Being the primary support for a person living with MS can be overwhelming.
But help is available.
Victoria and Carnell Woody enjoy a stroll with their son, Issac. Victoria is Carnell’s carepartner. Photo by Riku Foto.
Going the extra mile
Being the primary support for a person living with MS can be overwhelming. But help is available.
by Mike Knight
Though she didn’t know it at the time, Karin Prizio became a Multiple Sclerosis carepartner when she was just 22 years old. It was 1980 and she and her husband, Joe, then 25, were newlyweds. The couple married in August the year before and were enjoying life and planning their future together. After serving as a mechanic in the Air Force, Joe went to college and earned a degree in biomedical engineering. Karin began her career as a registered nurse.
Karin Prizio became a Multiple Sclerosis carepartner at age 22, when her husband, Joe, then 25, was diagnosed. Photo courtesy of Karin Prizio
All that was left was living happily ever after.
But Joe began experiencing double vision and other problems that year. Still in its infancy, an MRI wasn’t possible and spinal tap results were inconclusive. MS was included as a possible diagnosis.
Upbeat by nature, Karin did what she could. “I didn’t need to give [Joe] any real physical support,” Prizio says, “because [his health problems] came and went. I was giving a lot of psychological support. I was his cheerleader.”
Locked in a loop of “What if it is? What if it isn’t?” Joe scoured the library searching for answers, carrying home stacks of neurology journals, hoping they might help him decode the mysterious disease, what it meant for him, and by extent, what it meant for his young wife, the family they wanted and their future together.
Karin began looking for information about caring for someone with the disease, what to expect and how to prepare for it. She found little for her efforts. “At that time, there was really nothing out there about the caregiver,” she says.
In 1987, Joe was positively diagnosed with MS. Over the ensuing decades, the couple has used multiple resources to manage and address his changing abilities and needs. And though it hasn’t always been easy, Karin has also found the resources she needed to take care of her husband, her family and perhaps most important, herself.
Like MS itself, caring for someone with the disease is constantly changing, challenging and sometimes, overwhelming. The good news is that practical, personal and emotional support is often readily available. The better news? It doesn’t always cost a lot—sometimes it doesn’t cost anything at all.
Talk the talk—with other MS carepartners
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