By: Pam Hembrough
I am an Alzheimer’s orphan. My mother died from Alzheimer’s disease when I was 47. Seven years later, in 2017, my father also passed from the disease. Taking care of my parents was a privilege – but also a ginormous responsibility. Alzheimer’s is ugly and living with Alzheimer’s is hard, but I learned to celebrate the mini victories and cherish the simple, special moments. I am forever changed since watching my parents’ lives fade. Their journey with Alzheimer’s taught me many things – being their constant advocate and consoler was probably the hardest. I grew personally too. Taking care of other’s basic needs tends to humble you and you become very sensitive to the needs of others who are struggling with health and aging issues. I’m now acutely aware of the experiences “new” Alzheimer’s families are encountering. Life with Alzheimer’s has inspired me to become actively involved in the Alzheimer’s Association – hoping to ease the journey others are facing. Being an advocate and caregiver for my parents forced me to “put on my big girl pants.” Facing the constant challenges with courage and ensuring their dignity and care was priority #1.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is my opportunity to participate in an event that will honor my parents’ memory and also help to raise public awareness of the disease (and generate some funds!). Further research for the disease is paramount to finding a cure. Educational events are vital to helping families face Alzheimer’s and to deal with the impact it has on our society. I will be walking again this year on September 8, 2018 in Jacksonville, IL.
Alzheimer’s doesn’t discriminate – everyone is or will be touched by the disease in some way. Reports indicate that someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds. That is unimaginable.
It is important for others to know that every minute of every day, life with Alzheimer’s changes. It is an all-consuming illness. There isn’t one aspect of life that isn’t affected by the disease, whether it is social, financial, legal, safety, daily care, medical, family, holidays or nutrition. The best we can do is prepare for situations to change – sometimes instantly. Excuse our moments of frustration; greet us with a smile and warm welcome. And remember, we still exist – life is just different now.