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When a Loved One Becomes Disabled

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When a Loved One Becomes Disabled

By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

When my friend’s 25-year-old son suffered a head injury in a major car accident, death seemed like a certain outcome. Instead, he recovered. But medications caused him to gain 50 pounds and he suffered from cognitive delays that might, or might not, resolve.

He didn’t look or act at all like the athletic young man I had watched grow up. “I was prepared for his death,” said his mother. “I wasn’t prepared for this. My job is to figure out how to love him now.”

How to love him “now:” In that phrase, my friend captured the essence of our challenge when someone we love suffers a major change in physical or mental health status. The child or adult who is chronically ill or injured or the elder who is declining into dementia may bear little resemblance to the person pre-illness. The relationship between the person and people in the family, the friend network and the community may change drastically.

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