I am truly honored and humbled to be a part of the 2016 Women’s Champions. With over 23 years of experience as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, my LOVE for working with the elderly, their families and their caregivers has become my PASSION. I have worked in a variety of settings including a skilled nursing facility, low income elderly housing, a large home care agency, an adult day care center and my own private practice. The turning point for me, the time when I realized that my “love” changed into my “passion” was soon after my Mom was diagnosed with dementia. I knew then and there that my profession had turned into my life’s work.
I have been surrounded by Alzheimer’s for as long as I can remember, I just didn’t know it. I remember when my visits to see my grandmother would also include visits from her sister, Great Aunt Dorothy. I can remember sitting in my grandmother’s living room with my brother, both of us under the age of 11, giggling to ourselves about the fact that Aunt Dorothy asked the same question 17 times in 10 minutes. We had no idea that there was a label to this absurdity. We had no clue that we would be watching our grandmother do the same in years to come and then watch our own mother slowly lose her precious memories.
About 4 years after Mom was diagnosed, we decided that she needed to have more help and supervision. After many long, emotional and difficult discussions, my mother reluctantly agreed to leave her home of over 40 years and move in with me, my husband, and our 2 children. Over the next 5 ½ years, we watched my dear mother’s memories as they were slowly erased by this horrid disease. My Mom – everyone’s favorite substitute teacher- the lady who was my best friend and my confidant as well as my life long teacher soon emerged as my guide on this new journey called “dementia.” I thought I knew what I was doing helping my clients prior to my mother’s decline; I then learned how much I DIDN’T know.
Being a caregiver for your parent is very difficult but at the same time, very joyful. Without the support of my amazing family and friends, I would never be able to face the challenges that the disease brings. At times, my patience has been tried, my emotions were raw, my temper was short and my energy low. But at the same time, we had some of the best laughs, some of the zaniest conversations, and some of the silliest times of our lives.
My mother is now 86 and living in a nursing home. Her words are hard to find and conversations are short. But she is my Mom and the reason I want to work so hard to find a cure. My passion continues to help, to love, to educate and to support as many people that I can who are affected by this disease.