SAN DIEGO, April 13, 2012 – Years ago, I volunteered at a local convalescent home throughout the summer before high school. My grandmother was a resident there. She glowed and smiled as I assisted residents with their bingo games, wheelchairs, and bedside water carafes. I never fully understood why she was so proud of me or why my presence meant so much to her.
Only now, decades later, do I understand how much a young person’s time and attention means to an older adult.
While spending time at my grandmother’s convalescent home, I met Mrs. Lloyd. Much younger than my grandmother, it surprised me to see someone like her there. When informed that Mrs. Lloyd had multiple sclerosis or MS, like most children there was no understanding of what this was or what it meant.
My grandmother would socialize with her, and both her and Mr. Lloyd when he came to visit, which was frequently. When chatting with them, I asked with the openness of a child about Mrs. Lloyd’s condition. Mrs. Lloyd responded just as openly to share information about her disease, how it had affected her, and that it had now progressed to a point where she could hardly move, which is why her home was now a convalescent home.
Mrs. Lloyd was nearly almost motionless, but always dressed well, hair always in place, smile always on her face - but motionless. When joining my grandmother and the Lloyd family for meals, Mrs. Lloyd required assistance to eat. She was completely dependent on a caretaker’s help.
But by far the more vivid memory than her infirmity was Mrs. Lloyd’s character. She was radiant, sweet, caring, peaceful, and reassuring to those around her, as if to give us permission to be OK with HER disease. Most of all, she smiled almost all the time, as if to give a gift to those around her. It was impossible not to like her, but it was difficult to understand how she could be so nice or so pleasant in her circumstances.
Fast forward to the present day. My private duty home care agency based in San Diego, California, At Your Home Familycare, has provided respite care services for those with MS for several years as a contractor of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Pacific Coast Chapter, based in Carlsbad, California.
For several years, Karen Hooper, Vice President, had invited me to attend the CEOs Against MS Breakfast, and I finally did. It was truly a powerful experience.
Personal stories were shared by heroes whose lives are being affected by this incurable, neurological disease. Working professionals, families, children, trying to manage their lives while struggling to cope. Some described having to inject themselves daily with unbearably painful drugs to stave-off MS’s progression. Some of our heroes are coping as their MS has progressed causing mild to severe incapacitation. These are all amazing individuals, with a positive attitude, an inspiring story, and a zest for life despite having so many hopes and dreams dashed.
Now I know that MS is a chronic, unpredictable, and terribly disabling disease of the central nervous system. There is no known cause, cure, or method of preventing MS. This neurological disease interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body and stops people from being able to move. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. More than twice as many women as men are affected, like Mrs. Lloyd. Symptoms cannot be predicted. They vary greatly from person to person, ranging from numbness in the limbs to loss of balance to paralysis, like Mrs. Lloyd. MS affects more than 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide.
In retrospect, there is now a clear understanding how significantly my early-life experience in coming to know and love Mrs. Lloyd has impacted me. Thinking about Mrs. Lloyd, and the affect MS had on her and her entire family, my sense of gratitude is profound. It motivates me to do what can be done by personally supporting my local Walk MS fundraiser on April 22 to help raise awareness and funding for research and perhaps one day soon, treatment and a cure. We simply must find a cure for debilitating diseases such as MS. Until then, it is a privilege for my team of caregivers to provide services and support to those affected until we do.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
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Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is President and CEO of At Your Home Familycare in San Diego, California. In addition to her positions as entrepreneur, health care executive, educator, radio segment contributor and media guest, Edwards-Tate is also a wife, daughter, and dog lover. Read more LifeCycles in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow At Your Home Familycare on Facebook and on Twitter @AYHFamilycare.
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Copyright © 2012 by At Your Home Familycare
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