My first exposure to Alzheimer’s was with my grandmother. She was diagnosed when she was 72. By 74 when I was in 5th grade, my grandmother moved in with us because she could no longer live alone. My parents closed in the screened porch on our house and made it into a first floor suite for my grandmother. It was perfect until she started to get out of the house in the middle of the night. We would wake up to find that she was not in the house. The police found her hours later clear across town. She once had her bra on outside of her blouse when we found her wandering down the street. We “Mama proofed” the house as best we could, putting keyed dead bolts on the inside of the doors with hidden keys so that the rest of us could get in and out. She lived with us for four years, but it became inevitable that she needed more professional care. I would visit her a few times a week and my mother visited her daily, despite the fact that her home was 40 minutes away and my mom had six kids at home. When my grandmother no longer know who we were when we would visit, my mother would still go daily. She would pay a short visit to my grandmother and then spend time with some other patients who were more aware, but had few visitors. My grandmother died at the age of 80.
As you could tell from that brief description of my mother, she was the most amazing woman I have ever known. She raised six kids and several of our friends with a smile on her face. She turned every minor holiday (Valentines’ Day, St. Patrick’s Day) into a major celebration. She was a serial volunteer for the church, our schools and several other organizations. She was energetic, positive, creative, caring and very giving. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008 at the age of 75. My father, her high school sweetheart and husband of 56 years, was a lung cancer survivor, but required several medications and lung treatments daily. We realized that my mother was slipping when she was no longer able to keep up with his meds. I watched the effects of Alzheimer’s slowly rob her of her ability to care for the man she adored for her grandchildren (her other passion), her energetic social interaction, her independence, her wonderful memories and ultimately her life. My mother lost her 7-year battle just 6 weeks ago at the age of 82.
We were blessed to have round the clock care at home for my mother by two true angels on earth. Even with the luxury of such care, the Alzheimer’s Association is an essential resource for those afflicted with or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. The services, resources and support they provide is like no other. The research they support is groundbreaking and will, no doubt, aid in the ultimate discovery of treatments, prevention and one day a cure for Alzheimer’s. It is for all of these reasons that I have eagerly gotten involved in #ENDALZ!