Below are the full stories of the clients and families featured in the Hamilton County Elderly Services Program (ESP) 2019 Annual Report. These stories illustrate the impact ESP has on older adults in Hamilton 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 can be more present and focused at work; something area employers are sure to appreciate.
Anita and Chris
Anita and her husband, Chris, work full-time as nurses. They also have school-age children. So, when Anita’s mother called to share the news that her father had Alzheimer’s disease, the family had to act quickly to find a way to manage his care needs while also juggling the other responsibilities of working and managing a family. Watch their story and learn how ESP supports working caregivers like Anita and Chris.
A mom and wife with a rewarding career, Aimee excelled at balancing all her responsibilities – it was something she took pride in. But as her mother was preparing to be discharged from the hospital, the full impact of her care needs sank in and she realized she needed help. ESP’s FastTrack Home service was there for Aimee and her mom. “They were sort of this breath of fresh air when I probably didn’t realize I was suffocating.”
When Chandni’s mother developed Alzheimer’s disease, there was no question about moving her to Chandni’s home. Then, a wandering incident prompted Chandni to reach out for help. Chandni connected to ESP’s caregiver support nurse and found the support she needed to balance her career responsibilities, raise her family and keep her mother safe at home.
Jean, 73, has been hit with a lot the past few years. She is proud to be on the other side of a knee replacement, pulmonary embolism and breast cancer. Through it all, Hamilton County’s Elderly Services Program (ESP) has been by her side.
Diagnosed in 2018 with breast cancer, Jean tried to manage on her own, but came to accept that she couldn’t do it all while living alone in her second floor apartment.
Jean knew just where to turn because of her mother’s success as a Council on Aging (COA) client. Jean’s mother passed in 2017, and she smiles when she remembers her mother’s care. “No one can fully prepare for death, but Council on Aging helped us both through a difficult time.”
Becoming the second generation of COA clients in her family, Jean called COA and was connected to Hamilton County ESP. She began receiving weekly help with light housekeeping and an electronic monitoring system (life alert button) she wears on her wrist.
She raves about her care manager, Melissa, who visits her often and gives her the support she needs to stay in her home. “You can really count on her. Everything she says is going to happen, happens. In the past, I have had trouble with nurses and therapists not showing up. Many people have been coming and going, but she’s the best.”
When the COVID-19 crisis changed the world, and older adults were encouraged to stay at home, Jean began receiving home-delivered meals. Though reluctant at first, Jean was surprised by how the meals had changed since the days when her mother relied on them. She is beyond happy with the weekly meals she receives now.
“This has really changed my life. Because of ESP, I am still living at home.”
Rachelle and Anna
Rachelle and her mother Anna, 76, have always been close. An only child, Rachelle said, “It’s always just me and her.”
When Rachelle was a child, she watched her mother go off to work each day as a labor and delivery nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital – a job she held for 43 years.
Anna also enjoyed bowling and making clothes. She was accomplished at both – she regularly bowled 300 and once made evening gowns for herself and Rachelle to wear on a cruise.
As her mother aged and began having problems with blood clots and strokes, Rachelle watched her stepfather struggle to provide the care she needed. He was proud and would not accept help – though they both needed it.
And so, Rachelle worked during the day as a meter reader for Duke Energy, and then spent her evenings and weekends helping her parents, cleaning their house, doing laundry, cooking meals and helping her mom bathe.
Over the next few years, Rachelle’s caregiving duties increased as her parents’ health declined. It was not uncommon for Rachelle to receive calls at all hours of the day because Anna had fallen or wandered out of the house. Every time Anna would have to go to the hospital or a nursing home for care, Rachelle worried about the quality of that care. She made a promise to never leave Anna there longer than necessary.
Rachelle had to make good on that promise when her stepfather was no longer able to care for her mother in their home.
Rachelle retired early from Duke for health reasons and was able to provide care for her mother 24/7. But as most caregivers quickly learn, caring for a loved one takes both a physical and emotional toll.
In Rachelle’s case, her mother’s occupational therapist took note of how tired and stressed she seemed. “She told me, ‘You look wore out! You’re doing everything here!’” Rachelle said.
That’s where the Hamilton County Elderly Services Program (ESP) stepped in to help. The program has a care manager dedicated to working with caregivers, like Rachelle, who provide most of their loved-one’s care. The focus is on providing services and supports that help the older adult remain at home, while also ensuring the caregiver is able to have time away – respite – to manage other responsibilities or have a little time for themselves. The Elderly Services Program supplements, it does not replace, care that is already provided by family caregivers like Rachelle.
Through ESP, Anna qualified for a lift chair, shower chair and bedside commode. “I don’t know what I would do without these things,” Rachelle said. “I couldn’t help my mother shower without that chair.”
Anna also began attending adult day care at Baylee Place, something that has been a blessing for mother and daughter.
“I feel so guilty taking time for myself,” said Rachelle. It’s a common refrain from caregivers. “But my mother loves it there [Baylee]. She gets therapy, does puzzles, watches movies and gets to socialize.”
Rachelle found herself in a few tough situations as a meter reader, but she readily admits that caregiving is tough. “This is a program that is most definitely needed for caregivers. Without it there would be so many more seniors in nursing homes. It’s hard work!”
At the end of the day, Rachelle is grateful for the support her family receives from ESP. It has helped her to keep a promise. “She never asked for much,” Rachelle said. “This is the least I could do for her.”