Muhammad Ali will forever be known as "The Greatest," the fighter with skills and charisma our world has never seen previously.  He was a champion not just in the ring, but also in his long-term battle with Parkinson's Disease, something that ultimately claimed his life last week. The world recently lost not only an amazing boxer, but an amazing person who used his fame to spread awareness about the disease and to raise money for research in the hopes that one day we may find a cure for Parkinson's disease. Today's Caregiver recently sat down with Lonnie Ali, beloved wife and partner of the late Muhammad Ali, to speak with her about her role as a caregiver and as a devoted national care giving advocate as well as what she hopes for others that are struggling to manage Parkinson's disease.

Muhammad Ali was known for constantly maintaining a positive attitude, despite his health obstacles. When asked what role she believed attitude plays in the well-being of a caregiver of someone living with Parkinson's disease, Lonnie responded that a positive attitude was vital, along with the realization that Parkinson's is a disease that can be managed. It isn't a disease that should be feared and Lonnie has found, from personal experience, that the more one knows about Parkinson's disease, the more empowered one can become. By putting things in perspective and looking at the bigger picture, an individual is able to become a better caregiver because it encourages a positive outlook. It is also extremely important to convey this outlook to the person that is living with Parkinson's disease.

However, a positive attitude doesn't just allow caregivers to improve on their duties as a caregiver, it is also important for their personal health and well-being. Lonnie emphasizes that it is imperative for caregivers to go out and socialize and try to retain some of the normalcy and routine that they had before they cared for a Parkinson's patient. Lonnie also points out the fact that caregivers don't have to deal with the struggle alone; relying on family members and their support team is vital. Other people are going through the same thing and can help.

One of the most important things to remember is that you can't care for anyone else unless you take care of yourself first. Lonnie Ali discusses the importance of taking personal time and not feeling guilty when you do. Lonnie admitted feeling guilt herself at times when she would leave to do something for herself or spend time with her friends, but she tries to constantly remind herself that she is entitled to take time for herself and that it benefits everyone involved when she does.

Lonnie Ali also created a Young-Onset Care Partner Tip Sheet to help family caregivers deal with the diagnosis and management of Parkinson's Disease.One of the tips that she offers is to get counseling or to attend support group sessions. Lonnie believes that these support groups are extremely helpful for caregivers to connect on a social level, as well as gaining support for the whole care giving process. It helps to meet with people who have been through or are going through the same thing with their loved ones or patients. Caregivers are able to gain insight and advice for each other and figure out ways to overcome the challenges they may face so that they can better manage Parkinson's disease. Lonnie claims that these groups offer invaluable support. She warns that not every community has a Parkinson's caregiver support group, but where they do exist, she encourages caregivers to take advantage of such a meaningful resource.

Lonnie Ali also goes in depth about her husband Muhammad Ali and how they both strived to remain positive so as to serve as an example and model for those that may be facing the same struggle. Lonnie explained that her husband wanted to help thousands of others by raising money and awareness for Parkinson's disease. Much like Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali was able to use his celebrity to garner money for Parkinson's research --not only from Congress, but from private, individual, philanthropic donations. According to Lonnie, Muhammad Ali's view was always: "I work with the cards dealt to me, but I don't let it define who I am, and I don't let it stop me from doing what I want to do and what I need to do."

Lonnie understands the impact that celebrities like her late husband, Muhammad Ali, and Michael J. Fox have on those living with Parkinson's disease or those caring for someone with Parkinson's disease. People look to them to give them the right information and to give them the right resources; it's a big responsibility. We, at Senior Helpers, agree with Lonnie Ali in her assertion that the main objective for anyone caring for an individual with Parkinson's disease is to improve the quality of live for the patient to the best of their ability.

Senior Helpers of Contra Costa serves families and their seniors in many parts of the East Bay helping to bring to families peace of mind and specialized care for their loved ones. Our caregivers provide professional care to our local seniors in areas such as Danville, Walnut Creek, Lamorinda, Alamo, Oakland, Alameda (and other East Bay cities) , in the form of check-in home visits, companion care, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, Parkinson’s care, housekeeping, driving and much more. For more information on how you can discuss a possible caregiver from Senior Helpers, call 925-376-8000 or visit our website :http://www.seniorhelpers.com/contracosta/ 




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