Friday, December 6, 2013

Take Care (Guest Post by Dan Digmann)

Note from The Lesion Journals: today's guest post comes from Dan Digmann. You can find Dan and his wife, Jennifer, over at to read their stories of how they have taken on MS, together.

"Take Care" by Dan Digmann

Mainstream news reports covering recent medical journal findings often make my wife, Jennifer, and me feel helpless.

Who can blame us?

We’re a married couple. We both have Multiple Sclerosis (mine is relapsing-remitting; Jennifer’s is secondary-progressive). One of us is in a wheelchair. Oh yeah, and we each serve as the primary caregiver for the other.

So when ABC Nightly News with Diane Sawyer reported earlier this year that recent research showed the key to good health and reducing the risk of heart disease is walking each day, we actually wrote the network to ask what they suggested a person in a wheelchair should do.

We’re still waiting to hear back.

We’ve been well aware of studies linking the stress of caregiving for a chronically ill family member to increased mortality rates ever since we got married on Sept. 10, 2005. Perhaps our wedding vows would have been better stated with, “In sickness and, uh, in sickness.” 

But the MS couldn’t deter us from getting married. After all, we met at a National MS Society event and knew what we were getting into with this stupid disease we share.

Needless to say, we still are beside ourselves with what Medical News Today reported in the middle of October. According to its story Family caregiving linked to longer life expectancy, “A new US study led by Johns Hopkins researchers contradicts long-standing beliefs that the stress of caregiving leads to early death and instead shows that family caregivers live around 9 months longer than non-caregivers.”

Imagine that: encouraging words from a mainstream news report on research findings! The story indicates that the results are available online in the current issue of American Journal of Epidemiology, and it in part states that, “… many of the caregivers reported increased self-esteem and receiving gratitude and recognition from the family members they cared for.”

Seems to make sense, doesn’t it? So often when it comes to MS, people focus on the needs for things like medications, adaptive equipment or programs to help the person living with the disease improve his or her quality of life. It is interesting to note, then, that something as simple as showing gratitude and recognition can have such a positive impact on improving the quality of life for the MS caregiver

There is further information in the Medical News Today story that points out the study doesn’t necessarily paint a complete picture of the entire caregiving process and that further research is needed. But it’s worth repeating that the research itself  “… shows that family caregivers live around 9 months longer than non-caregivers.”

Imagine if the key to increased longevity is as simple as caring and showing gratitude. What an easy way to improve everyone’s quality of life.

For more inspiring essays from the Digmans,
check out their book. A part of the proceeds
goes towards the Nat'l MS Society.

Thanks for stopping by Dan and cheers to you and Jennifer. Happy Holidays!

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