Posted on Fri, Nov. 15, 2002
Life as a caregiver

Carol Lamphiear, who cares for her 75-year-old mother, is dealing with her own health problems.
By Jennifer L. Boen
of The News-Sentinel
News-Sentinel photo by Ellie Bogue

Taking care of familyCarol Lamphiear gets a hug from her daughter, Missy, who will be donating a kidney to Carol in December. Carol Lamphiear's husband, Mel, and mother, Mary Craig, watch. Carol Lamphiear's mom lives with her after having suffered a series of strokes.
View all of today's photosThree times a week, 56-year-old Carol Lamphiear spends five hours a day hooked to a kidney dialysis machine. It's a heavy enough burden for anyone, but for the rural Huntington resident, a rare kidney disease has compounded an already complicated life.

Lamphiear is the primary caregiver for her 75-year-old mother, Mary Craig, who has suffered multiple strokes and lives with Lamphiear and Lamphiear's husband, Mel.

The Lamphiears are among a growing number of family caregivers whose personal lives are put on hold as they juggle career, marriage, family, upkeep of a home and the needs of elderly parents or loved ones with disabilities.

"I always have to think in the back of my mind, 'Who's going to be here to stay with my mother?' " Lamphiear said. "Yesterday, I had to be at the dialysis center at 6:30 a.m. Mel drove me, then came back home and helped my mother. Then he went to the office for four hours. I called a friend, a woman we pay, to come and stay with her. I have no life right now."

In December, Lamphiear will receive a

kidney transplant from her daughter, Missy Maddox, 31.

The Lamphiears, who are both Realtors, would like to hire more help, "but we just can't afford to pay what agencies charge," Carol Lamphiear said.

However, the family has accessed help through a new program of Aging and In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana Inc. The agency's Family Caregiver Program has provided limited hours for a homemaker/companion to attend to Craig's needs or for respite care so the family can have a break.

A growing trend

Family members provide 100 percent of care for two-thirds of the elderly who need care, according to the National Family Caregivers Association. During the past year, more than 25 percent of U.S. adults have cared for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member.

"We hear frequently, 'This is not how I thought it would be, how I'd spend these years of my life,' " said Bonnie Knuth, caregiver counselor at Aging and In-Home Services.

Knuth's days are filled with stories of people like the Lamphiears:

* A woman who is blind cares for her husband, who has had one leg amputated and is facing amputation of the other leg.

* A man with Lou Gehrig's disease cares for his bedridden wife.

Knuth also is handling the case of a woman in her 40s, who is a paraplegic. The woman's mother has Parkinson's disease, and the daughter and her husband recently moved the elderly parents into their home to care for them.

"They had to ask their 19-year-old son to move in with an uncle because there wasn't room for the grandparents in their small house. The woman said she was really missing the son because he'd always lived with them.

"I'm pretty good at handling things, but I hung up the phone and cried," Knuth said.

Friends care for friends, family

Before she was diagnosed with cancer, LouAnn Chapman, 61, used to help friends who needed support and cared for her 87-year-old mother who lives with her. But after six months of chemotherapy and radiation, she doesn't have the energy she once had.

''I was in good health before this hit me," Chapman said. "I was in a lot of organizations. I helped a lot of other people, took them to meetings. I miss that. Now everybody has to help me."

A group of former co-workers rallied around Chapman when she needed rides for treatment appointments.

"I would have been lost without them. They just jumped in there and helped. There were no questions asked," said Chapman, whose husband died last year.

But these days, Chapman is less dependent on her friends, not because she doesn't need their help, but because "a lot of them are dealing with their own caregiver issues. Two have husbands they have to care for. Another lady had to have surgery."

Chapman's sister-in-law contacted staff of the Family Caregiver Program at Aging and In-Home Services. Part-time homemaker services through Sunshine Home Health were arranged.

She copes by taking one day at a time. Her hopes remain strong that within the next week, tests will show the cancer is in remission. Meanwhile, Chapman said, "I've placed my mother on an emergency list at Covington Manor. They said they could take her in 24 hours if I couldn't take care of her."

Looking ahead

Chapman and Carol Lamphiear said they are dubious the next generation will be willing or able to provide the needed care for the burgeoning elderly population.

"I don't think society is ready to face this," Chapman said. "The children aren't willing to do it. There's not enough people to do this. We have a great shortage of nurses and caregivers, people to come and sit with someone for eight or 10 hours, to drive you places."

Lamphiear said caring for a loved one is a commitment and personal sacrifice most people don't begin to understand.

"My kids would help us. But their children coming up -- I don't think they'd do it."

Workshop for caregivers

Aging and In-Home Services is sponsoring a free "Caring for the Caregiver" workshop at 6 p.m. Tuesday at The Million Story Book Co., 6360 W. Jefferson Blvd. Also, the workshop will be 5-7 p.m. Wednesday in the community room of Parkview Hospital's employee assistance office, 1900 Carew St., Suite 5. For more information on the workshop, or for information on services provided through the agency's Family Caregiver Program, call Bonnie Knuth at 745-1200, or