Caregivers Extend Comfort to Afflicted

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Byline: Kelsey Knutson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Clarence Buddy and Carolyn Moore's plans to travel were dismantled in February when Mrs. Moore was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease. Since then, the District residents' lives have changed dramatically, as Mr. Moore is his wife's caregiver.

My job has become impossible to do alone, Mr. Moore said. It's one of the most devastating things that have happened to us. I have to do things for two people.

Fifty million other people across the U.S. are experiencing the same kind of hardships and challenges Mr. and Mrs. Moore face, and the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) is bringing attention to the issue. Since 1994, the NFCA has dedicated November as National Family Caregivers Month to recognize all caregivers across the country who are taking care of loved ones with any kind of illness.

In 1994, you had to explain what caregivers were; now that isn't the case. Awareness has gone up exponentially, said Suzanne Mintz, president and chief executive officer of NFCA.

For Caregivers Month, the local NFCA chapters are distributing gift bags across the country.

We know we are making a difference, and it's a gratifying feeling, Ms. Mintz said.

The theme this year is Speak Up, and the local chapter of the ALS Association for the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. area is joining the cause. It serves nearly 485 families in the area.

Mr. Moore, 72, has been his wife's primary caregiver since February, when she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. The illness's causes are not completely known, and it is found most commonly in people between the ages of 40 and 70. Motor nerve cells that operate muscles slowly die, and people slowly lose control of movement. According to the ALS Association, approximately 30,000 Americans are living with the illness.

Mrs. Moore, 59, can no longer stand or use her hands or arms and is beginning to lose her ability to speak.

I'm my wife's caregiver, 24 [hours a day] and seven [days a week], Mr. Moore said.

Colleen Maguire, director of patient and family services for the local chapter of the ALS Association, said the chapter has been taking part in Caregivers Month for all of the nearly 10 years she has worked there. …