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

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.”

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After 25 years I’m Still Fighting Against ALS

By Maureen Barber Hill, President/CEO of The ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter

Although I think of my dad often, Father’s Day always brings with it a special pang of sadness.  It’s been 25 years now that I have not been able to spend Father’s Day with him  —  he lost his battle to ALS in September of 1992.  As the years pass I think I will always feel like a part of me will always ache – like I’m missing something, but more so someone, especially around those pivotal moments of my life and my children’s lives.  My kids never got the opportunity to know what a great man he was.  My daughter Meghan was only four years old and my son Michael was just seven days old when ALS took their grandfather from them.

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Caregiver Confidential: Memories

We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.
—Unknown

A few weeks ago, I was sorting through boxes of family photos in the hope of organizing and creating some photo albums. During my search, I came across photos from our trips to Mexico and Hawaii in 2006 through 2008. Although my husband Brian had been diagnosed with ALS when the photos were taken, I had fond memories of our vacations. I recalled how much Brian, our daughter Leah, and I enjoyed ourselves despite his illness. We had never been to Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, and the Hawaiian Islands, so each trip was magical and a new adventure. Although somewhat challenging to travel with Brian as his disease progressed, in retrospect I am so thankful that we created happy memories during what otherwise was a very sad period.

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Technologies That Make Life Easier for Caregivers

By June Duncan

Assistive technologies for the disabled have come a long way since the advent of automated wheelchairs and hearing aids. Smart technology has opened a new world of possibilities for people with disabilities and those who care for them. Smartphones, tablets, and an ever-growing list of apps are helping the disabled improve mobility, communication capabilities, speech, and vision. One of the greatest benefits is the ability to foster better communication between the disabled and their caregivers. Today, technology enables disabled persons to care for themselves more effectively, which makes things easier on caregivers, who often suffer from fatigue and burnout. Technology also helps give disabled persons more independence and a greater sense of confidence and control over their own environment.

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Caregiver Confidential: “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?

Who keeps your flame?

Hamilton, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

I was fortunate to see Hamilton in Chicago in December. (I highly recommend going when it comes to St. Louis this spring.) One of the most moving musical numbers and a personal favorite of mine was the finale, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” In fact, I become teary-eyed every time I listen to the lyrics, because they are so on-point. I thought I finished telling my family’s journey with ALS, but after watching Hamilton, I realized that I had one final point to make.

Continue reading Caregiver Confidential: “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

Caregiver Confidential: “Laughter Is the Best Medicine”

A few weeks ago, I asked my friend Jessica if she had any ideas for future posts. Jessica replied, “What about the role of laughter in illness?” Initially, I rejected that suggestion. After all, what part of ALS was funny? I reflected back to my husband Brian’s courageous struggle with the disease, and I didn’t recall us sharing any light or humorous moments. However, the more I ruminated on the topic, the more fascinated I became. I was familiar with the old adage, “laughter is the best medicine,” but could this expression apply to patients with terminal illness?

Continue reading Caregiver Confidential: “Laughter Is the Best Medicine”