November Puts National Family Caregivers Month Center Stage

October 31, 2014

In recognition of the vitally important work of family caregivers, The ALS Association puts the spotlight on the millions of people in the United States who fill this role each year. These are the family and friends on the front lines, often handling direct care, health services coordination, doctor visits, household management and much more for loved ones who would otherwise be without crucial support.

This includes people coping with the difficulties of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative illness affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. From transporting to feeding people with ALS, who may no longer have the muscle strength required to move independently across a room or even lift a fork, caregivers make day-to-day life more than feasible but filled with compassion and consistent human contact.

Joan Pressey of Raleigh, North Carolina, age 54, handles the care for her 53-year-old husband Ken on a daily basis. Both former engineers who met while working at IBM, the Presseys were married four years ago after Ken’s diagnosis of ALS. “Ken’s muscles are getting weaker, and it became clear he needed someone here at home with him every day,” Pressey said about her decision to take early retirement so that she could be at home to care for her husband.

The Presseys have no children but a large network of friends including cherished members from their church whom they can rely on for companionship and support. Among other things, Pressey spends days preparing food and feeding Ken, who can no longer do this for himself because of muscle atrophy. At 6 feet, four inches tall and 235 pounds, Ken also relies on his spouse and couple’s “sit-to-stand” hydraulic lift to help Ken negotiate movement.

Deeply connected to her husband and his well-being, Pressey also understands it’s taking care of herself that enables her to provide what Ken needs most over the long term ─ a healthy, rejuvenated wife. Every Tuesday, an outside caregiver comes to the Presseys home. “This gives me time to have lunch with friends and run all the errands that build up during the rest of the week,” Pressey explained. “This time really helps me a lot.”

Among her sage words of advice to other caregivers Pressey said, “Be sure you get enough sleep. If you don’t, it just makes everything else harder.” She also emphasized Ken’s “wonderful, positive attitude and his recognition that I need to take care of myself.” 

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month learn more Caregiver Tips from The ALS Association.

Read the press release.

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