Imagine what it must be like to live your life as a world renowned cardiologist, a celebrated medical scholar, and an international spokesperson for physicians concerned about the daunting implications of nuclear weapons. Life is chock full of meaning, purpose, and never-ending challenge. Now imagine what it must be like to shift both speed and gears abruptly as you cope with the unexpected news that you must now be a patient - a patient who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and dementia. Indeed, this was the life course for the late Dr. Tom Graboys until his recent death. In this encore essay, Dr. Graboys reflects on his deeply personal and poignant journey, and his inspiring determination to live his life to the fullest.
Dr. Thomas Graboys died on January 5, 2015. He was Clinical Professor of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School; President Emeritus of the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation; and former attending cardiologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Lown Cardiovascular Center. Dr. Graboys, who grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts, became a patient himself after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and dementia. He published a book about his personal battle, Life in the Balance: A Physician's Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss with Parkinson's Disease and Dementia.
There's an informal but vital network of health care providers, toiling away in neighborhoods and towns everywhere. They may not be doctors or nurses, or CNAs, or techs, but they care for elderly parents and spouses with dementia, children with disabilities, and relatives with injuries. They're family caregivers, and sometimes they need a break.
Here's some help, or at least some promising news, for them.
I spoke with Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts this afternoon about her work on the state Alzheimers plan, what she calls a "living document" meant to guide and coordinate Rhode Island's efforts to care for those with Alzheimers and those who care for them.
Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts toured the state with an all-volunteer work group for a number of listening sessions to get a better sense of what’s available to those suffering from dementia and their caregivers.
They also wanted to hear about what more can be done to help residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
State officials want to make it easier for people living with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them. Nearly 25,000 Rhode Islanders suffer from the disease, and an estimated 60,000 are their unpaid caregivers.
A work group spearheaded by Lt Gov Elizabeth Roberts and Division of Elderly Affairs chief Catherine Taylor has issued a set of recommendations in the state’s first comprehensive Alzheimer’s plan.