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Megafest Report/Family Caregivers: When Illness Takes Centerstage

Steffanie Rivers and Fred Hammond

*Regardless of one’s personal achievements, success is better when you have loved ones to share it with. Multi-award winning gospel recording artist Fred Hammond is no stranger to success.

His talents as a music producer and singer have taken him all over the world. But when his mother fell ill Hammond said he took on a new role, that of a family care giver. That’s when this industry trendsetter was forced to decrease his busy work schedule so he could care for the one person who helped to support his career goals along the way!

Hammond spoke about his experience as a family caregiver in Dallas recently at MegaFest, the faith and family conference. Hammond was on the caregiver panel with award-winning recording artists Regina Belle, Will Downing and Chris Walker as they spoke about their personal experiences taking care of love ones who either were terminally ill or stricken with an unexpected sickness. Belle’s brother suffered a stroke and she helped take care of him. But it was her own diagnosis with a brain tumor that converted this R&B diva to gospel music.

In the case of Will Downing, his diagnosis with polymyositis, a debilitating disease of the muscles, threatened to sideline his rising status as one of the premiere R&B male vocalists of his generation. Downing, who has since recovered from his health setback, credits true friends and family for getting him back on his feet and back in the studio to revive his career.

Steffanie Rivers and Will Downing

Each panelist said their experiences helped them to appreciate the time freedom their careers offered so they could spend more time with their loved ones. As for the lessons they learned along the way: Belle said “Take care of yourself” during the process, because some caregivers die even before the person they’re caring for. Walker, who was caregiver to his sick father, said he learned to do his own research instead of totally relying on the opinion of medical professionals, because “there’s wealth in over-medication.”

Studies show some medical professionals earn more money from pharmaceutical companies who pay kickbacks for promoting their products than they earn from patient care – regardless of its effect on patients.

Downing said his illness taught him to prepare for the inevitable. Although most people don’t want to discuss it, having a plan for the sickness and death of loved ones should make the event less stressful.

For Hammond, he learned to use the knowledge of other people who already had experienced what he was going through. He said it’s neither helpful nor necessary to suffer through it alone.

 

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