My mother Betsy was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the young age of 55 years old. We saw signs that something was wrong before her diagnosis, and her employer even called us to express concern over her behavior at work. We initially thought my mom had a hearing problem because we would talk to her and she would do something other than what we discussed or immediately would forget what we talked about, but we never imagined that she had Alzheimer’s, as we learned after multiple doctors visits and tests.
My parents divorced when I was very young. Sadly in her mid-50’s, my mom was no longer able to work, and we did not want her living alone. We sold my mother’s home, and she moved in with my beloved Grandmother so she could care for her. We saw the incredible toll caring for my mother took on my Grandmother, but she watched over her until it was too much for her, and she could no longer leave my mom alone because she started to wander.
My mom lived in a facility for two years before she died in 2013 at the age of 62, but she was never far from my grandmother’s thoughts. In fact, my grandmother died 10 days after my mother’s death, because her job was done.
In 2017, the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter established a task force to explore the impact Alzheimer’s has on women. This led to the creation of Illinois Women Conquer ALZ (IWCA), the first women’s group for the Illinois Chapter. I was asked to Chair the group and joined the Board of the Illinois Chapter in the summer of 2017. Now, almost two years later, IWCA has grown to over 70 members and has raised over $100,000. IWCA has provided multiple education programs and networking opportunities connecting women that share our passion for ending this disease. IWCA also held two very successful fundraising celebration luncheons called Power of Purple–which raised critical funds and awareness of Alzheimer’s impact on women. In 2018, we also had our first IWCA Walk team participate in the Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer’s!
I do the work I do for the Alzheimers’s Association because watching my mom slowly slip away way was heartbreaking and took a tremendous toll on our family. I want to do more to make an impact. And unfortunately, stories like mine are not unique.
Women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic, and the stats are astounding. Of the 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of them are women. Women in their 60s are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer. Not only are women more likely to have Alzheimer’s, they are also more likely to be caregivers of those with the disease. In the United States alone, about 13 million women are either living with or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
It is because of all of these reasons that IWCA was formed to engage and empower more women in the fight against Alzheimer’s. This year we are once again Walking as a team, so together we can raise critical funds to help provide education programs, care and support to those struggling with the disease in Illinois and to drive research towards treatment, prevention and ultimately a cure.
I Walk because I lost my mother, my children lost their grandmother and my grandmother lost her daughter far too young… and I am not alone. I Walk so that one day other families won’t suffer as mine did. I Walk so hopefully one day there will be a world without Alzheimer’s.
Please click on the below links to register to Walk with the IWCA team at either of the three Walks listed below. Registration is easy! If you are unable to participate please consider making a tax-deductible donation-any contribution helps those impacted by this horrible disease.
To learn more about IWCA, click here.
I hope to see you in a sea of Purple joining us to Walk to End Alzheimer’s this fall.