It takes a family

Danette Dooley
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Caring for a loved one with Parkinson's can be a group effort

Michaelea Silver is only six years old, but she's doing her part to help raise $2.5 million - the amount the Parkinson Society of Canada hopes to generate at this year's SuperWalk for Parkinson's disease.

Michaelea doesn't know a lot about Parkinson's, but she's quick to tell you that she "shares her mommy with her nanny" - her way of acknowledging that caregiving often means sharing those closest to you with other people that you love. She's collected $80 in online pledges, so far, she tells you excitedly.

Leo Walsh (from left) and his wife, Biddy, have been living with Biddy's Parkinson's for 18 years with a lot of help from their family, including their granddaughter Michaelea and daughter Callista (Walsh) Silver. The whole family is preparing for this w

Michaelea Silver is only six years old, but she's doing her part to help raise $2.5 million - the amount the Parkinson Society of Canada hopes to generate at this year's SuperWalk for Parkinson's disease.

Michaelea doesn't know a lot about Parkinson's, but she's quick to tell you that she "shares her mommy with her nanny" - her way of acknowledging that caregiving often means sharing those closest to you with other people that you love. She's collected $80 in online pledges, so far, she tells you excitedly.

Michaelea's grandmother, Biddy Walsh, has had Parkinson's for 18 years.

She and her husband, Leo Walsh, live on Pearltown Road, as do two of their daughters and their families, including Michaelea's parents, Callista (Walsh) and Michael Silver.

Biddy and Leo are both in their mid-seventies, and Biddy now sleeps on a hospital bed in the living room.

Leo used to own and operate a farm until he became disabled almost two decades ago, Callista Silver says during an interview in her garden just down the road.

"Dad had a quadruple bypass and was forced to sell his cows and quota," she said.

"If that never had happened, Mom probably wouldn't have been able to stay in her own home, so there's definitely a keeper of the stars."

Parkinson's is a chronic, progressive, neurological disease that causes motor functions to deteriorate. It doesn't affect the brain but rather leaves the person trapped within a body that does not function - often unable to stand, speak clearly or swallow food.

"Boost, 7-Up and water are basically keeping Mom alive now," Callista said.

Her father is a severe diabetic who's had his feet partially amputated, yet he continues to be his wife's main caregiver.

"Dad lifts Mom, gets her in and out of her chair - he does everything for her," Callista says. "The only thing he doesn't do is bathe her. And that's because of a balance issue, not a comfort issue."

She and her sisters take turns checking in on their parents and taking care of their mother's personal needs.

It's important for their father's health and well-being that he gets breaks throughout the week, Callista says.

"Even just for Dad to get out and go walk around the mall, buy some lottery tickets - he really needs that time to himself," she explains.

She's been volunteering with the SuperWalk for Parkinson's for the past eight years, helping to raise awareness as well as money for education, support, advocacy and research.

As Biddy and Leo arrive at their daughter's house, Callista watches as her father lifts her mother out of the car and places her in her wheelchair.

She says she and her siblings worry about them both. Her father's hearing is failing, and the diabetes has affected his eyesight.

Add to that worry the cost of her mother's drugs - close to $1,000 a month - and life isn't easy for her parents, Callista said.

"Dad was just told by an audiologist that he needs hearing aids and they are over $2,000 each. He worked all his life and paid into an insurance. Now, when you get a certain age and need these things and they're not there for them, that's really sad."

Leo settles his wife in her chair, and wheels her onto the front lawn.

A quiet, friendly man, he says he worries about what the future holds.

If the government allowed him to sell some of the land that he once used for his dairy farm, he says, the money would help pay for his hearing aids and his wife's medications.

The past 15 years have been the hardest in his life, he says, and he wouldn't be able to care for his wife without their daughters' help.

Biddy listens as her husband talks. She and Leo celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Sept. 1.

Biddy acknowledges she has wondered why she has been stricken with Parkinson's.

"But I've been lucky, because I've got my husband and my family to look after me," she said.

The 19th annual SuperWalk for Parkinson's takes place in St. John's, Carbonear, Bonavista, Grand Bank, Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook and Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Sunday.

To donate to the SuperWalk or to sponsor Michaelea or any other walker, visit www.superwalk.com

danette@nl.rogers.com




POINTS ON PARKINSON'S

Symptoms include:
Resting tremor
Slowness of movement
Stiffness or rigidity of muscles
Difficulty with balance and walking
Change in voice volume and speech
Difficulty with fine movements, such as handwriting
Tendency to shuffle with decreased arm swing when walking
Parkinson's' affects nearly 100,000 Canadians, including more than 1,600 people in this province, many of whom are cared for by loved ones.
Source: Parkinson Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

Organizations: Parkinson Society, SuperWalk for Parkinson

Geographic location: Pearltown Road, St. John's, Carbonear Grand Bank Corner Brook Happy Valley Goose Bay Newfoundland and Labrador

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Silver
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    I am overwhelmed as I sit am my computer tonight reading the thoughful comments made about my family. When I read you kind comments it only gives me more energy to focus on why things like this happen in people's lives; my avenue for that is Superwalk. It brought tears to my eyes to see sponsors to Michaelea's online pledge sheet from so many people after reading this article. Heartfelt thanks from Mom, Dad, Michael, Karen, Callista, Elaine and their families to Danette and The Telegram for their interest.

  • Perry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I first met the Walsh family 26 years ago and found them to be truely wonderful, warm human beings with true love of life, which has not been diminished despite the trials of dealing with serious health issues.
    I wish them all the best and thank them for their kindness and friendship all those years ago.

  • Patricia
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Thank you to Danette and The Telegram for this thoughtful look inside a family struggling to care for someone with a debilitating chronic disease. As a small charity, we could not pay for this type of coverage.
    Many thanks.
    Patricia Morrissey
    Executive Director

  • Frankie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Bridget Walsh is a true inspiration to all of her family and friends and to those who would want to give up.She never complains or asks Why me? . Instead she persevers and enjoys all the wonderful things she can do from her home,her most favorite would be family dinners.Her family is her strength and she is ours! Leo and Biddy are well known in Kilbride for their love... love of family,friends,farm life and of each other.We are blessed to have them and PArkinsons will never change that. It can be such a devastating disease but with new research maybe one day soon the cure will be found. Thank you Telegram for sharing their story.

  • Julia
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Leo was a customer of mine when I worked at a store in Kilbride. He ALWAYS has a smile on his face that lights up any room! I never knew his family was suffering because of this disease.. I wish him, his wife, and their children all the best. Good luck with the walk on Sunday.. I will be there too cheer you on!

  • Silver
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Thank you to Danette and the Telegram for their time and space for this article that is close to home. Awareness for Parkinsons is our goal, and you sure helped us with that.Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the kind words. Friends whom we had not seen in a long time inspired us with messages and sponsors. Myself, Mom, Dad, Michael, Karen, Elaine and our families thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

  • Silver
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    I am overwhelmed as I sit am my computer tonight reading the thoughful comments made about my family. When I read you kind comments it only gives me more energy to focus on why things like this happen in people's lives; my avenue for that is Superwalk. It brought tears to my eyes to see sponsors to Michaelea's online pledge sheet from so many people after reading this article. Heartfelt thanks from Mom, Dad, Michael, Karen, Callista, Elaine and their families to Danette and The Telegram for their interest.

  • Perry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    I first met the Walsh family 26 years ago and found them to be truely wonderful, warm human beings with true love of life, which has not been diminished despite the trials of dealing with serious health issues.
    I wish them all the best and thank them for their kindness and friendship all those years ago.

  • Patricia
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Thank you to Danette and The Telegram for this thoughtful look inside a family struggling to care for someone with a debilitating chronic disease. As a small charity, we could not pay for this type of coverage.
    Many thanks.
    Patricia Morrissey
    Executive Director

  • Frankie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Bridget Walsh is a true inspiration to all of her family and friends and to those who would want to give up.She never complains or asks Why me? . Instead she persevers and enjoys all the wonderful things she can do from her home,her most favorite would be family dinners.Her family is her strength and she is ours! Leo and Biddy are well known in Kilbride for their love... love of family,friends,farm life and of each other.We are blessed to have them and PArkinsons will never change that. It can be such a devastating disease but with new research maybe one day soon the cure will be found. Thank you Telegram for sharing their story.

  • Julia
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    Leo was a customer of mine when I worked at a store in Kilbride. He ALWAYS has a smile on his face that lights up any room! I never knew his family was suffering because of this disease.. I wish him, his wife, and their children all the best. Good luck with the walk on Sunday.. I will be there too cheer you on!

  • Silver
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Thank you to Danette and the Telegram for their time and space for this article that is close to home. Awareness for Parkinsons is our goal, and you sure helped us with that.Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the kind words. Friends whom we had not seen in a long time inspired us with messages and sponsors. Myself, Mom, Dad, Michael, Karen, Elaine and our families thank you from the bottom of our hearts.