Lawrence husbands embrace new roles as caregivers
- on October 27, 2010
At age 87, Foster “Bud” Laming does all of the cooking, cleaning, bill paying and shopping.
He also takes care of his wife of 59 years, Gloria, who suffered a stroke eight years ago.
Bud helps Gloria, 79, get in and out of bed and a wheelchair, organizes her medicines and gives them to her, and changes her diapers.
“You name it and I provide it. I am her sole caregiver,” he says. “I don’t have much choice. I could put her in a nursing home, but I don’t want to do that and she doesn’t want to go there. As long as I am able to take care of her, I am hanging in there.”
Bud is among 65 million people — 29 percent of the U.S. population — who provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, the value of the services caregivers provide for free is estimated to be $375 billion a year.
Bud doesn’t really think twice about the care that he provides. But Gloria does.
“I don’t know what I would do without him,” she says. “I love him. He takes good care of me.”
Bud sits in the wheelchair near Gloria’s bed. He talks a little about their past. They lived on a farm near Tonganoxie for 40 years and raised cattle, then moved to Florida for 30 years.
“We enjoyed traveling,” he says.
They were visiting their only daughter in Arkansas when Gloria suffered the stroke. Four months later, their daughter died of a heart attack at age 50.
“Everything was happening at once,” he says.
About three years ago, they moved to Lawrence to be closer to the friends and family, who said they would come visit.
Bud joked, “As you can see, they are just knocking down the door.”
Lawrence resident Freda Hickam, 78, misses her independence.
It’s not easy for her to talk about. Tears form behind her glasses, then stream down her face.
“I can’t drive anymore. I can’t go shopping with my friends. I can’t cook anymore and I love to cook and I love to bake. There’s so many things that you don’t even think about,” she says. “It’s been hell because I can’t do the things that I would like to do.”
In August 2009, Freda fell as she was going outdoors to attend a potluck dinner at Babcock Place, where she lives. She hit her head on the railing and ended up at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where she was in a coma for three days. She also suffered a stroke and badly injured her left hip.
After three weeks in the hospital and four months at Brandon Woods Retirement Community in rehabilitation, she still can’t walk.
“Once I’ve got some weight on it, it’s like stone. I can’t move it,” she said.
She is thankful that her husband, Everett Hickam, 76, is able to care for her.
“He helps me in and out of bed. He pulls up my pants for me when I get dressed and puts my stockings on for me,” she said. “He’s wonderful.”
And, Everett doesn’t mind.
“It’s an act of love,” he says. “If I didn’t have my wife to care for, I wouldn’t have much reason to stick around in this world. I think she is truly a wonderful person. I am just reciprocating. She’s been very good to me.”
Everett also does most of the household chores, like cooking, washing dishes and feeding their cat, Oreo.
“I am improving all of the time,” he said of his cooking skills. “She does help me when we are having guests and I have to fix something a little more elaborate. She was an excellent cook, so she tudors me in my cooking.”
But, she misses cooking and taking care of him and others.
“I am trying to make the best of it,” she says, wiping away tears.
It’s the first time that Everett has seen his wife break down. They exchange words of love and encouragement.
It is the second marriage for both of them. Freda’s first husband died from lung cancer, and Everett’s wife died from a heart attack.
After being introduced, Everett asked Freda to join him for coffee.
“It was like we were old friends, and we were both looking for someone just as a companion — someone to just watch a movie with or someone to go out to dinner with. We didn’t think it would blossom into a romance.”
But it did. They were married in 2000, and then enjoyed traveling together.
“We used to go on long rides and cruises. We can’t do that anymore,” she said.
Today, the two spend most of their time in their two-bedroom apartment. They lean on each other for support. Everett suffers from bad knees and uses a stroller to walk with.
“We’ve managed to stay out of nursing homes so far, and our plan is to stay out of a nursing home forever if we possibly can,” he said.
Often, the biggest challenge for caregivers is to take care of themselves.
“They just tend to be like the Energizer Bunny and just go and go and go until they just drop,” she says. “It’s really hard for somebody to really realize while they are running themselves down that that’s what is happening.”
Judy Bellome, chief executive of the Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association, Rehabilitation and Hospice Care, says it’s very common for caregivers to get sick because they are tired and stressed.
“That is a very big problem that we see, particularly in older folks who take care of their spouse,” she says.
Bellome encourages friends, family and neighbors to offer support and respite when they can because caregivers often don’t ask for help, and, if they do, many feel guilty.
That’s where the support group can help.
Ikenberry says it’s for all caregivers whether it be a parent caring for a disabled child, a grown child caring for a parent, or a spouse taking care of his or her loved one. It’s also for current and past caregivers.
“People that are new to a diagnosis for their loved ones are usually a little shell-shocked. So, we’ve got people who are brand new, people who are in the thick of it, and people who are no longer caregiving but have some real valuable experience that they can share,” she says.
“It’s an amazing group. I learn something every time they meet,” she says.
SHARING WORDS OF WISDOM
Douglas County Senior services offers a Caregivers Support Group.
It meets on the first and third Mondays of each month from 2:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the Lawrence Senior Center, 734 Vt.
For more information, contact Janet Ikenberry at 842-0543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. It’s a time to thank, support, educate and celebrate more than 65 million family caregivers across the country who are providing an estimated $375 billion in free care-giving services.
According to the National Family Caregivers Association:
• 66 percent of family caregivers are women. The typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for her widowed 69-year-old mother who does not live with her. She is married and employed.
• 20 hours per week is the average number of hours family caregivers spend caring for their loved ones, while 13 percent of family caregivers are providing 40 hours of care a week or more.
• 51 percent of care recipients live in their own home, 29 percent live with their family caregiver, and 4 percent live in nursing homes and assisted living.
• 72 percent of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55 percent say they skip doctor appointments for themselves.
• 63 percent of caregivers report having poorer eating habits than non-caregivers and 58 percent indicate worse exercise habits than before care-giving responsibilities.
• 73 percent of family caregivers who care for someone over the age of 18 either work or have worked while providing care; 66 percent have had to make some adjustments to their work life, from reporting late to work to giving up work entirely. One in 5 family caregivers have had to take a leave of absence.