“Caregivers have insights to help others deal with the isolation, uncertainties, and fear during this pandemic because we face similar challenges in our caregiving roles,” says Jan Herwaldt of Sugar Grove.
“I have heard it said, ‘we are all in the same boat;’ however I believe more accurately, ‘we are all in the same storm, but in different boats.’ The boats of caregivers and those whom they care for are strong but riddled with battle scars.”
In October of 2016, Mark, Jan’s husband of 33 years, began experiencing fasciculations on one side of his body. After an emergency room visit and MRI that showed some abnormalities, the Herwaldts consulted a neurologist who suspected that Mark might have ALS.
“Our initial reaction was shock,” says Jan. “Only two months earlier, he led a pilgrimage to Poland where he was sightseeing, hiking, and traveling among several cities.
By early 2017, Mark was officially diagnosed with ALS. As the disease progressed, so did Mark’s difficulty in completing daily tasks. Jan began accompanying Mark to Corpus Christi Catholic Church where he was the Youth Ministry Director.It was here where she informally began her caregiving duties.
And although Jan is Mark’s primary caregiver, she is not alone.
“We continually rely on the Les Turner ALS Foundation for support in an overwhelming situation,” says Jan. “The nurse and social worker are the first people I call when things go astray – and many things have. I find it helpful and comforting to be able to call someone who understands.”
Their five children, three of whom live in the Herwaldt household, assist with chores and other caregiving duties. At the moment, Zoom calls with friends and family provide both Mark and Jan the social interaction necessary to feel connected with others.
Caring for Mark has taught Jan she is resilient, strong and proactive, qualities realized by so many caregivers. We are grateful for Jan and all the loving and compassionate caregivers in our Les Turner ALS family.