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Chat retirement strategies with AARP’s Jean Setzfand today, Oct. 24th, at 2:00 p.m. ET

Father of Army Ranger Cory Remsburg on Caring for His Son (+ Video)

'I thought I was a pretty tough guy, but I needed help'

Q: It had to help a lot that he was responding.

A: Corey was pretty messed up, but the guy got up every morning, got shaved and he just went after it. He made it easy on us to be caregivers by showing his positive attitude. That stoked us. I felt like, if he's giving that, I'm going to give that.

Q: What are your days like now? You're working obviously, but what about the caregiving?

A: Cory has his own house a mile from us in Phoenix, and we got that only to help keep his psyche going. He gets up at 6:30 every morning, gets freshened up, does his thing, eats breakfast and he's on the road at 7:30 a.m. From Monday through Friday he goes to a private rehab facility in downtown Phoenix for physical therapy and occupational therapy, and speech therapy for four to six hours every day. Then local transportation takes him to his home and a respite nurse fixes his dinner and gets him ready for the next day. My wife goes over late and spends the night. Somebody is always with him. That's the care he needs now.

Q: What are Corey's prospects?

A: My kid is fighting like hell to be independent. He wants as much of his life as he can and he doesn't want us to be around all the time. We've encouraged that as long as it wasn't something where he might get hurt. All these little steps culminated in the guy you saw at the State of the Union address who can almost stand up on his own. He's taking steps with a crutch. He can cycle 18 miles on a recumbent bike now. That's a miracle.

Q: How did taking on this role as caregiver change your perspective on life?

A: I've learned to cherish what I would call the simple things, like breakfast with the wife and family. I go for walks. You soak it up just a little bit more because it just about got taken away from us. It's as simple as that.

Q: It's important for caregivers to learn how to accept help, too, isn't it?

A: First and foremost, you've got to take care of yourself. A caregiver can be overwhelmed in a hurry. You don't have to do it alone. Find that support system. It might just be somebody you can talk to. Celebrate the moments that something improves. Yeah, he got banged up pretty bad, but hey, by the way, he moved a finger today and you celebrate that. You make a big deal about it and you keep encouraging. What I've found in life is that that encouragement matters.

Q: Would you say that to be a successful caregiver you also have to let people care for you, too?

A: Without a doubt. You cannot do it on your own and you've got to be strong enough to understand and appreciate that and bring your barriers down. I thought I was a pretty tough guy, but when it was all said and done, I needed help.

Q: You sound very grateful.

A: At the end of the day, we're the lucky ones. We got our son back.

Todd Pitock is a freelance writer who profiled Diana Nyad for the AARP Bulletin in November.

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