Perspectives: On Caregiving

By Gregg Ratliff

Shortly after Nancy’s diagnosis of “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” I read on the ALSA website that “ALS is not just the patients disease, it is a family’s disease.” My care-giving perspective has allowed me to truly understand and validate this statement. Our family’s life changed dramatically over the seven years of Nancy’s illness. It strengthened some things, like our love, our resolve, our faith and our attitude control toward things we faced in life. I personally spend less time worrying and focusing on things I had no control over (which are most things in life). This provided me more time to focus on important and often overlooked things around me. My perspective changed tremendously. Joyce Meyer once said, “Your problem is not your problem. Your problem is your attitude toward your problem.”  Marcus Aurelius said it this way, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” So, anytime I began feeling sorry for myself I simply looked at my wife lying in the bed and said … “Gregg, you have no right to feel sorry for yourself. Be strong for her and yourself!” When I thought Nancy might be facing difficult times I would play music for her, read the Bible to her, pray for her, massage her feet and hands with lotion and remind her how much I loved and admired her. Continue reading Perspectives: On Caregiving

Understanding Pseudobulbar Affect

Pseudobulbar affect, also known as PBA, is a condition that causes outbursts of sudden, uncontrolled laughter or crying that don’t match how a person feels or that is out of place in a given situation. Outbursts of laughter or crying can range in duration and severity and can occur up to several times a day. Other symptoms of PBA include inability to control laughing or crying, excessive laughing or crying when something is only mildly funny or sad and intrusion of thoughts that cause excessive laughing or crying.

PBA develops when damage is present in the area of the brain responsible for controlling what is considered to be normal expression of emotion. The damage can affect brain signaling system which causes involuntary crying or laughing. Damage occurs when there is a neurological condition or brain injury, making the condition common among people with ALS. For those with ALS and PBA, bouts of crying are more common than laughter. People with ALS can also have frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which is another condition common with diseases like ALS that cause neurological damage. Continue reading Understanding Pseudobulbar Affect

Communities Join Together to Support People with ALS and Fight for a Cure

A community partner event is a fundraising activity that is organized and managed by a family, group or individual who is acting independent of The ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter. This August, five community partner events took place across eastern Missouri and central and southern Illinois, ranging from a tractor pull, an awareness walk before a baseball game, and two different golf tournaments. There was even an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge event earlier this month, four years after the original Ice Bucket Challenge swept social media and national headlines. This August, and every August until we find a cure, reminds us that great things happen when we come together. With all of the extra events throughout the region it was even more exceptional.

Each event has a huge impact on the community and helps people with ALS and their families in several ways. Here are five reasons community partner events are a great way to get involved in the fight against ALS. Continue reading Communities Join Together to Support People with ALS and Fight for a Cure

Handling Hospital Visits When You Have ALS

Even though ALS is a disease that has its own health implications, people with ALS are not immune from other injuries or medical issues. Individuals with ALS can still get sick or hurt themselves in ways unrelated to the disease. Or, people with ALS might have complications directly related to the disease that warrants a visit to the hospital. When an individual with ALS goes to the hospital or the emergency room, they face additional obstacles with hospital staff who may not fully understand how ALS affects a person’s breathing, speech and movement. Extra measures should be taken to ensure people with ALS are cared for in the right way. Here are some tips on what to look out for and how to prevent misunderstanding in the hospital or emergency room.

Continue reading Handling Hospital Visits When You Have ALS

Perspectives: Sustineo Alas

Today’s blog post is the first in a recurring monthly series from our good friend Gregg Ratliff. In 2009, Gregg’s wife Nancy was diagnosed with ALS, and he became her full-time caregiver for the next seven years, all while still actively fundraising and advocating for people with ALS and their families.  In his series, “Perspectives: It’s All in How You Look at it,” Gregg will share his insights on ALS and the impact it has on families.

By Gregg Ratliff

Those of us that have met the curse of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis face-to-face whether it is first-hand as a patient, second-hand as a caregiver or so-called third-hand as a friend or family member we know the cruel reality of this scourge! This disease slowly strips away most of the vestiges of life – movement, speech, swallowing, breathing, self-care and freedom. Yet, the mind and feelings remain totally intact. How fair is that? As my children know one of my sayings to them when they were growing up was “Life is not fair.”

Continue reading Perspectives: Sustineo Alas

Every August Until a Cure

LeBron James did it. Bill Gates did it. Oprah, Steven Spielberg and President George W. Bush did it. But the majority of people who took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 were not celebrities, just ordinary folks who got caught up in the fun of nominating friends and family on social media to be doused in water and ice for a good cause.  It’s safe to say, however, that there was definitely another reason why the Ice Bucket Challenge gained traction. ALS is a relentless disease that takes away a person’s ability to move, walk, talk, and breathe on their own and keeps them trapped in their body. To watch someone you know go through this is absolutely devastating, and knowing that there is no cure can sometimes make people feel both helpless and hopeless. For the thousands of individuals affected by ALS, this painful reality was fuel for action that inspired a community of people to come together four years ago to create the original ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

What followed from this largest viral social media movement of all time was not just news feeds packed with ice bucket challenge videos, but real and meaningful impact for people with ALS – and for researchers searching for treatments and a cure.  The effects of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge continue to be felt in the ALS community.

Continue reading Every August Until a Cure

The Kimmswick 5k: A Family Honors Their Mother’s Memory

By Jason Ratliff

The Kimmswick 5K is held in memory of Nancy Ratliff, who touched many people’s lives as a daycare teacher and director, Montessori school teacher, dedicated wife and profoundly loving mother, grandmother and friend.

Our family was turned upside down in the summer of 2009 when, at the age of 61, Nancy was diagnosed with ALS.

Continue reading The Kimmswick 5k: A Family Honors Their Mother’s Memory