A Life of Harmony and Compassion: Debi Shandling’s Journey with Alzheimer’s

I’m Debi Shandling, a 70-year-old woman who cherishes life’s melodies and embraces the beauty of family, hobbies, and community. Married since 1980 to my music school sweetheart, we share two children, three grandchildren, and a passion for bike riding, ballroom dancing, and savoring meals together. In 1980, I founded our family business, “Debi’s Piano Tuning and Repair Service,” which my son Trevor later joined.

As retirement beckons, my days off are dedicated to nurturing my love for quilting, gardening, and relishing moments with my grandchildren. For the past 24 years, I’ve volunteered as a horticulturist at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, contributing to the sensory and circle gardens. My commitment extends to my congregation, Makom Solel Lakeside, where I sing in the choir, serve on the gardening committee, and engage in the librarian’s book group.

My connection with the Alzheimer’s Association stems from a personal journey. My sister Laura, two years my senior, faced the relentless grip of Alzheimer’s in her late 40s. I have always been compared to her, with her being smarter and prettier…When she stopped caring about her appearance and was staring into space a lot…I didn’t put it together. Once I asked her if she was going to do a duet at her daughters’ recital. Her response was “I forgot how to play the piano!” She was an English teacher and loved school. Once she was diagnosed her husband had to take away her car driving privileges, get a caregiver and drastically change their plans of traveling together. I would visit my sister in the evenings so her husband could go bowling. When she still could talk, she said “don’t forget about me!”

Witnessing her cognitive decline, from forgetting piano chords to losing the ability to talk and read, was heart-wrenching. Laura lived seven challenging years with Alzheimer’s, each day worse than the last, until pneumonia claimed her life.

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Motivated by Laura’s struggle, I advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness. Companies and organizations must engage with the Alzheimer’s Association because addressing this pervasive issue can make the world a better place. Personally, my involvement has softened my heart, offering solace to my 92-year-old mother NOW suffering with memory loss.  Advocating for getting involved in the Alzheimer’s Association allows me to make a positive impact in memory of my sister, Laura Laney.

Alzheimer’s is slow, mean, and unforgiving. It impacts lives indiscriminately, leaving no room for escape. Through my experiences, I implore others to be unwavering in their support for loved ones facing this relentless disease. As I navigate life with my mother, who often doesn’t recognize me, I find strength in participating in the Memory Walk and fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association. Together, we can strive for a world without Alzheimer’s.

Together, we can make even greater strides for the individuals and families navigating this journey. We hope you’ll join us again for a Walk to End Alzheimer’s near you. Register today to continue our momentum toward a future without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia! Click here to find your walk.

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