Seventy-nine year old Frank Plewa has been caring for his wife Jane Ann for the last seven years, ever since she had a stroke that left her paralyzed on the right side. Jane needs help to get out of bed, to get into her wheelchair, with her personal hygiene – everything in her daily living. She recognizes Frank, but he says, “Her mind wanders, she talks about a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense.” He says she doesn’t think she’s living at home. “She thinks I’ve put her someplace,” he adds.
Jane had the stroke in the couple’s 50th year of marriage, when Frank had just retired from working 50 years at Jeep. “We use to play cards a lot, rotate to people’s houses – all that is gone,” he said. “You think you’re in your Golden Years. It’s not going to happen to me.”
Frank knows he is not the only male who is caring for a loved one at home, but, he acknowledges that caring for others is something that many men – at least men who are older adults today – did not do in the family previously. Back in the day, the men worked outside the home and the women were the mainstays of the home.
Caregiving to Frank means that he is in charge of cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, helping Jane with dressing and personal hygiene – everything.
“Men aren’t used to doing these things,” he said. But he does it and he finds comfort in knowing that Jane is well cared for and with him.
Frank does have an aide that comes in daily for about two hours every morning and four hours on Sunday morning. The Sunday-morning respite gives Frank time to attend church and to go grocery shopping.
Frank has a great sense of humor and doesn’t complain about the situation; but he does realize that he and many other caregivers have a tiring, constant job that keeps them tied to their homes. Sometimes he will bring Jane outside, but he says that after about 20 minutes she wants to go back inside.
Frank attends the Area Office on Aging’s Caregiver Support meetings held the fourth Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Mott Branch Library. He says the meetings have given him a lot of knowledge about issues involved in caregiving. Speakers such as lawyers, representatives from organizations such as the Red Cross and others have been very helpful to him, he said, adding, “You sit with people who are in the same situation – they tell you their problems, you tell them yours; you learn from that.”
For more information about the Caregiver Support meetings, contact the Area Office on Aging at 419-382-0624.