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‘In sickness and in health…’ A story of devotion

Ken and Laura Ginsburg with their son Ben at his Bar Mitzvah at Temple Shalom.

Ken and Laura Ginsburg with their son Ben at his Bar Mitzvah at Temple Shalom.

In sickness and in health . . . No one can predict what is fated to occur in a marriage. Ken and Laura Ginsburg were married at a Holiday Inn in Pasadena, Calif, Nov. 2, 1990. They first met in their organic chemistry class in a post-graduate nursing program in California.

Ken loved the class; Laura did not. They went through the nursing program together, remaining friends for three years before marrying. Laura became interested in classes in Judaism in Los Angeles and converted before the marriage.

They lived in California for seven years after their marriage and raised two children, Ben and Rachel. The crowds in Los Angeles became too much for Ken and Laura, and in March, 1997, they decided to relocate.

Their rabbi at the time was Rabbi William Gordon, who served at Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs before moving to Los Angeles. He recommended the Jewish community in Colorado Springs. As Ken had visited the city before, the decision to move was an easy one.

The Ginsburgs joined Temple Shalom upon arrival, and except for a brief hiatus as members of Temple Beit Torah, have been members there since 1997. Their children became B’nai Mitzvah at Temple Shalom and attended school in Falcon District 49.

The first cloud appeared in February, 2008, when Laura lost consciousness while driving home from her job as a special education teacher. She was lucky that the accident she caused was a minor one. The family took Laura for tests but the doctors could find no reason for the incident.

A year later, Laura passed out again while driving, this time with her daughter Rachel in the car. Rachel took over the steering wheel and managed to avoid an accident. Laura stopped driving at that time. As a result, lost touch with many of her friends.

The memory loss began a year later. At first, doctors ruled out Alzheimer’s disease due to Laura’s age. Laura had a complete workup, including an MRI and blood tests.

Although there was no sure method of diagnosing Alzheimer’s at that time, Laura’s dementia, accompanied by positive results for all three markers that indicate the disease, contributed to a tentative conclusion of Alzheimer’s.

The diagnosis was finally confirmed in April, 2013, by a new PET Amyvid brain scanner at Penrad Imaging, for which Laura was the first test patient.

At the beginning of Laura’s decline, she stayed at home. She would take walks and get lost. The children stayed home in turns to take care of her, and Ken installed grab bars throughout the house to help prevent falls.

After two to three years, the family applied for Social Security Disability, only to find that there was a one-year waiting period before it could be granted. Also, home care was not covered during this time.

Ken was afraid he would have to get a divorce to prevent bankrupting the family due to medical bills; however, he was able to find a program that provided spousal protection in Colorado and enabled him to avoid this drastic measure.

The family tried adult day care on a short-term basis.

However, Laura’s needs were too demanding and she failed the trial period. She was finally placed in a nursing home after five years, when Medicaid kicked in.

There is no user’s manual for something like this; it was all trial and error,” Ken says of that period. His daily routine has differed. Now a typical weekday goes like this:

Ken gets up early each morning to prepare Laura’s breakfast before he goes to work. He stops off at the nursing home where Laura resides and feeds it to her bite by bite, as Laura’s food needs to be cut up and fed to her by hand.

Then he leaves for a full work day as a physician’s assistant.

After work, Ken goes home and prepares a homemade dinner for Laura. He drives to the nursing home and again feeds her every bite.

Laura is non-verbal and unresponsive.

She is in a wheelchair and cannot make her needs known. Ken judges her ability to recognize him by her facial expression.

Before she became completely unresponsive, Laura would take his hand and hold it tightly during his visits.

Both of Laura and Ken’s children reside in Colorado Springs to be near their mother.

Ken says that his family’s situation is not uncommon.

“There are a lot of us out there. We’re kind of invisible.”

‘Til death do us part.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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