Below are the full stories of the clients and families featured in the Clinton County Elderly Services Program (ESP) 2019 Annual Report. These stories illustrate the impact ESP has on older adults in Clinton County. But it’s not only older adults who benefit from this program. It helps family caregivers who may be struggling to juggle other family and career responsibilities with their caregiving duties. With peace of mind that their loved-one is receiving the care and support they need, family caregivers have the space to focus on other aspects of their lives.
Paul and Carolyn
In Paul’s own words, his wife Carolyn’s 2010 diagnosis with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, “turned me upside down.”
But 10 years later, Paul and Carolyn remain optimistic and Paul has adapted to life as a caregiver. ALS is a progressive disease, so, according to Paul, “We’ve adjusted as it comes. We do what we have to do.”
Married 49 years, Paul and Carolyn met with they were both students at The Ohio State University. They married two weeks after Paul graduated. After a year of teaching, Paul decided to return to the family businesses managing a dairy farm. The couple now lives on that farm, in the house Paul grew up in.
A home economics major at OSU, Carolyn worked for The Ohio State University’s Extension program administering programs that helped low income families with nutrition and money management.
Carolyn was still working when she first developed ALS symptoms, slurring Hs and Rs when she spoke. Paul chalked it up to getting old, but an evaluation at the Cleveland Clinic led to the ALS diagnosis. Even after the diagnosis, Carolyn continued working for a few years.
But Paul immediately started planning and thinking about the future. He reached out to the local ALS support group which has provided tools, resources and support to help the couple navigate their new world. Through various resources and insurance, Paul got a wheelchair from their insurance company. Fortunately, it sat unused for five years before Carolyn needed it. Then he remodeled their bathroom to accommodate the wheelchair and purchased an accessible vehicle.
As Carolyn’s disease progressed, Paul willingly took on more responsibilities, including helping Carolyn bathe, dress and eat.
“It’s amazing what you’ve got to learn when somebody else needs you. I gave her a shower for two years. Then we got help with that and I learned I was doing it all wrong!”
No one in the family can remember how they got connected to Clinton County’s Elderly Services Program (ESP), but Carolyn was enrolled in March, 2017. Everyone agrees the help is a blessing.
“I’m not a housekeeper; I’m not a cook. This house is just someplace I visit every once in awhile,” Paul joked.
The first thing ESP provided as a wheelchair ramp to make it easier for Carolyn to get in and out of the house. An aide also comes and helps Carolyn with personal care and housekeeping and he receives a weekly supply of meals specially adapted for her nutritional needs.
Paul is a Wilson Township Trustee and understands the value of tax levies in providing essential services to tax payers. As a member of the local fire board, he helped to pass a levy that would provide more consistent services to residents in the rural area.
“I really like this program because people need help. Not necessarily financial. It’s a job (caregiving). And I’m going to need more help. She’s not going to get better,” Paul said.
His daughter, Carrie, agreed. “It’s (ESP) been a great help. It’s little things that we don’t have to worry about. It’s less of a burden, when you have meals delivered or a ramp built. There’s so many other things to deal with – phone calls, paperwork, errands. So even if it’s one small thing provided every week, it’s a big burden to lift off your shoulders.”
For 10 years, Sue has enjoyed Debbie’s hard work and company as her home health aide through Clinton County’s Elderly Services Program.
Sue, 73, moved to Wilmington’s Clinton Commons in 2010. As a matter of fact, Sue enjoys being one of the longest-standing residents there.
At that same time, Debbie began work as Sue’s home health aide, helping with housekeeping. Sue is a very social person, and a strong bond soon developed. Little did they know that a life-saving relationship had begun.
According to Sue’s sister and caretaker, Linda, “Debbie is invaluable for Sue. They have a long-standing, admirable friendship and know each other well. I don’t live with Sue, so I can’t always be there. Debbie is certainly someone to be counted on. So much so, that Debbie saved my sister’s life.”
Not too long ago, Debbie arrived at Sue’s home and got no answer at the door. Instead of leaving, Debbie entered the open apartment and found Sue in her bedroom unresponsive and in trouble. She immediately called 911 and Sue was transported to the hospital where she was diagnosed with complete, stage 5 renal failure. In other words, Sue’s body chemicals were attacking her brain.
“I was scheduled to visit Sue that day,” her sister, Linda, remembers, “but I was about an hour behind Debbie’s schedule. I don’t know if Sue would have made it if Debbie hadn’t gone to the apartment when she did. I can’t say enough about my sister’s services! Thank you for everything you do.”