After his wife's diagnosis, he became her caretaker. One woman's gift is helping him continue.
12 years ago, Brent's wife, Ruth, noticed that one of her fingers was stiff and she had trouble holding it still.
It was the first sign of Parkinson's. The disease eventually spread its symptoms to the rest of her body, leaving her with severely limited mobility. Ruth now needs help with everything from eating to turning over when she gets uncomfortable during the night.
When Brent helps her, he just sees it as an extension of loving and caring for his wife before the Parkinson's.
He is his wife's caregiver. He helps her eat, walk, and do small stuff like "scratching her nose," he says. The couple attends church together as well.
But one thing got in the way: their van.
They drove to church, and everywhere else, in the van they'd had for countless years. Well-loved but worn down at over 270,000 miles, the van was rapidly deteriorating.
"It would start up and drive and then when it got hot, and we stopped, it would leave us stranded," says Brent in the video. If he tried to jump-start it, things would often start smoking, particularly the air conditioning.
Finally, it was someone else's turn to take on some of the burden and care for both Brent and Ruth.
Janet West had purchased a new car, and her previous Honda van was in need of a new home. With so many family memories in the van, Janet wanted to pass it on to another family where it could accumulate even more.
Not long after she purchased her new car, someone at church praised Janet's son for helping a family from the congregation repair their vehicle in the parking lot. It was Brent and Ruth's old van, breaking down again as they tried to make their way home after that day's service.
So she just gave them her old one.
It was a simple decision for her, but the new van has been a "wonderful blessing" for Brent and Ruth. Without the constant need to repair or restart their vehicle, Brent can better care for his wife and make sure she's comfortable.
"Lots of times people think in order to bless other people it takes huge financial gifts, [but] I was able to figure out something that was a very simple thing," says Janet.
As for being his wife's caregiver, Brent says, "I feel privileged to be able to do this."
Caregivers are all around us and they need care, too.
- 55% of family caregivers report being overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member needs. (AARP)
- Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) family caregivers report a moderate (20%) to high degree (18%) of financial strain as a result of providing care. (AARP)
- In 2014, 60% of family caregivers had full- or part-time jobs. (AARP)
Maybe you know someone in your life who acts as a caregiver to friend or family member. Maybe there's an unpaid caregiver in your community who you haven't gotten to know. It's these people who need your support.
For people who already give so much of themselves to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable, help is a priceless gift.
"I think it is really important that we are aware of those people who are caregivers," says Brent. "They do need the extra help."
Watch Brent and Ruth's story in this awesome PSA below: