My journey with Alzheimer’s began in 2001 when my mother was diagnosed with end stage renal disease. Her health slowly began to unravel. Coming from a big family, none of us understood what was going on. Besides we were all busy with life…in other words we were in denial.
During this time my mother always seemed to be in a confused, angry and accusatory state. She’d become agitated with me when I’d stop by to visit. It was a beautiful crisp Thanksgiving Day when she suddenly became very agitated with me and strongly suggested I leave her house or she’d call the police. Needless to say, that was not my fondest Thanksgiving memory. It was a painful time. Alzheimer’s was slowly taking away the mother I knew and loved. I wanted to believe that the doctor was wrong, that all I needed to do was pray, pray, and pray harder. My mother was strong, beautiful and courageous, she’d fought many hard battles and won but — Alzheimer’s was relentless.
As I left I thought about the countless Sunday afternoons she and I spent cooking together in our bright sunny yellow kitchen. Sundays were always filled with family, friends, and neighbors. But that was the past and as much as I wanted Alzheimer’s to go away - it wouldn’t.
I decided to try to understand this strange disease so that I could conquer my fear and help my mother through it. In 2006 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association where met Clemme Rambo, who threw me a life line of hope in the form of the monthly Breakfast Club support group. I’d look forward to those second Saturdays to gather with other caregivers on the journey of Alzheimer’s. It was important for me to know that I wasn’t alone and others were there to encourage me to stay strong and care for myself as well.
It is for all of those reasons and more that I began working for the Alzheimer’s Association - Heart of America Chapter. I want to let others know that there is “HOPE.” And, from time to time, I hear the words of a respected and trusted colleague when families call and share their stories… “And so we keep fighting when confronted with the interruption of Alzheimer’s because, things can get better.” That is to say when we understand that Alzheimer’s isn’t the end of the journey but the beginning, our perspective changes and we are better able to cope as those who care for those with memory loss.