HELPing To See Both Sides

Dan and Jennifer Digman, both living with MS
use their experiences to inspire and educate others
 Guest Post by: 
 Dan and Jennifer Digmann

Looking at our van’s temperature gauge, it was two degrees below zero.

We were rushing to make it to an evening meeting, and our tardiness consumed Jennifer’s mind.

“We are always running late!” she exclaimed.

Dan was less than concerned about their promptness. He was focused on finding a place to park where he could drop the accessible van’s ramp so Jennifer could drive her power wheelchair into the meeting without getting it stuck in the freshly plowed snow.

“Could they have made their parking lot any smaller?” he shouted as he drove around the block to find an alternative lot across the street.

The same situation, two different perspectives: Jennifer was worried about pulling into the room after the meeting already had started; Dan was panicked about potentially having to push Jennifer and her chair out of a snow bank in the freezing cold.

Imagine if you had to approach any given situation either as a person living with an illness or as a care partner. That defines us and our marriage.

Dan and Jennifer Digman share stories of their day-to-day life
Combined, we have had Multiple Sclerosis  for more than three decades. Jennifer was diagnosed in 1997, has secondary-progressive MS and no longer is able to walk; Dan was diagnosed in 2000, has relapsing-remitting MS and still competes in 5K races. We met at a National MS Society event in 2002, fell in love and were married in 2005.

While we have different types of MS, we still assume different caregiving roles depending on the circumstance. For example, our dining room carpet recently started ripping. As Dan glued it down he was fretting about how he was going to pay for new flooring and Jennifer was hoping the loose carpet didn’t get caught in her power wheelchair the next time she rolled over it. Again, the same situation, two very different perspectives.

Even in the best of relationships between a person living with an illness and his or her caregiver, it’s easy to get frustrated when approaching situations from alternative viewpoints.

We have discovered through nearly nine years of marriage, support and communication are important to understanding each other’s perspective. Among other qualities, this understanding comes from honesty, empathy, listening and patience – HELP.

Honesty. Tell each other the truth (being mindful to not hurt each other’s feelings) so you never spend time second-guessing what the other person is thinking or needing.

Empathy. Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes and look at the situation from that person’s perspective.

Listening. Open up your ears to hear and understand what your caregiver or loved one is saying and ask questions to ensure you understand and you both are moving forward together.

Patience. Take the time with each other to be honest, empathetic and listen.

HELP yourself and HELP each other. Remember that you both are on the same team and are doing the best you each can do to ensure you beat whatever illness you’re facing together.

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About The CareGiver Partnership. The CareGiver Partnership helps caregivers and their loved ones with answers to their caregiving questions, including information about home health care products and supplies, from our Wisconsin-based team of Product Specialists who are all current or former caregivers. The company’s Web site provides the largest online library of resources on subjects most important to caregivers — from arthritis to assisted living, and Parkinson’s to prostate cancer — as well as access to more than 3,000 home care products for incontinence, skin care, mobility, home safety and daily living aids. The CareGiver Partnership was founded in 2004 by Lynn Wilson of Neenah, Wisc. Visit to learn more or call 1-800-985-1353.


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