When my Dad died of Alzheimer’s Disease the day before Valentine’s Day in 2001, we didn’t have a name for the disease that took away his identity. We knew that he stopped reading and doing crossword puzzles, started falling downstairs, started ordering “stuff” from the Publishers Clearinghouse mailings he used to throw away in disgust. He almost started a fire using the microwave, became belligerent instead of easy-going, was sure he saw and spoke with his parents and couldn’t be convinced otherwise with logic, had several fender benders before we took away his car keys and lost his ability to walk and to take care of himself. That is the SHORT list of changes that had occurred over a span of about ten years. We knew something was very wrong, but we didn’t know what. Once when he was randomly looking thru the many books in his house, I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he was looking for his mind. I was lucky and am grateful that he still knew who I was when he died.
When my Mom developed dementia ten years later, I was armed with lots of information courtesy of The Alzheimer’s Association. She was the one who didn’t know who I was two weeks before she died in 2013. She was worried about “her baby”, and she wasn’t talking about me. Thanks to my new information, I knew to go along with her reality instead of trying to change her mind. I reassured her that she had gotten an excellent babysitter and her baby was happily napping. On the way home in the car, I cried for the Mom whom I had lost. She never knew me again.
Dad with Alzheimer’s; Mom with dementia. Obviously I have a lot of skin in this game. It is devastating to watch a loved one disappear while they are still alive. My Dad was a research chemist with a masters degree. At the end he couldn’t even feed himself. My Mom was an R.N. who couldn’t find her way from her room to the dining room she had been going to three times a day for five years. I have seen my possible future and it is not pretty.
I learned about the Alzheimer’s Association the year that Dad died, and I have participated in the Macomb Walk to End Alzheimer’s every year since then. The 2019 Walk will be my 19th Walk. Each year I set a higher fundraising goal as I approach the age when my Dad was when he first started showing symptoms.
Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases impact us all. It could be a friend, a parent, a sibling. It could be you. Join me in raising money to find a cure and to learn more about this devastating disease. Together, we can do this.