I would like to invite you to join me in leading the way to Alzheimer's first survivor by participating in the Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's®. Currently, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's and that number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050. Our future is at risk unless we can find a way to change the course of this disease.
Alzheimer's has affected our family personally. In true form, like everything else they did together in their 65 years of marriage, both my mother, Elaine, and father, Gerald, were diagnosed with the disorder in 2011-2012. Mom lost her battle with the disease at 89 years of age in January, 2020 and dad lost his battle at age 91 in April, 2020. Both of my parents were in strong physical condition until the cognitive and other components of the disorder began taking hold several years ago. Together, they said, they were a whole person, keeping each other in check.
Both mom and dad were my steady rocks all of my life--even in their declining conditions. To see their struggle with the inherent confusion, anxiety, and fear that comes along with Alzheimer's remains one of the greatest challenges of my life. Mom and dad spent their entire life taking care of their three children and families as well as serving as pillars and giving selflessly to their network of friends and community. Even as they suffered and needed help themselves, they resisted, always feeling that certainly someone else needed assistance more than they did.
The disorder impacted mom and dad at different rates and in different ways. Dad remained physically strong and with quick wit and good humor though struggling immensely with the loss of independence and the incredible stress of trying to take care of the love of his life without full ability or control in doing so. Mom was wheelchair bound and functionally nonverbal for a couple of years. However, she remained able to capture a room with her smile and infectious giggles. Despite the very progressed nature of the disorder in their later days, mom and dad continued to give their gifts to one another, myself and my family. They showed peace and enjoyment at being together and, though not always able to utter my name, they always showed recognition and incredible love, tenderness, and joy at seeing myself and my family whenever we were with them.
We were so blessed to be recipients of such gifts for so many years--they were able to continue to give even when things were so difficult for them. I miss their gifts of love, laughter and reminders that, no matter how bad things are, there is always something for which we can and should be grateful. Mom's t-shirt she wore proudly says it all and was both mom and dad in true form--my "Happy Campers". I miss the even small moments of joy and togetherness as a family as we continued to make memories even to their very last days. Their memory and their values, and even their attributes live on in myself as well as my husband and children.
It would mean so much if you might be able or willing to help end Alzheimer's disease through any level of participation. Please join us at the walk, make a donation, or share a story to help in supporting the awareness, support, care and understanding of Alzheimer's and the life and loving of Gerry and Elaine Arffa--my rocks of wisdom, support, love and family.
Thank you for joining the fight!
My very best,
Naomi and the Happy Campers
Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
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