Alzheimer's is something I am extremely passionate about. My mom started working at Maple Court when I was 11 years old. Since then, I have become close to many of the residents, adding lots of extra special "grandmas" in my life. I have also been able to observe and experience the devastating disease, Alzheimer's. Two special women, Winnie Clements and Shirley Carr, are perfect examples of resident's that took on the "grandma" role with me and battled Alzheimer's.
At 11 years old, I wanted to go to work with my mama one day over summer break. Mama agreed but said I couldn't stay with her. Instead I had to volunteer and find someone I could help. That was when I met Miss Winnie. She was a sweet, kind lady who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Miss Winnie and I clicked. Due to her Alzheimer's, she didn't know the workers names or my mama's name, but that didn't stop me from going to spend every day with her. She would go to activities, as long as I went with her. She called me her Griffin Georgia boy and she knew exactly who I was each day I came, which left my mom and her co-workers amazed. Unfortunately, Miss Winnie fell and ended up having to move to the nursing home. My mom dropped me off every morning on her way to work and picked me up every afternoon. Miss Winnie and I would spend our day talking, crocheting, and rolling in the wheelchair down the halls of the nursing home. I stayed with Miss Winnie every weekday until my summer break ended. Once school, football, and soccer practice started, the time I got to spend with Miss Winnie became less and less. However, I was on student council and we were able to go to the nursing home to pass out candy canes for Christmas. After delivering candy canes to several resident's rooms, I caught a glimpse of Miss Winnie coming out of the beauty shop. In complete excitement, I ran over to Miss Winnie and gave her a big hug and a candy cane. Little did I know she had forgotten who I was. She looked at me and politely asked in her soft, sweet voice, "What is your name?" At that moment, my heart broke. Sadly, Ms. Winnie is no longer with us, but she will never be forgotten and will always have a special place in my heart.
The next lady to make a huge impact on my heart is Ms. Shirley Carr. I didn't meet Ms. Shirley until after I graduated high school, when she came to live at Maple Court. Ms. Shirley was a sweet, loving, caring, kind, spunky and full of advice lady. We hit it off from day one! Ms. Shirley would always give me advice on girls and say "Don't worry, the right girl is right around the corner". She would joke and say if only she were younger. Ms. Shirley had a smile that would light up a room. As her disease progressed, she was moved to the Memory Care Unit at Cypress Pond. I went and visited her several different times. She would always smile and know just who I was until the last couple of visits. On my last visit with Ms. Shirley, I leaned down as she was lying in her bed and told her I loved her. And as best she could, Ms. Shirley said it back. I also told her that I would be dancing for her, so that is exactly what I am doing. As I write this, on the morning of January 12th, Ms. Shirley has gone home to be with the Lord, but she will forever hold a special place in my heart. The picture on my page is Ms. Shirley (look at that pretty smile) and Santa aka...me.
Alzheimer's is an awful, disgusting disease. It does not discriminate; anyone can get this disease. Although rare to show signs before 40, the youngest ever diagnosed was 27. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer's. More than 5 million American's are living with it, there are approximately 700,000 people dying each year because they have it, and 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer's or another dementia. In 2016, Alzheimer's was the only cause of death among the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. So please take a stand with me and help put an end to Alzheimer's. Please donate and let's find a cure to #EndAlz.
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