My story with Alzheimer’s begins with the story of two amazing women champions.
Marjorie is my first champion: a distinguished woman - intelligent, compassionate, witty, and generous of soul. I have wonderful childhood memories of her smirky smile, a dry comment under her breath, her lanky walk. She always looked like she was ready for the golf course. I think she lived in her golf cleats. In my teen years she was moved to a nursing home for her ‘senility’. These memories shift to disturbing ones of overmedication side effects and wheelchair restraints. My sacred memories are the ones of her tender touch and the glimpses of the familiar twinkle in her eye – strong reminders of her presence beneath the mask of her disease. She was still there, seeking a connection – a connection that reminds me of the ‘people’ who are present in spite of Alzheimer’s. Marjorie, my grandmother, died in 1982 at 76 years of age.
Patsy is my second champion - also a distinguished woman, highly intelligent, caring, self-sacrificing to a fault, demure in attitude, rarely revealing the fullness of her mind or abilities. In my teen years, Patsy became the caregiver to Marjorie: a loving and faithful companion, vigilant advocate, dedicated nurse. Her steadfast compassion and empathy never wavered. Her insistence for dignity in life and death never ceased. Patsy, my mother, continues to give of herself, and although she is alive and well at 80 years of age, she lives with an underlying fear that her life with end because of Alzheimer’s.
I didn’t set out to work professionally with families affected by Alzheimer’s, but now I know these two women had a strong influence in my arrival here. I’m grateful for them both, and for their impact on me. Each day they inspire me to give fully and completely of all I am to work for a better life for people living with Alzheimer’s and for those who love them. Building on Marjorie and Patsy’s legacies, I can only hope that my children and grandchildren will look back on my life and be thankful for my part in creating a world without Alzheimer’s disease.