Four and a half years ago I was looking for something to do outside of work to feel a little bit more engaged in life. As many do, at the time I had several diseases that had impacted my life. I called a few organizations working to end those diseases and ended up being connected with the Young Champions, a group of young professionals dedicated to changing the face of Alzheimer’s. At my first meeting, Breanna Olson came to share that she was bringing Blondes vs. Brunettes (now RivALZ) to the Twin Cities after playing in DC. I was hooked.
It’s hard to believe now we are kicking off our 5th season and that I am serving as Team Blonde Chair for the third year. Now, I am looking back very differently than I would have without this organization. I've realized the impact Alzheimer's has had on my family and continues to have on others.
My grandma died from Alzheimer’s disease. My grandparents lived in Ohio so I did not see the challenges her, my grandpa and aunt faced routinely. When my grandparents would visit, my grandma would call my dad “old what’s his face” and she would always share and share the story about how she worked in a department store when she was in her twenties. But then it got worse. At my mom’s funeral my grandma asked my grandpa where they were. She didn’t even know she was at her own daughter’s funeral. My grandpa was so sad – he had just lost his daughter and after being married for over 60 years it was clear he was also losing his wife.
As a stubborn German man, my grandpa refused to have help caring for my grandma. Then one May morning my aunt called my grandparent’s home a few times to talk to him and after my grandma told her he was out doing woodwork after a number of calls, she went to check on them. My grandpa has quit doing woodwork at that point to have constant eyes on my grandma. My aunt found my grandma in her rocking chair with her robe over her clothes from the evening before and my grandpa on his bedroom floor, knee rubbed raw. He had suffered a stroke and survived, but was never the same.
I am sharing this for a few reasons. One is because I think everyone should take the time to appreciate each story, tackle Alzheimer’s because of each story, each connection, and each changed life.
I also want to thank everyone who has been involved or donated the past few years. You probably didn’t know how much of an impact you have had on my life. Without this group, this event, I would not be giving my grandparents story or Alzheimer’s disease the attention it deserves. A disease that someone in the US develops every 66 seconds. A disease that is will cost our nation $236 billion with other dementias this year.
Please consider donating to my page and/or participating in RivALZ Blondes Twin Cities yourself. Together we can tackle Alzheimer's! Thanks!