Years ago, I volunteered at a local convalescent home throughout the summer before high school. My grandmother was a resident there.

She glowed and smiled as I assisted residents with their bingo games, wheelchairs, and bedside water carafes. I never fully understood why she was so proud of me or why my presence meant so much to her.

As a home care professional today, running my company At Your Home Familycare for 26 years, now of course I understand how much a young person’s time and attention means to an older adult.

While spending time at my grandmother’s convalescent home, I met Mrs. Lloyd. Much younger than my grandmother, I was surprised to see her there.  When I was informed that Mrs. Lloyd had multiple sclerosis or MS, I did not know what it was or what it meant.

My grandmother would socialize with her, and both her and Mr. Lloyd when he came to visit, which was frequently.  When chatting with them, I asked about Mrs. LLoyd’s condition. Mrs. Lloyd openly shared information about her disease, how it had affected her, and that it had now progressed to a point where she could hardly move which is why her home was now a convalescent home.

I remember Mrs. Lloyd being an almost motionless being, always dressed well, hair always in place, smile always on her face – but motionless. When joining my grandmother and the Lloyd family for meals, Mrs. Lloyd required assistance to eat. She was completely dependent on a caretaker’s help.

I also remember that Mrs. Lloyd was radiant, sweet, caring, peaceful, and reassuring to those around her, as if to give us permission to be OK with HER disease.  Most of all, I remember how much she smiled – almost all the time, as if to give a gift to those around her.  I recall liking her very much, and not understanding HOW she could be so nice or so pleasant.

At Your Home Familycare has provided respite care services for those with MS for several years as a contractor of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Pacific Coast Chapter, based in Carlsbad.

For several years, Karen Hooper, Vice President, had invited me to attend the CEOs Against MS Breakfast, and I finally did. It was truly one of the most powerful experiences I have had while working in the human services field.

Personal stories were shared by heroes whose lives are being affected by this incurable, neurological disease.  Working professionals, families, children, trying to managing their lives while struggling to cope. Some described having to inject themselves daily with unbearably painful drugs to stave-off MS’s progression. Some of our heroes are coping as their MS has progressed causing mild to severe incapacitation.  These are all amazing individuals, with a positive attitude, an inspiring story, and a zest for life despite having so many hopes and dreams dashed.

I was so impacted by this experience that I created Team At Your Home Familycare in 2009. We participated in an MS Walk at Liberty Station that year.

I’ve since learned that MS is a chronic, unpredictable, and terribly disabling disease of the central nervous system. There is no known cause, cure, or method of preventing MS. This neurological disease interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body and stops people from being able to move. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. More than twice as many women as men are affected, like Mrs. Lloyd. Symptoms cannot be predicted. They vary greatly from person to person, ranging from numbness in the limbs to loss of balance to paralysis, like Mrs. Lloyd. MS affects more than 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide.

This year, I am honored to be among San Diego’s Honorary CEOs Against MS, and Team At Your Home Familycare is walking again. We hope to double our fundraising this year!

Please join us April 24 at Liberty Station. You can even bring your favorite canine and best-friend to walk with you.

It’s easy to donate. Click on the MS Walk button on the At Your Home Familycare web site to contribute online, or to get information about other ways to donate. Every little bit adds up to a lot.

I now understand in retrospect how significantly my early-life experience knowing Mrs. Lloyd has impacted me. Thinking about Mrs. Lloyd, and the affect MS had on her and her entire family, I feel grateful to be able to do what I can today through your support to help raise awareness AND dollars.

We simply must find a cure for debilitating diseases such as MS. Until then, I’m privileged through At Your Home Familycare to provide services and support to those affected until we do.

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