Family and friends—
Thank you for visitng my page! I am honored to be a participant in this year's Dancing Stars of Dalton event. When I committed to dancing, I also made the commitment to raise both awareness and $25,000 on behalf of the Alzheimer's Association--funds which help provide further Alzheimer's research, as well as care and support for those with Alzheimer's/other dementias and their families.
When I was a little girl, my great uncle was diagnosed with dementia, and this was at a time with the word ‘dementia' was still relatively new in its difference from Alzheimer’s. I was very close to my uncle Richard—I actually called him “Richie Rich”, though not because he was rich. He was kind and loving and playful. He would carry me around on his shoulders and tell me little jokes. I was an only child in a big family for six years, so the adults in my life were a big part of who I was and how I identified myself in the world. I remember when he first started showing signs: there were whispers between my great aunt, Richard’s wife, and her parents and sisters; talk of him not remembering small day-to-day tasks and placements. The disease grasped him quickly, and my Richie Rich was soon placed in a facility in Dalton. He could no longer speak or eat or use the restroom on his own, and he was no longer able to recognize loved ones—or so they said. And yet, he knew his wife when she came into the room; he knew her by her voice and the way she tended to him while there. My last memory of him (and it would be the last time I saw him before he passed), he knew me: I walked into his room—after they told me he wouldn’t know who I was—and his eyes beamed. He KNEW me. He smiled. And we, my great aunt and my Richie Rich, we sat there. I don’t remember what I said to him, but I imagine it was one of his jokes he always told me.
Fast forward 16 years: I’m in college, two hours away. I receive a call from my mom, explaining my grandpa was almost arrested for “stealing” milk and cheese from the gas station just down from his house. He forgot to pay. Months leading up to this moment, my mom and nana had been watching my grandpa: his short-term memory seemed to be in the gutters, while he could recount stories from his boyhood with exceptional precision; his temper was nearly uncontrollable and out-of-character; and he always seemed to be losing his keys. They finally agreed to take him to a doctor, where he was then diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Luckily, unlike my great uncle Richard, they could prescribe my grandpa some medication that would help—but only help. It won’t stop the Alzheimer’s from taking his memories. But it does help make his days easier. And it helps us as a family.
Both my Richie Rich and grandpa are, sadly, just two of my loved ones that have suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia. I’ve lost other loved ones—a great-grandmother and great-grandfather—to Alzheimer’s, as well. And my husband’s grandfather is also currently battling Alzheimer’s.
When Nancy asked me to dance, it wasn’t just an honor because of the great work our community is and has been doing to help provide further Alzheimer's research, as well as care and support for those with Alzheimer's/other dementias and their families, but also because I now have the chance to honor the memory of my great uncle and great grandparents, and the lives my grandpa’s continue to fight for each day.
Currently, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's and that number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. And if you do make a contribution and vote for me, thank you—it’s more personal than you know.
Always my best,
Sydney Bolding Thomason
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