A Caregiver Heroine in Fiction and Real Life: Betty Weeden
The following personal story has been reprinted from the Fall/Winter 2012 Parkinson Report.
Thirty-four years ago, Rick Weeden received a diagnosis of Young-onset Parkinson’s disease. His wife and caregiver, Betty Weeden, will never forget how the doctor delivered the news, “It could be a lot worse, deal with it.” Betty and Rick have done more than just “deal” with Parkinson’s; they have carved out a full life of travel and adventure, including RVing up and down the Eastern Seaboard, camping, tandem biking and sailing.
Betty, a former operating room nurse turned full-time caregiver, has the hard-working and matter-of-fact outlook of a New England native. She tackles each day head-on and barely stops to think about her circumstances, preferring to “live each day like it’s your last.” With her contagious laugh and unrelenting sense of humor, she fully embraces the challenges of this disease and what she has seen it do to her beloved husband.
As Rick’s advocate, Betty does not take no for an answer— from her husband or from a doctor. She continually looks for new treatments (e.g., Botox, pool therapy) to help with symptoms and she helps Rick exercise on a daily basis, even if it’s just for a short walk around the neighborhood.
“Caregivers don’t realize how strong they are,” Betty explained. Despite Betty’s indomitable strength, she has realized over the years that she can’t be there for Rick 24/7 or her own health starts to suffer. Therefore, she has hired nursing assistants to help her with Rick three days a week. This has freed up some time for her to join a support group for caregivers, meet friends for lunch and to take up quilting as a hobby.
This year, Rick’s brother, Curt Weeden, is releasing a new mystery novel entitled, Dutch Island. Rick and Betty are feature characters and it is set in their hometown of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. In this novel, Betty is a courageous, RV-driving heroine and Rick is not defined by his Parkinson’s, but by his vast sailing knowledge. Betty has been reading the novel out loud to Rick daily and they are both flattered that Curt thought of them when writing this book.
“I never thought that anybody realized what we go through, but after reading this book, I realize that Curt did and that meant the world to me,” Betty exclaimed through tears.
Betty’s advice to caregivers like her is to: find a network of help, whether it is professional or family; always face each day with a sense of humor; mintain your own hobbies; and tend to your other relationships with friends for support.
The book, Dutch Island, is available on Amazon.com for $11.95. The author is donating all proceeds from the sale of this book to the National Parkinson Foundation.
For more information or to order a copy of the book, please visit www.parkinson.org/dutchisland.
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