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From fighting their sonís battle to their own
From fighting their son’s battle to their own
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
BAINBRIDGE – George and Sandy Weemhoff have spent more than 40 years being primary caregivers to son Greg, who was born in 1967 with cerebral palsy.
Now, Greg’s parents need the favor returned as Mr. Weemhoff previously had surgery for late-stage prostate cancer, which has reoccurred, he said.
“But my biggest problem is that my wife is in the early stages of dementia,” he said. “Her memory is very short. I do all the cooking now. My challenge is to stay healthy to take care of both of them.”
At some point, he and his wife will need to move to a care facility, leaving up in the air who will care for their son. In the meantime, the Weemhoffs, who have lived in the Lake Lucerne neighborhood for 45 years, continue to take care of him.
Taking care of Greg
“Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways,” Mr. Weemhoff said.
For Greg, that’s meant being in a wheelchair most of his life. Cerebral palsy usually happens during birth and affects motor skills.
While Greg is nonverbal and doesn’t walk, he is very intelligent, his father said. He uses “aye” and “no,” according to his dad. “We do a lot of ‘20 questions’ to figure out what he wants.”
Mr. Weemhoff has done all the heavy lifting, such as getting Greg from his wheelchair into bed, aided by his brothers, who provide support.
“Fortunately, I worked out of the house as a manufacturer’s rep, and I could take care of Greg. Sandy and I basically did it all,” he said.
Prior to high school, Greg attended Sunbeam School in Cleveland. Mrs. Weemhoff, who worked at Case Western Reserve University in the medical school laboratory doing research, would drive him to Sunbeam.
Greg attended Kenston High School, where special-need students are served up to age of 21. He graduated in 1989.
“He had a lot of pals at Kenston,” Mr. Weemhoff said in recalling how Greg’s friends would carry him up and down the stairs in the old high school, which did not have elevators.
Living a full life
Greg is working part time on a specialized data system at Hiram College. A laser beam affixed to his hat allows him to type. He provides inventory control for Hiram’s cafeteria. “It’s good for Greg, and it provides him with some cash and something to do,” Mr. Weemhoff said.
A friend from their church, Valley Presbyterian Church in Bainbridge, takes him to the college and other places.
“Greg has gotten us into more places and opportunities that we would not otherwise have had,” Mr. Weemhoff said, adding that because of Greg, they have met many interesting people.
The father and son have been a part of the men’s prayer group at Valley Presbyterian and have participated in many Lake Lucerne events.
One of those opportunities has been the Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty event, referred to as the CROP Hunger Walk. It’s a program through Church World Service, which provides funds to help feed the hungry around the world. Walkers invite family and friends to sponsor their participation.
Greg has participated for 32 years. David Randall, a friend and a Lake Lucerne resident, pushed him as they walked from various churches in Geauga County and ended in Newbury. Now, they meet at the Geauga County Fairgrounds in Burton and walk in the area.
Greg has raised more than $150,000 for the cause over the years. “He won’t quit,” Mr. Weemhoff said.
Several years ago, Greg carried the summer Olympic torch in Cleveland as a community hero. “He has participated in many things,” his father said.
Greg also takes part in an adaptive skier program. A friend is a ski instructor in an eight-week program at Brandywine.
For his 40th birthday, the Weemhoffs took Greg to Europe to visit a friend from Austria, who carried him on his back to ski in the Alps.
“We take him a lot of places and friends take him. When I was younger, I did it all myself. He has been to California three times,” said Mr. Weemhoff, who will be 76 in May. “I always compliment Greg, telling him I would have a dull life without him.”
Finding a caregiver
Biggest challenge now is finding someone to take over the duties of caring for Greg, Mr. Weemhoff said.
“Greg doesn’t want to leave the house, and if we need full-time help, we would have that person come in. He would like someone to live here,” his father said.
“It’s a very painful process,” Mr. Weemhoff said of seeking a caregiver for Greg while also looking into at a facility that offers independent, assisted-living and memory care for his wife and himself. “We just want to be proactive.”
It won’t be easy to replace the kind of care that Greg has received over the past 45 years from his family, according to son Jeff and Stephanie Weemhoff, who also live in the Lake Lucerne community with brother Dean.
“They have done such a wonder job,” Stephanie Weemhoff said of the care given by Greg’s parents. “They’ve done some miraculous things with Greg. Now, Greg wants someone to be that same friend and kind and gentle person as his father has been.”
As George’s health deteriorates, keeping Greg active and involved in the many activities he has participated in over the years is important to the family. They noted that Greg is familiar with what is going on and would love to stay in the house in Lake Lucerne.
To that end, the family seeks a caregiver to help keep Greg in his house. Anyone interested can call Jeff or Stephanie Weemhoff at 440-543-8853.
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