Finding a Way—Occupational Therapists Are the Problem-Solvers of the Multi-Discipline ALS Treatment Team

There are times, for whatever reason, when the English language can be confounding. The examples of everywhere. We drive on a parkway and park on a driveway. This can apply to professions as well. Take for example, occupational therapy. That has to do with work, right? After all, “occupation” is right there in the name. And that’s correct, but only to an extent, because the role of an occupational therapist is that and so much more. In broad terms, occupational therapy focuses on a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living—to live life to its fullest. For people with ALS, an occupational therapist (or OT) is there to help patients maintain their independence for as long as possible as well as to improve their quality of life. The work an OT does can take on many forms as we’ll soon see, but in some ways their role can be summed up by this quote from the movie Patch Adams: “You treat a disease: you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you win—no matter what the outcome.”

April is Occupational Therapy Month, and what better way to mark the occasion than to hear from someone who knows the role of an OT inside and out: our Associate Director of Care Services Melissa Smith, who just so happens to be a licensed OT.

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Dispatches From a Former Caregiver—Have You Heard Venice has A LOT of Canals?

Today’s blog post is the first of in a recurring series from our friend Scott Liniger, who was an ALS patient caregiver for his partner Tammy Hardy for six years. In his series “Dispatches From a Former Caregiver” Scott hopes to explore the parts of his and Tammy’s story that tend to the, shall we say, more irreverent side of their journey.

Tammy Hardy lost her battle with ALS in 2008. She was 39 years old. She was diagnosed with ALS six years earlier, at the age of 33. After her diagnosis, she had a cadre of caregivers, including her sisters and brother, her parents, her partner Scott Liniger, and his parents and family. Since her death, Scott has been a member of the St. Louis Walk To Defeat ALS committee, and participates and fund raises for Walk Team Tammy Hardy, along with Tam’s sisters, Kelly and Keri (and lots of family and friends).

Continue reading Dispatches From a Former Caregiver—Have You Heard Venice has A LOT of Canals?

“I chose to use my situation as motivation…”—Pattie Hamlin Honored with ALS Association Hero Award

Like many people, Pattie Hamlin took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. And like many people, she did it in support of the cause but without a deep connection to the disease. But that all changed just a few years later.

Pattie Hamlin was diagnosed with ALS in 2016, but she did not let that slow her down.

“Shortly after being diagnosed I began researching and discovered how devastating this disease really is,” Pattie says. “In those early months I struggled emotionally with the outlook that was now my reality. Eventually, I chose to use my situation as motivation to try and make a difference for the future of ALS.”

For her tireless efforts in support of our Chapter and the ALS Association as an ALS advocate, fundraiser, and ambassador, Pattie was honored with the Hero Award virtually during the ALS Association 2021 Leadership Conference in February.

Continue reading “I chose to use my situation as motivation…”—Pattie Hamlin Honored with ALS Association Hero Award

The Fight Never Stops—ALS Advocates Push for Increased Funding from 117th Congress

Even with all the headline-grabbing stories that dominate cable news and your news feed, much of what happens in the federal government follows a predictable pattern. This seemingly mundane work of setting priorities, planning budgets, and allocating funds doesn’t tend to excite many journalists unless something goes awry, but when all is said and done this process determines how most of your tax dollars get spend, and on what.

And so it is with the annual appropriations process that provides funding for key government programs. While other flashy topics attract more attention, the ALS Association and our network of ALS advocates are working to protect and expand federal funding for ALS research and fighting for public policies that will accelerate the search for treatments, and a cure. Just this week, a “Dear Colleague” letter has begun circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives, asking members to signal their support for the funding requested in the fight against ALS.

Continue reading The Fight Never Stops—ALS Advocates Push for Increased Funding from 117th Congress

I Look Forward to Taking This Journey With You

As she moves into her new role as our president and CEO, Katie McGovern wanted to share some personal thoughts with all of you in our ALS community:

Well, here it is. The first week on the job!

To say this week, and the weeks leading up to this, have come with a mix of emotions is an understatement. While there is great excitement and energy for what is to come, there certainly isn’t a lack of nerves. I have big shoes to fill upon Maureen Barber Hill’s retirement, and there are significant goals to achieve.

While this transition has personal elements, I am acutely aware that this opportunity really isn’t about me. We, the ALS community, are at a pivotal point in our journey, embarking on our next chapter together. Throughout this chapter, I believe we will see many things unfold, resulting in transformative progress for people affected by ALS and their families.

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Learning from Those Who Know—Latest ALS Focus Survey Needs to Hear from Current or Past Caregivers

Making assumptions can lead to trouble, but we all do it from time to time. You might assume that since the weather was nice yesterday it will be so again today, but if you don’t bother to find the weather forecast you may end up with some soggy clothes at the least. Annoying to be sure, but not really that big of a deal.

However, assumptions about the impact of a disease as serious as ALS can have far reaching implications. ALS researchers around the world work hard to challenge assumptions and find the facts behind the causes of ALS and how to best treat—and someday cure—the disease. But even in assessing the impact of ALS on day-to-day living, there is the danger of assuming.

The goal of the ALS Focus survey project is to move beyond those assumptions. It is a patient- and caregiver-led survey program that asks people with ALS and current and past caregivers about their needs and burdens. The goal is to learn as much as possible about individual experiences throughout the disease journey so that the whole ALS community can benefit.

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ALS and Respiratory Health—Asking Hard Questions, and Getting Important Answers

The range of emotions someone faces with an ALS diagnosis are as unique as every person is. But while no two people experience exactly the same range of feelings or thoughts, there are some common themes, among them a desire to understand what the future will hold.

For Ken Menkhaus, that meant turning his analytical mind to the task of better understanding ALS. A husband, father, professor of political science and member of The ALS Association national Board of Trustees, Ken was diagnosed with ALS in 2018.

Among the issues Ken wanted to understand better was the impact ALS has on breathing. With the hopes of sharing what he learned with others facing ALS, Ken allowed The ALS Association to bring cameras along on his fact-finding journey to understand more about the impact of ALS on his respiratory health and the kinds of decisions he and his family will face as the disease progresses.

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The COVID-19 Vaccine—What You Should Know

It is fair to say that there has been much enthusiasm about safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 being developed quickly and being distributed across the country. It is also fair to say that there has been more than a little confusion about how the vaccines are being distributed, and how and when they will be available to people from various communities, including for people with ALS.

In an effort to provide the most current and reliable information available, the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), in partnership with The ALS Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Muscular Dystrophy Association, will host a special webinar with leaders from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to discuss the COVID-19 vaccines with the rare disease community. The webinar is Friday, January 15, from 1 – 1:45 p.m. CT. The webinar is free, and you can register here: https://bit.ly/Vaccine-Webinar.

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Hope for the New Year

As we move into 2021 in earnest we once again asked our Board Chair Josh Rogers to share some thoughts on the year ahead. Here is Josh’s message to us all:

Happy new year!

With the full year ahead of us, most of us hold terrific hope that 2021 will be an improvement over 2020.

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What a Year It Has Been

There is no doubt, 2020 will be a year not soon forgotten. We all have had our lives turned upside down in ways big and small, and we are all hoping for 2021 to turn things right-side up.

And while 2020 has been for many a year we’d be fine forgetting, there has been much worth remembering for our Chapter and the ALS community. For while 2020 has been a struggle, we are inspired by those who have struggled to overcome the obstacles in the path. And we are reminded that for people with ALS the struggle never ends. ALS does not stop for global pandemics, or for the challenges created by them.

Like so many others, when the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, our Chapter was forced to reimagine how to provide services to the community we serve. Our Care Service team worked with our partners to find new and different ways to meet the needs of people with ALS. Visits that would normally have been in person now took place over the phone or internet. Here on ALS Connect, we tried to keep you informed about how we and others in our community we meeting these challenges each and every day.

Continue reading What a Year It Has Been