FA Reminds Me of the Many Ways Caregivers Show Up for Me

Columnist Sean Baumstark expresses gratitude for all the caregivers in his life

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by Sean Baumstark |

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Thanksgiving is an important holiday in the U.S., and as it’s just over a week away, it’s sparking many ideas for writing topics. (If you read my last column, you know I appreciate all the help I can get with content ideas.)

November feels like the start of the holiday season to me. Halloween is over, we’ve turned our clocks back, and cooler temperatures and rain are settling in. Having grown up in California, these are the factors I associate with winter and the holidays.

However, I recently learned that November is National Family Caregivers Month, with a proclamation from President Joe Biden confirming this year’s observance. As a result, most of the gratitude I’ve been feeling and actively contemplating lately is centered around the people in my life who can be considered caregivers.

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Practicing Gratitude This Holiday Season

Thank you, caregivers

My Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) progression has thankfully been slow and mild. Although there are many things I can’t do, such as run or use stairs without a handrail, I can still live independently. I can manage the challenges associated with the tasks of daily living, but I often call on friends to help with chores that are outside my normal routine.

A few months ago, one of the lightbulbs in my ceiling fan burned out. My balance issues keep me from using step stools, and my vaulted ceilings render some ladders useless. I purchased a replacement bulb, which sat on my dresser for weeks. At some point I realized that I had plans with a dear friend to meet at my place and carpool to an Elton John concert, so I waited for that day to arrive, in hopes of finally enjoying better lighting in my room. What could have been a 20-minute, or bone-breaking, chore for me took my friend about two minutes. He replaced my lightbulb without any hesitation.

I’m also reminded of my friend Tony, who helped me to the restroom in a busy restaurant a few months ago. I’d met Tony two years earlier when one of my closest friends recruited Tony to help me move my things from one storage unit to another across town. Tony showed up with his truck and a nonstop energy that seemingly announced, “Whatever you need, we’ll get it done.”

Of course, my most significant time of need was after an injury three years ago that forced me to live in the hospital for a month and stay isolated at home for almost three months after that. During my time in the hospital, I relied on the nursing staff daily to help me get dressed. And during the early weeks of recovery at home, I relied on friends to bring me food and drive me to follow-up doctor appointments.

Until recently, I’ve often thought of a caregiver as someone who might spend a couple hours a day helping someone with basic daily needs, such as dressing, eating, or household chores. However, I’m feeling a newfound gratitude for the friends and family who help me with even the most minor tasks whenever I need an extra hand.

In this season of gratitude, I’m incredibly thankful for the caregivers in my life.

Caregivers show up for me and provide help in myriad ways. How do they show up for you, and how do you express gratitude for them? Let me know in the comments.

Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


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