November Is Family Caregivers Month—A Time to Honor Those Who Care

Do you ever feel tired at the end of the day? Most of us do. Be it work, or family, or just the running around of daily life, most of us have had the feeling of wondering how we managed to squeeze it all in today, and how we’ll possibly do it all again tomorrow.

Now, imagine that on top of everything you already have to do, you’ve got another whole job on top of that. One that requires your complete attention; one that can be physically and emotionally taxing; one that it seems at times that only you can do. And so it is with family caregivers across the country.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize and honor family caregivers for all they do. It is also a fitting time to explore the role our ALS family caregivers play in the role of people with ALS, and how we as a community can help make their lives a little bit easier.

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Walk a Crooked Path: I Think I Can!

By Saundra Stewart

I find myself remembering some odd things from time to time. I can barely recall some of the crises Don and I faced together during his war with ALS, but I can see clearly the look in his eyes during that time. I don’t necessarily remember what the doctors said, but I can tell you, verbatim, things that Don said to me when it was a major struggle to even speak.

The lesson I taught my class this week at church was from Chapter 7 of a Max Lucado book titled “Unshakable Hope”. It was talking about how God does the impossible. When we’ve gotten to the end of our rope, He’s there. But God can do nothing as long as we stubbornly hold onto our own will. It made me think of two specific times during my time of caring for Don.

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Walk a Crooked Path: Be Prepared!

By Saundra Stewart

I have a pet peeve. Okay, I have more than one, but I’m only going to mention one today! I am irritated to no end to walk into a public place and not be able to find a “family” restroom. I was grateful when our pastors built our new sanctuary that they thought it wise to include a family restroom in the plans. Why? If you’re caring for a person who is totally incapable of caring for him/herself, it’s often necessary to help them with their bathroom needs. It was such a relief to be able to take Don into the restroom and help him use the urinal or whatever else he needed to take care of. He certainly wasn’t comfortable going into the ladies’ restroom to potty, and I was equally uncomfortable going into the men’s bathroom to help him!

Don was a man’s man. He was so intent on jogging that he would jog to work, then jog back home after work was ended. He loved riding motorcycles (dirt bikes, especially), playing racquetball and softball, and getting out in the yard to play soccer or basketball with the grandkids.  With all those manly hobbies, though, his favorite thing in the whole wide world was sitting down with a group of cronies and playing bluegrass on his five-string banjo. As ALS began to slowly take over his body, I saw those things he loved drop off, one by one. He began to fall (foot drop), so it became necessary to use a walker or scooter. No more soccer with the kids in the yard. He would sit and watch them play, but it just wasn’t the same.

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Walk a Crooked Path: Take Care of Yourself

By Saundra Stewart

If I had a dollar for every time I had been told to “take care of yourself”, I might be a rich woman!  People were well-meaning.  They wanted me to know that they thought of me and understood the weight I was carrying.  But I almost laughed out loud!  Just when was I supposed to do that?  Was God going to allow me some extra hours in the day so I could go to the gym and work out or even sit down in a cozy chair and lose myself in a book for an hour or two?  Rather doubtful.  So I snickered inwardly, smiled, and sent them on their way.

Don and I had chosen (well, actually, he made the decision and I supported him in it) to not allow the feeding tube or ventilator.  He knew what the ultimate end of ALS is, and he chose to fight it his way.  I respected that.  But it did make caring for him a bit more time consuming.  We were blessed to have the Hoyer and the Gantry and multiple other gadgets and helps.  It made life easier, but it took more time than I felt like I had some days.  I had also trained myself to get up every hour and a half to two hours all night long and turn him, check on him and see if he needed anything.  Let me tell you why . . .

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Walk a Crooked Path: If You’re Going to Talk the Talk, Then Walk the Walk

By Saundra Stewart

Before Don became ill with ALS, he always taught an adult Sunday School class at the church we attended. I, on the other hand, always taught children. Don was such a good teacher, and the members of his class loved him dearly. One Sunday evening, we were just leaving for church when Don told me he wasn’t feeling well. We both played instruments for worship and it created a difficult situation if we weren’t there, but I called the Pastor and told him that Don wasn’t feeling well.  During the course of the evening, I became convinced that Don was having a heart attack, and I called 911. Sure enough, he had suffered a heart attack and would be in the hospital several days.

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Walk a Crooked Path: Help By the Bucketful

By Saundra Stewart

I am not a water lover – not in the slightest. I like to look at it, I like to drink it, and I like to take showers in it. But that’s about as far as my love for water goes. One time, when Don and I had taken a trip, we were relaxing in the motel pool. I accidentally stepped off into the deep end, and I seriously thought I was going to drown! All Don had to do was reach out his hand (we were actually that close together) and I was instantly rescued. My hero!

So, when I heard about something called “The Ice Bucket Challenge”, I wasn’t interested. Have I said that I don’t like water? Well, that goes double for ice cold water. Don, on the other hand was immediately up for the game. He was already wearing the c-pap most of the time, and breathing was a labor. But he wanted to help raise money. In fact, he was dead set on it!

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Craig Kramer: Why I Walk

It’s been over a year now since I’ve been diagnosed with ALS. Has my life changed? Absolutely! And a huge chunk of it has changed for the better!  But it isn’t only about me; it’s all about family and friends—and it turns out there are lots of them!! Here are some of the wonderful life-changing things that have happened since my diagnosis, and some of them likely wouldn’t have occurred:

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