My dad went to lunch. Then he went missing for 24 hours.
About the Author: Jonna White of Rensselaer, Indiana, lost her father, John, to Alzheimer’s in 2010. Jonna, an avid cyclist for more than 19 years, will participate in the inaugural Alzheimer’s Association Ride to End ALZ in Austin, Texas, in April 2019.
When we found him 30 miles from home, he was still very confused and disoriented. This was the beginning of the end.
My dad had Alzheimer’s.
We watched as his forgetfulness increased, and he began to talk more about things in the past rather than the present. Then he started to have personality and behavioral changes, his physical health began to decline, and slowly his mind slipped away for longer periods of time.
He would say, “I have that Alzheimer’s like Mom did, don’t I?”
My grandmother, his mother, also had Alzheimer’s disease. She lived with us for a time so we could care for her, so he knew all too well about Alzheimer’s. Although I like to believe he reached a point where he no longer knew he had the disease, I know he was terrified.
When I learned of my dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I accepted it and hoped for the best. My family focused on treasuring everyday moments and began appreciating the time when my father seemed present. I leaned on my sisters, they leaned on me, and we did everything we could to help my mother, our father’s primary caregiver. We all looked for opportunities to find humor to offset our difficult situation. We had to laugh so we wouldn’t cry.
I am participating in the inaugural Alzheimer’s Association Ride to End ALZ for my parents.
The hardest part of my Alzheimer’s journey was watching my hero be destroyed by the disease. I watched my dad slip away … and was powerless to stop it.
I couldn’t save my father, but I can raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research so that future generations diagnosed with the disease and their loved ones don’t feel so powerless.
I participated in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s two years after my father passed. It was a memorial walk for me, my mother, my sisters and our families. Now I am excited to be participating in the very first Ride to End ALZ in Austin, Texas – riding in memory of my father, John, and in honor of my mother, Janeth.
Fundraising: From Intimidation to Success
The fundraising minimum for Ride to End ALZ was intimidating at first because I struggle with the idea of directly asking people for donations. But when I found out that 100 percent of the funds raised help advance research for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s, I knew this was something I could do!
I credit my fundraising success to my family. We are a large group that has many different, long-term relationships within our local communities. I’ve also found success using a Facebook Fundraiser for my Ride. It was easy to set up, and it’s a less direct way to ask people to donate. I think personalizing my story was helpful, and posting updates to my page generated donations when people started sharing my page.
To raise awareness of Ride to End ALZ, I decorated a Christmas tree in Alzheimer’s purple that was on display in my town throughout the holidays. I attached information about Ride, created photo sleeves and ornaments, and invited others to add photos and names of loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s. Not only did the tree show just how many people are affected by the disease, but I’ve been told that many people found it therapeutic to honor and remember their loved ones this way. It was so special to see all the love everyone had shared.
My family was fortunate to have five years with my dad after his symptoms of dementia began, and it seemed like he still knew us all up until the end. I know other families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease do not always have the same experience. That is why I support Alzheimer’s Association’s mission, why my family walked and why I’m riding – in hopes of helping future generations diagnosed with the disease and the loved ones who will care for them.