The Alzheimer’s Association counts on over 35,000 volunteers nationwide to help fulfill our mission. During National Volunteer Week, the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter would like to extend our gratitude to our volunteers for all they do in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease. In this article, we feature Illinois Chapter volunteer, Rose Levitt.
My name is Rose Levitt. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska, and received a degree in business from the University of Nebraska. My husband, Chuck, who passed away two years ago at the age of 68 from young-onset Alzheimer’s, was my hometown sweetheart. After college, we opened a Little Professor Bookstore in Omaha, Nebraska. Chuck was a lover of books and would speed read several at night so he could help customers choose the right book to purchase. Together, we started the Midwest Mystery Convention and eventually hosted the World Mystery Convention. One of the saddest days in this Alzheimer’s journey was when he no longer had an interest in reading.
Chuck was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010. We lived in Asheville, NC at the time where I was working as a real estate agent. That diagnosis was a shock. Alzheimer’s was suppose to be an older person’s disease. What did this diagnosis mean for a younger person? We thought we had quite a few years ahead to travel and enjoy life, so we retired to Bluffton-Hilton Head, South Carolina.
On Hilton Head, there was a wonderful organization that specializes in helping people with Alzheimer’s stay active and provide a break for caregivers. They had support groups and educational seminars to learn about Alzheimer’s. Through these classes and engaging with other caregivers I began to see how little people (including myself) knew about the disease and how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s.
My lack of knowledge led me to the Alzheimer’s Associaton website for South Carolina. That was how I learned about a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Bluffton. I contacted the walk coordinator to volunteer and soon became the walk retention chair. After three years, I could see Chuck deteriorating rapidly. I wanted to be near my family to help me through this period, and I wanted our only two grandchildren to get to know their grandfather better. So we moved to the Chicago area to be near our oldest daughter and family; a decision I am so happy we made. Our granddaughters were only two and five at the time, but they still talk about their grandfather and how they enjoyed visiting him at the memory care facility.
Once we were settled I knew I wanted to become involved with a Walk to End Alzheimer’s again. This year, I am starting my fourth year as Retention Chair for the Lake County Walk. I volunteer to not only raise money for research, but I also feel there is a real need to provide caregivers with information.
Alzheimer’s affects everyone. People diagnosed with the disease cannot be the spokesperson for finding a cure. They need their family, friends and neighbors to speak for them. Volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association is a great way to find out how you can reach out to someone to make their life easier. Remind people that Alzheimer’s can strike even at a younger age and encourage people to recognize the signs. Knowledge is valuable. Maybe one day – there will be a cure.