I first came to know of this identity-stealing disease through the experience with my maternal grandmother. Granted, she had a stroke either before or right after I was born but, it was Alzheimer's that took her life. Due to distance, I only got to see her once a year and I don't feel that I ever really got to know her as I watched her progress from a cane to a walker and finally to a wheelchair. I remember in her later years that she would hold this cloth babydoll and would talk to her father. You do understand what I just said, right? My grandmother was talking to her father (an empty chair to the rest of us). I saw how she didn't have any control of her body and its functions and how she went through a small range of emotions. I saw how my grandmother came to be confused by her surroundings and then forget the identities of those she loved and cared for and it was just sad to watch.
I've been told that in my mother's geneology that there were others in the line that died from this same disease except, at that time, it was referred to as "hardening of the arteries of the brain".
As most of you know, I lost my mom to this disease in March 2017. To see the toll that it took on her and our family, there are no words. The strangest thing about going through this is that you have the varying emotions of sadness of course, happy that they are no longer fighting and relief at the same time. You watch the end coming and even though you don't know when it will happen, there can be some anxiety over it (at least for me anyway) but, the greater gift is knowing that through the good, bad and the ugly that you hold every moment as precious. Yep, even when they're nasty or refusing to eat or just in a bad mood, it's still beautiful. I don't know that I'm ready to share my mom's story of those final months in full detail just yet. It's been difficult just to make this update as it's been too emotional for me to do that. Not only my story in walking through this with mom but also witnessing more closely the stories of others.
I will say this though and some of you have already heard me say it. God was so totally smothered all over this situation in SO many ways - in the little things and big. I will share some of that at a later time as well. For now, I just want to express to you again that I'm so incredibly thankful for each of you that have been there for my dad, for our family, for those who visited, those who prayed, those who sent cards, provided food, those who were there in so many ways, those who have shared stories, those who have been there to comfort and offer a shoulder to cry on. (Warning: I still do at random, sorry, and thank you for understanding that too.)
This is my seventh year in being a part of the walk and although it's been difficult in numerous ways since her passing, I will not give up the fight.
One thing I cannot express enough to you is that the Alzheimer's Association is an amazing tool - - - ESPECIALLY in the Richmond area and that there's so much knowledge and help that they can, and do, provide! From support groups, people there to answer the phone 24 hours a day, guidance about financial and legal matters and things to consider, help in providing names of caregivers and facilities from all ranges of experience, respite scholarships based on need (NOT financial need) and the list goes on and on. All of that is available right here and PROVIDED at no cost to the families and individuals needing help.
The Walk to End Alzheimer's not only provides funds for all that the association does for families but it also goes towards research in finding a cure for this.
I may not be able to stop this disease on my own and I do fear that it's in my future due to my family background - - - my mother, my aunt (her sister) and my grandmother as well as others further up the line. I have also lost an uncle to Alzheimer's. I do not want to see my family suffer in watching this happen to me. All of us have seen this effect people in the community - - - in our churches, workplace, neighborhoods, friends, family, etc. I have taken my advocacy to a different level and am fighting for the cause in D.C. and with our local Congresswoman. The statistics and figures are mind-blowing, the research that the NIH is doing and is funding for other countries in this cause is amazing but, they need help. They're getting there and very close but without continued and increased funding to do the research and tests, you're looking at Alzheimers and other related dementias to break the bank on Medicare and Medicaid within our lifetime. As an ambassador, I hear more and more stories every day and the heartaches that these families experience and the struggles that they face. I have also walked through this experience. Adult children and spouses sometimes have to quit their jobs to take care of their loved one. ALL savings, assets, etc. have to be spent down in order to get help from the government. Many people don't have/can't afford long term care insurance and even if you do, the facilities are a good $7k a month approximately (some more, some less). These are only just a few of the things families face.
This is incredibly real and your help is needed NOW. You need to know that there is no particular group of people that this disease attacks. No level of education, no job that you have, no financial status you have, no matter where you live or what type of home you live in, no color of skin or nationality is eliminated from this disease! THERE ARE NO SURVIVORS!!! I will do everything within my own power to fight for and contribute towards this cause! I will take every step of this walk in memory of and honor of those who have and are fighting this disease. I also walk for all the friends and family members who are, and have, wrestled through this disease with their loved ones. As the association phrase goes, "The End of Alzheimer's Starts With Me!"
I need your support in this effort. There is NO amount that is too small. Please make a donation to help the Alzheimer's Association advance research into prevention, treatments and a cure for Alzheimer's. For the millions already affected by the disease, the Association offers care, education, support and resources in communities nationwide.
Thank you for joining our movement! The end of Alzheimer's disease starts here and it starts now!
Thank you for helping us advance Alzheimer's support, care and research!
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