Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Neighbors aid family of three disabled adults

Residents deliver food and help around the home

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Sharon Bailey stood in the kitchen of her Seabrook home mashing up a plate of Beefaroni into a fine paste for her 39-year-old daughter and recounted her own struggles with cancer.

Bailey, 59, has adenoid cystic carcinoma, an incurable form of cancer; a mentally retarded adult daughter, Sonya, for whom she is the primary caregiver; and a husband who struggles to speak and fend for himself after three strokes and a heart attack.

The family’s monthly fixed income, which comes entirely from Social Security and disability benefits, is approximately $2,735.

A third of their monthly income goes to Kaiser Permanente for medical premiums and they pay $1,148 per month in mortgage payments, leaving them little money to spend on food and other necessities.

Neighbors have come to the family’s aid, buying groceries for the Baileys, watching over Sonya and helping with chores around the house.

‘‘I have a handful of people who help me out. It seems the ones who have the least help you out the most,” Sharon said.

On Jan. 22, a neighbor brought four grocery bags full of food for Bailey and her family.

The neighbor declined to give her name for fear of making it known that she lives alone.

‘‘I always grab extra and bring it back here,” the neighbor said. ‘‘I’ve been bringing her stuff for a couple of years because they need the help and I want to share what little I have. I don’t have much money myself but I do what I can.”

Matthew Holmes, a former neighbor who recently moved to Glenn Dale, has been helping the Baileys for a number of years.

Holmes said he watches Sonya from time to time and has built a harness so she doesn’t fall off the toilet, helped install an air conditioning unit for the home, shoveled snow and ice from the driveway and cleaned out the gutters.

‘‘I have basically become a family member to that family,” Holmes said. ‘‘I really want to help them any way I can.”

Colleen Rose, a Lanham resident and nurse, has served as Sonya’s secondary caregiver since late August.

Rose arrives at 8 a.m. to help dress and feed Sonya before Sonya leaves for the Arc of Maryland program at 9 a.m.

Rose returns to the home around 2:30 p.m. to await Sonya’s arrival and stays until around 7 p.m., sitting with Sonya, calming her down if she gets rowdy and assisting Sharon however she can.

‘‘I take care of her so that [Sharon] can get a break,” Rose said. ‘‘I’m just here as a backup. [Sharon] is the focal point. I’m just here to help.”

Sharon’s husband, Charles, who is now 65, worked in construction laying asphalt for 49 years, before he was let go in 1992 after his second stroke.

‘‘He can’t handle his own affairs,” Sharon said. ‘‘He can drive and he knows locations but he can’t initiate a conversation and he’s not able to help Sonya.”

Sharon worked for the A&P Supermarket as a cashier from 1974 to 1983, when she quit her job to devote herself full-time to caring for her daughter, which she has done for the past 24 years.

Sonya attends a medical day program from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week at the Arc of Maryland, a statewide advocacy organization for people with mental retardation that has facilities in Largo.

But when Sonya is at home, it has become increasingly difficult for Sharon to care for her in recent years.

Since developing tumors in both her legs, Sharon said she can no longer bend, pick up her daughter and put her into the tub. Now she must bathe her by washing her with sponges in bed.

Sharon said she has been trying to find a contractor willing to widen the house’s bathroom door so Sonya can be wheeled into a shower stall and is trying to solicit donations for a van that would be used to take Sonya places.

‘‘If I could get that bathroom fixed and a van to drive Sonya around in, I would be so happy,” Bailey said.

E-mail Jonathan Stein at