put my wheat planting right into their hands,” Amundson said.

Normally, the farmer provides the inputs and Farm Rescue provides the equipment and the manpower, but, in this case, numerous donors stepped forward to help. RDO furnished all the equipment, Wheat Growers supplied all the wheat seeds. Appel Oil donated all the fuel. Cleberg Tires replaced a tractor tire. And Bank of the West filled out the balance sheets.

Normally, some of the cash donations would help pay for the volunteers to stay in a motel and have meals, but Amundson offered to have the volunteers stay at his house, where he would feed them. That helped funnel more money directly to the farmers who need it.

“They donated time, money, fuel and seed. It’s just an act kindness,” said Amundson, explaining that he is forever grateful of the kindheartedness that Farm Rescue and the various donors provided. “It’s a blessing. I just can’t thank them enough.”

In the past, Farm Rescue has helped people with planting and harvesting, but, this year, they’ve added haying for the first time. Farm Rescue did 50 cases in 2013 — the most Farm Rescue has ever done in one year.

Farm Rescue will come back sometime in late July or August to help harvest Amundson’s crops.

“Life is what it is. You deal with it the best you can,” Amundson said. “I just hope I’m here forever for her.”