Muhammad Ali found a reward greater than any championship belt or medal, when he married Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams on November 19, 1986.
At the time, he had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome. Later that diagnosis was changed to Parkinson’s disease, which meant Muhammad’s condition would progressively worsen as time went on. Never having met anyone with Parkinson’s disease, Lonnie felt alone. There was no one for her to talk to who was in a similar situation.
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Admittedly, she’s learned a lot about caregiving throughout the years–all the way up until Ali’s death. She says knowing more beforehand would have made life easier for her and her husband and is eager to help anyone caring for a loved one. Here’s her 10 tips for caregivers:
10. Educate yourself and your family. Learn all you can all aspects of your loved one’s disease. Research causes, symptoms, long term prognosis, available treatment options, and possible new treatments that become available. Arming yourself with knowledge will enable you to anticipate and prepare for changes in behavior as well as physical, mental and emotional needs.
9. Research, research, research! Use your resources to research and find the best nearby specialist. Choose a specialist specific to the disease you are managing, not a general practitioner. Specialists have specific knowledge and are aware of the latest treatment protocols available that will affect the long-term well-being of the patient.
8. Stay organized. This is crucial in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Keep a dedicated calendar for your loved one that can easily be taken along on doctor visits. On the calendar, be sure to note doctor and therapy appointments, start and stop dates of medicines, and noted side effects. Also keep a list of all doctors’ phone numbers and addresses in case of an emergency.
7. Ask for help. No one is able to take care of a person with a chronic illness 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Put together a list of friends and family members whom you trust and can call upon to relieve you for a few hours or in case of an emergency. If the financial means are available, seek outside professional help for in-home assistance.