Caregiver finds community, lends support through women’s group

“I believe that hope and action are contagious,” shares Illinois Women Conquer ALZ (IWCA) member Patricia McClure Chessier. Patricia served as Programs Co-Chair on the IWCA Steering Committee and now participates in events such as Walk to End Alzheimer’s and Power of Purple. She wrote two books providing caregivers with resources and tools for better communication. Patricia stays involved with the Alzheimer’s Association by educating and fundraising in honor of her mother.

“My mother was the ‘rock’ of our family,” shares Patricia. Her mother lived with Alzheimer’s and eventually passed away due to complications from the disease. “It had a great impact on our family…I was the caregiver for my mother, along with my husband Eric who helped, prior to her needing a higher level of care when the disease progressed.”

Patricia’s mother attended an Adult Daycare Program while Patricia built her professional career. “I was able to take my mother to the daycare during the day while my husband and I went to work. The program was great because it gave her a routine, she remained active and was able to socially engage.

“I joined IWCA because I wanted to be a part of a group of women who had similar experiences.” She also likes the fact that the women within the group are a great support and resource to each other.

“During the time I was my mother’s caregiver, IWCA didn’t exist,” says Patricia. “However, I am confident in saying the activities IWCA provides are priceless. The IWCA Programs committee brings in speakers and panels who are very knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s, caregiving and how to handle legal matters.

Patricia was the special guest at one such IWCA event. She discussed her memoir Losing a Hero to Alzheimer’s: the Story of Pearl at an intimate author event. In her book, she covers her own experience as a caregiver for her mother and common warning signs of the disease. Patricia wrote a second book, A Caregiver’s Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia, where she gives readers nine key principles on how to be effective caregivers by avoiding power struggles, living in the moment and looking at behaviors as a form of communication. A major theme in both of Patricia’s books is that “there is life after the diagnosis.”

“I also enjoy the social activities [with IWCA] because sometimes you need to do ‘fun’ things to give yourself a mental break when you’re a caregiver,” says Patricia. “The women in IWCA know how to have clean fun and the social event benefits the fight against Alzheimer’s.”

Patricia hopes to continue sharing her story to give others hope. Through IWCA, she plans to meet new people and participate in activities that will be fun and educational. She encourages people to get involved, to bring their networks to an Alzheimer’s Association event or sponsor IWCA’s signature fundraiser Power of Purple this June.

Sign up for Illinois Women Conquer ALZ to join Patricia in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Nominations are also open for the 2022 Family Caregiver Award, which will be given at Power of Purple on June 12, 2022.

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