Ex-Giants coach Tom Coughlin says children had to watch their mom Judy 'slip away'
The former coach discussed his wife's brain disorder and said his children have had to 'bear the brunt of my frustrations' as he turned caretaker
After nearly a year of silence, former New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has finally opened up about his wife's health, in a heartfelt opinion piece for The New York Times. On August 24, the 74-year-old revealed the struggles that he and his family were going through, saying "I’ve come to the conclusion that what my family and I are experiencing may be helpful for others to read." He then goes on to explain in great detail what it means to be a caregiver, and the toll it has taken on his family.
The stunning revelation by Coughlin does indeed shed some light on caregiving. He is now the latest person to open up about health challenges. In March 2019, comedian Amy Schumer opened up about her husband's autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. In August 2020, former First Lady Michelle Obama revealed she was suffering from low-grade depression because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Before that, in April, we learned about the toll Parkinson's had taken on Scottish comedian Sir Billy Connolly.
These stories show us that we aren't alone and that there are many people who have their own challenges. For those who act as primary caregivers, Coughlin's piece is worth reading. He was forced to become a full-time caregiver after Judy was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy in 2020. The incurable brain disorder erodes an individual’s control body movements, leaving them fully dependent. As Coughlin put it, "It steals memories and the ability to express emotions."
Toll on Coughlin's family
Since being diagnosed in 2020, Coughlin says his family has "had to bear the brunt of my frustrations because of my inability to deal with all the emotions that pile up day after day." He added, "I know how difficult this has been for them, and I thank them for their patience." By his own admission, Coughlin's frustrations come from his sudden transition. "Admittedly, transitioning from being with an N.F.L. franchise to full-time caregiver wasn’t easy. It’s still not easy," he said. Coughlin added, "Judy had always taken care of everything at the house, and I had always thrived on the structure of football. That was gone, and I was lousy at my new job."
Apart from Coughlin's frustrations, the family has also had to watch the disease "slowly taking her from us." In his opinion piece, Coughlin noted, "For the past four years, we’ve helplessly watched her go from a gracious woman with a gift for conversation, hugging all the people she met and making them feel they were the most important person in the room, to losing almost all ability to speak and move." He called her decline "gut-wrenching", and said, "nothing can prepare you to be a caregiver who has to watch a loved one slip away."
He did note however, it was a job he had signed on for. "Taking care of Judy is a promise I made 54 years ago when she was crazy enough to say "I do"," he wrote. The ex-Giants coach added, "I do want the players I coached in college and in the N.F.L. who thought all my crazy ideas about discipline, commitment, and accountability ended when they left the field to know that is not the case."
Beyond his frustrations and emotions, Coughlin didn't open up about the toll Judy's diagnosis had taken on the family. The couple has four children together - Keli, Katie, Tim, and Bryan. They are also proud grandparents to 11 grandkids. While he may not have gone into further details, Coughlin did offer some valuable advice for all caregivers. "To all those who are caring for a loved one, take a break when you need it, and don’t be too hard on yourselves. It’s not easy. And for all those wondering how they can help, it’s simple: Don’t forget about the caregivers," he wrote.
What Coughlin is undergoing is not unique. According to CareGiving.org, 19% of Americans are now providing unpaid care to an individual with health or functional needs. There has been a huge rise in the number of people needing, and providing care, which in turn has taken a massive toll on the economy, as well as caregiver's health.