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Role of caregivers

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

ALS ravages a person’s ability to care for themself.

When my son was diagnosed with ALS, he was 40 years old, married and the father of two girls. My wife, Maria, and I, along with his wife and others, cared for him 24 hours a day. He passed away only 2 ½ years after the diagnosis.

Shortly after he was diagnosed with ALS, Maria received the same diagnosis. She gradually lost the ability to feed and dress herself, write, walk, and even talk. As Maria’s primary caregiver, I struggled to watch her decline.

But there are blessings in her ALS diagnosis. After more than 40 years of marriage, we fell in love all over again. We spent time together watching her favorite Chicago Bulls, talking about our earlier travels, and just enjoying the afternoon sun. Our lives had become so busy that we had forgotten how much we loved each other and being near one another.

Another blessing was I realized that Maria was my “hero.” The way she approached the disease with such strength and faith inspired me. I only can hope I have as much courage if I’m ever faced with challenges such as those she experienced.  

November is National Caregivers Month, and it reminds me that the role of caregiver is demanding, but the rewards can be far richer than the difficulties. Accept the situation as a gift, an opportunity to learn about yourself, your loved one, and, especially, your relationship.

Jerry Havemann


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