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I hope your feeling inspired hopping around.  I spent a long time trying to figure out what to share. It wasn’t easy let me tell you.  Sure there were plenty of happy memories from my career thus far, but I wanted to share something a bit more personal.  I want to share with you how being an SLP helped me understand my grandmother’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

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My grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s right after I was born.  She was independent for the great majority of my life. She was a stubborn, opinionated, Polish woman who loved black coffee and the Cubs.  In high school she move in with my family because being on her own was becoming too much.  When we could no longer help her enough, she moved into an assisted living facility, then a skilled nursing facility. The ‘standard’ progression of support as this disease moves along. Through all the moves my Granny took it in stride. As long as she had her coffee and the Cubs to watch she was happy.  I knew what my Granny had, I knew there was nothing we could do.  However, it wasn’t until grad school that my understanding of what Parkinson’s was grew and so did my ability to do something.

During classes, I learned what was happening to my Granny. I will not lie, it was rough. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but that was not a luxury I could have anymore.  I learned about why she sounded the way she did and why she had to have a modified diet.  As I learned though, I learned that there were things I could do to help her and my family.  In my AAC class, my professor allowed me to make my class project   ( a complete low tech AAC device) for my grandmother.  I tailored it to fit all her daily needs, interests, and my family.  She didn’t have anything like it, so when I brought it to her and showed her what  it was she was happy.  Now, she didn’t use it as much as I, or her nurses, had hoped, but those times she did everyone was glad she had it.  Especially my Granny when it involved her getting thickened ice cream.  She was a stubborn, Polish woman who would much rather do things her way. Ha, but that was my Granny, anything less just wouldn’t have been the same.

I worked part-time as a hospital which allowed me to use thickener quite a bit.  This meant we could take my Granny on some short, day trips. I would make sure we either packed her food that we made so her food followed her modified diet. Since I had the training behind it, I was the one to check the food the make sure it was ok. My mom become quite an expert too.  I would also take thickener with us so I could mix what she wanted to drink. This gave me an appreciation for powdered thickeners.  The gels were tough to mix when we were out and about, the powders where much easier.  I think my Granny was just glad that she got her coffee.

But, Parkinson’s progresses.  We didn’t do day trips anymore, but brought the trips to her.  We would make the food at home, because let’s face it there is nothing like home cooking and family recipes.  Even if it is modified.

Its been just about three years now since my grandmother left us.  She was stubborn to the bitter end, but that was my Granny and anything less wouldn’t have been the same.  I think that because of my job, my experience, and knowledge it helped her and my family.  She knew we still cared about what she had to say and that we wanted to know what she was thinking. She knew she could still get her favorite meals from home even if they were a bit different.  I am sure we could have figured some stuff out from Google, but because I am what I am, because I am an SLP, I had a much deeper understanding of her needs. Because I am an SLP, I was able to use that to her advantage.  With a disease that can leave many feeling powerless, I felt powerful because I do something that had an impact on my Granny’s day.  So when those moments come when you want to throw your hands up because there isn’t anything you can do, just take a breath.  Even when you feel powerless, you are still more powerful than you realize.

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Meet Maureen

Hey there! I’m Maureen Wilson, a school-base SLP who is data driven and caffeine powered. My passion is supporting other pediatric SLPs by teaching them how to harness the power of literacy and data to help their students achieve their goals…without sacrificing time they don’t have.

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5 Responses

  1. Another post that made me cry!! I am so sorry your grandmother had to deal with this disease. How amazing what a difference you were able to make in her life though with your career training and knowledge. Beautiful!!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Katie. Please don’t cry though! My Granny was a tough little lady who had a life with lots of laughing and smiling.

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