Riding for David & Olga
About four years ago, my dad had a stroke, and his diagnosis after it was positive. What we didn’t realize, is that he had a number of underlying issues that hadn’t yet been diagnosed. Six months after the stroke, it was clear he wasn’t getting better. After lots of tests, appointments with doctors and a mis-diagnosis, a team of neurologists determined he had Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). It is a terrible diagnosis, as LBD is a form of dementia that impacts memory and movement. Fortunately for him, he has a great team of doctors in Cleveland, a wonderful primary caregiver in my mom, and a number of caregivers who come in each day to help. While my dad will not ever get better, and, in fact, will get worse and worse as the days, weeks, months and years progress, we are trying to make him as comfortable was possible as he lives in his new reality.
This is exactly what we did for my maternal grandmother, Olga Johnson – also known as Grandma OJ – when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early 80’s. In fact, we moved back to Cleveland from Dexter, Maine to help manage her care needs. She lived with the disease for almost two decades. It was not a great way to see my very active and charitable grandmother live her life in her final years.
When I learned that a colleague rode in the Alzheimer’s Ride each year, I decided it would be a great way to honor my dad and Grandma OJ and committed to riding. Last year’s ride was tough for me. My bike was giving me issues – the seat was set-up all wrong – and then to my surprise when I crossed the finish line, I completely broke down. I’m still not sure why, except, dad and grandma were on my mind most of the ride. It’s hard to imagine living with a dementia related disease – I’m sure the helplessness is overwhelming and at that moment, I think that’s what I felt for them.
So, I do this for dad, grandma, and every person who has lived or lives with a dementia diagnosis. It’s not easy on anyone.