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“There Was No Book” – A Caregiver’s Journey

Her son says her strength is central to understanding Annie Smith’s character.   

“No matter what you do,” Lester Smith says, “when it comes to your parents, you never think you have done enough.”

 Lester has been relentless in making sure his mother gets what she needs.

 Annie was born in Georgia and moved to Dayton when she was a toddler. She and two sisters grew up in Dayton.

Lester said his mother’s health started slipping shortly after she retired from TRW Globe Motors where she worked in accounting for over forty years.  “She didn’t really get to enjoy her retirement,” Lester says. “She started having a variety of symptoms and we saw doctors all over Dayton and could not find out what was wrong.  Then we went to the Cleveland Clinic where they determined she had hydrocephalus.” No one knows what causes hydrocephalus, sometimes called “water on the brain.” Symptoms can be similar to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses. Once they had a diagnosis and began treatment, Lester said his mother improved.

Lester moved away from Dayton in 2007 and his mother relocated to New Orleans two years ago to live with her sister, Vanessa. Lester was able to visit his mom frequently in New Orleans, and over time became worried that she was declining. “I am so grateful to my Aunt. She gave of herself to allow me an opportunity to chase my dream. But there is no way my Aunt and I could provide all that my mother needed.  I could not let her die alone.”

When his mother was hospitalized in New Orleans, Lester heard the doctors say there was nothing more they could do, and it brought him to tears. That’s when he decided he had to get her back to Dayton. This was to be more of a challenge than he anticipated.

Caregivers in New Orleans felt his mother was not up to a trip of nearly over 12 hours and nearly 900 miles. But Lester insisted. “This is what my mother needs.”

Annie’s foresight made Lester’s decision easier. She had invested in long-term care insurance that enabled excellent options for her care. Lester found an ambulance service that could provide transportation. He learned of Grace Brethren Village through a friend from high school who works in healthcare. When he visited Grace Brethren he found the staff to be open and nice. He liked the fact it was small and felt it would be a good place for his mother. The ambulance trip was difficult, but his mom “was a trooper,” says Lester. He was so happy to get her home in December of 2016 just before Christmas.

With care at Grace Brethren and support from Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, Annie’s condition has improved. He is grateful that her insurance enables her care to be covered, but is concerned about what happens if the insurance is exhausted. “It’s a real concern for anyone in this position,” Lester says.

Lester visits every day, sometimes not knowing what to say to his mother, not sure what she understands. He wishes for the times they used to share, remembering when they would travel together, “She loved the song HAPPY. I would play The Temptations for her and we’d both sing along.”

He has found a new community of friends among others who share the same responsibilities for loved ones whose health is failing. “All of my friends are going through the same thing,” says Lester. “I try to support them because I know caregiving can be a lonely job.” He can share what he has learned about dementia and its symptoms, and what steps legally and financially can be taken to ensure the best care for someone you love.

“There was no book for me to learn this from,” Lester says. “If my journey can be of help to others I am happy to share it.”

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. This is an inspiring story and I know that this is no fluff piece. This article is true and thorough. Lester and his family have labored and Annie is an awesome woman. Prayers for you guys and thanks to all the caregivers at this wonderful facility!

  2. Beautifully expressed, emotions sometimes are hard to articulate accurately , I can say that I truly empathized with Mr.Smith. Wonderful article, thank you for allowing a glimpse into your world.

  3. Hi Les , what sweet person your mom was and probably still is she reminded me of my aunt Sarah who I grew up with in Louisiana . She was a soft hearted but strong smart comfident black women. And your mom could have been her identical twin, I really miss her and think of her often .l love this short but sweet note about your mom , our Annie. She’s Beautiful still. . I’ll share it with Jan and the rest of the women at the shop that knew her . Stay strong . And take care ,of yourself.

  4. How truly amazing can a person be to express such heartfelt sentiments & think about helping others, when they are going thru a storm of their own!
    I salute you Lester Smith! Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your world with your Mom! I learned a lot from the article, some of which I woulda knew years ago when I was a caretaker for my dear Grandma who passed away Feb. 27, 2003…she suffered from Parkinson’s AND Alzheimer’s. She would have been 90 this Christmas.
    One thing I want to say to all my beloved caretakers out there is, DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK SOMEONE TO STEP IN AND HELP YOU OUT SO THAT YOU DON’T GET BURNED OUT! You can’t do everything yourself & if someone offers to help accept it sometimes, even if it’s just for an hour!
    Love and Light, Staci Wu

  5. I have had the honor to work for both of these great people for over 10yrs. Les has truly done a remarkable job in helping his Mother through this difficult transition. Even though Annie is not having the retirement experience she dreamed, proper planning and her son’s diligent support will make sure she gets the care she deserves. Great job Les! Give your Mom a big hug for me. – Matt Bayer President, The Bayer Financial Group, LLC

  6. This brought tears to my eyes! What a wonderful Blessed story it inspired me… Keep up the good work Les, and God will continue to Bless u and your Journey. Your Mom is a sweet, beautiful inspiration to us all and l love spending one on one time with her. I pray for her, l read poems to her, l conversate with her and l always tell her how beautiful she is. She has a beautiful smile that will light up a room. I’ve had the pleasure to meet her and her Son.

  7. It’s been said that Love is prayer on it’s knees a place you often visit as you make intercession on your mother’s behalf. Lester you are not forgotten for what you’ve done for the least you’ve done unto Christ. I am proud of the way you represent Christ who is LOVE in caring for your mother. Your riches have truly been stored in Heaven.

  8. Hi Les! I didn’t know your mom was ill or you were back in Dayton! I met your mom when your team played at Sinclair. She was sweet then and I know she still is. We went through dementia with my dad. Talk to her as if everything is ok. They, at least my father, remembered a “lot” from the past. And that’s what we talked about-to keep his mind active. You have my prayers for whatever you need: patience, strength, her healing!

  9. Thank you for all the kind words and support. I am truly touched by the words and kindness of all those that send blessings our way. The road has been tough, but we are on this together. We welcome the support, prayers and I hope that our story can give strength and understanding for all those going through difficult times. I would also would like to thank Dayton Hospice and Vicky Forrest for choosing our story to help others. May God’s blessing be with us all.

    Thank you!

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