Staff members at Senior Care Health and Rehabilitation in Decatur see first-hand the effects of ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
They have witnessed the toll the progressive, incurable disease has had on one of their patients, Richard Alvarado.
The 82-year-old from Boyd was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and is in the final stages.
“It’s a weird disease,” his wife, Gail, said. “You lose your speech, you lose your ability to walk, you lose everything except your mind. It’s so crazy. It eats away at his body until it eats him all up. He knows everything that goes on.”
In his honor, more than 20 staff members – from nurse’s aides to front office personnel – accepted the renowned ice bucket challenge last Friday.
The group lined up outside the Decatur location to pour pails of cold water on themselves as residents cheered.
“It just blew me away that they cared enough to do this,” Gail said. “You couldn’t ask for better aides. They are so good to him, so good to me. I know I’m probably a nuisance because I go there every day to feed him breakfast and lunch. But they treat me so well.”
Signs of the illness became apparent three years ago when her husband, who is retired from the military, began to fall constantly, Gail said.
He fell off the back porch of their home and crushed his wrist. Within weeks, he fell in the garage, shattering his rotator cuff.
The symptoms continued with the demise of his speech. He lost his ability to walk, and finally his medical needs became more than Gail, who had undergone surgery herself, could handle. Last November, she moved him into Senior Care.
“I’m so impressed with them,” Gail said. “They are such wonderful people. They’re like family. You go in there and see how they love everyone. It’s nothing to put their arms around the old people and tell them they love them.”
That was apparent as many of the aides ran to residents and threw their arms around them after completing the challenge.
“It’s a horrible, horrible disease,” Gail said. “It’s hard to see somebody die a little bit every day. But these people sure do make it a little bit easier.”