On Tuesday, November 27, people across the nation will come together to make a difference in the world around them. Giving Tuesday is a special call to action which creates a national “day of giving” around the annual shopping and spending season. We encourage you to take part and do a little big thing for Alzheimer’s care and support in Illinois. Your tax-deductible gift helps fund our free programs and services for the 220,000 Illinois residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and the more than 590,000 Alzheimer’s caregivers. In this article, we feature Mary Jane Davis, whose grandson, Lincoln, gives to the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter to honor and remember Mary Jane’s father.
My father, Lincoln’s great-grandfather, was a wonderful man. He was a hard worker, loved his family and loved life in general. He retired at age 65 but continued to work long into his 70s. He always took care of us and helped others in the community when the need arose and he had the ability to do so. He loved to garden and gave away the extra produce he harvested from his big garden, the “truck patch”, as he called it, and was always willing to help someone change a tire, start their car, clear away snow or whatever the need might have been in our small town.
In 2006, mom noticed some lapses of memory. He would go to the grocery store with a list and return much later with only a few items, none that happened to be on the list. The gentleman that he worked for part-time noticed that he wasn’t completing the tasks he was assigned. As is the case in many families, mom said nothing to us about the changes – hoping it was just a part of aging. We lived about 140 miles away from my parents, and when we visited he seemed fine initially. As time went on, it became evident that something was wrong. His official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was made in 2007. Mom made many changes at home to keep him safe, removing the knobs from the stove and oven and disconnecting the microwave to keep him safe. He lost his ability to work and drive, but continued to do chores around the house with some direction. Mom was determined to keep him at home and we were able to get a home health aide 3 days a week to assist with dad’s personal care and help mom around the house.
As the disease progressed, he could feed himself most days and walk with some assistance – but other than that he could do nothing for himself. Other than the Alzheimer’s, dad was in pretty good health. Mom took very good care of him, but we saw the exhaustion and worry very apparent in her. She was diligent in trying to keep things as normal as possible for him at home and vowed not to put him in long-term care. In December of 2013, he was hospitalized with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. Even though he recovered, he was very weak and it became clear he would need to go to a facility for rehab. He entered a long-term care facility on January 3, 2013 and he passed away there on December 10, 2014 at the age of 89. We visited often and mom was there most days. In spite of the memory loss, his temperament remained the same. The staff loved him and he came to love them. Every visit ended with him saying “I don’t know why I can’t go home” and a difficult explanation to try to help him understand. He knew us most visits but would always greet mom with “There’s my wife, she’s the best wife in the world!”
Even though it was so difficult to see this life-altering disease rob dad of so many great memories, we were blessed in many ways. He was happily confused and remembered mom to the end. We were also blessed to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary in June of 2014, and had a holiday celebration with all the family in attendance two weeks before he passed. The nursing center provided wonderful care and transported him to the family events. What a gift!
The Lemonade Stand
We are blessed to have our three grandchildren visit us for a week during this past summer. The lemonade stand dates back to the summer of 2011. Our granddaughters were eight and five at the time. They had lost their paternal grandfather earlier that year to metastatic lung cancer. Our daughter and son-in-law have a very strong faith as does the entire family and the girls were raised from a very early age to have a servant’s heart. As a result of their grandfather’s untimely death, they wanted to do something to raise money for the cancer society and come up with the idea of a lemonade stand. My husband, their grandfather, is a very gifted craftsman and built a lemonade stand for the girls to use when they arrived. We opened the lemonade stand one afternoon during their summer visit and they raised $65 for The American Cancer Society. It was a very proud moment for us all.
Fast forward seven years and the lemonade stand was resurrected for another great cause. Our grandson, Lincoln, has seen pictures of the lemonade stand and the lemonade stand itself in storage over the past couple of years. He loved his great-grandfather, calling him grandpa, and visited him with his family whenever he could. He loved to sit on dad’s lap and they would play with some of the interactive toys and games we had purchased for dad. When we visited him in the nursing home, Lincoln liked to push him in the wheelchair. When he talked about wanting to sell lemonade he said he wanted to do it for “people who lost their memories like grandpa did”. When Lincoln came to visit us, he helped set up the lemonade stand and helped squeeze lemons to make the lemonade. His sister made the flyers and we took them around to people in the neighborhood. The lemonade stand raised $110.00 for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Lincoln told us in his own words that he “did it so people who lose their memories could be happy and feel better and remember their memories. The money will help do things to make people like grandpa feel better. Other people should do what I did so people like grandpa remember. I did this because God teaches us to help people and love them and the Bible tells us that. It makes me feel good to help people.”
We donate to the Alzheimer’s Association because we personally witnessed this life draining disease in dad and the battle that mom fought every day to care for him and keep him with us. I also am blessed to volunteer at Apostolic Christian Restmor in Morton and encounter people every day with various stages of this mind-crippling disease. It is so obvious that the need is great to raise money for care improvement whether that be pharmacologically or personal care and to support research for the development of a cure. If this little six-year-old boy with such a big heart can raise that much money in a few hours selling lemonade, just think what can be done in other small ways or on a much larger scale to have an impact. My prayer is that through this association, individuals and families can be spared the pain and loss resulting from this terrible disease
By: Mary Jane Davis