I am privileged - I was given Parents, Siblings, Cousins, Aunts & Uncles in abundance. Two sets of Grandparents involved as involved could be. Ball games, overnighters, track meets in state and out of state, Sunday dinners, road trips, camping trips and so much more. I could not have asked to be more privileged.
In 1999, My Grandfather, the traveler and teacher was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. This was our first taste of what Caregiving was like. And lucky for us we had that vast family to help. But the coordination of it all fell on a couple, Mimi, My Mom, and Aunt.
My Grandfather was haunted by hallucinations from World War II. There were people in trees and the war was very vivid to him. Medication was to treat the symptoms, so meds for schizophrenia were the drug of choice because of the hallucinations.
Very quickly he was confined to the house. It was the best way to manage outbursts. This was a mental challenge for my active Grandmother. So my Mom, a Vice President at Mellon Bank, altered her work schedule to work 4 long days so Mondays Gram could get out and volunteer. How many employers would allow the altered schedule and the absences to cover doctor appointments?
It was three very quick years and he was gone. My Gram was an emotional and physical mess after three years of caregiving.
In 2000, I married my husband Rob with a similar family privilege. His parents raised him and siblings closely with his Grandparents. They were all adorable loving Grandparents.
In 2005, Great Grandma Laura began to show extreme signs of Alzheimer's disease. Rob and I had experience so we became caregivers.
It was different this time. We had to rely on a Memory Care Facility for the daily care. But we were there with our two girls daily. Ice cream trips, visits just to calm her, outings for dinner and church. My Grandfather was agitated by small kids but she was comforted by them.
Great Grandma Laura was the sweetest, kindest soul. That's why we named our first born after her. They were best buds. One morning we arrived early to church and we encouraged our 4 year old Laura to used the bathroom before church started. Gram said she should go too. Laura ran over and whispered to me "Don't worry Mom, I will keep an eye on her." As they walked out of the pew, Gram turned to me and said "Don't worry I will keep on eye on her." Two peas in a pod.
Laura and Claire made many visits to play and entertain Gram and her friends. They watched the Caregivers all around.
At the young age of 5, Laura accompanied Gram's casket out of the church. Best Buds.
If there was one song to describe my relationship with my Mom it is Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath my Wings." My Mom is my guide, my strength, my wind. Mom has been the link to the entire family. Organizing get togethers, making sure we were cared for. Sometimes that meant asking Grandparents to drive, attend, help.
At the age of 10 Mom gave me my career path. I would sit with her at the kitchen table and help her pay bills and balance the bank account. That taught me what it took to run a house and a family. As I grew I wanted to follow her path. When I look at myself I laugh, of similar career, my husband is so much like my Dad, 3 beautiful children and the passion for my entire family.
Now 6 years ago Mom took an early retirement after a long career with the The Laurel Funds/ Dreyfus/ Mellon Bank/ BNYMellon. It was time for her to travel and spend more time with Mimi, Dad and her Grandchildren. It wasn't long that we began to notice her confusion and forgetfulness. We were proactive and sought answers.
The day after I called Mimi, My Gram, to tell her that Mom had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and our path would most likely lead to Alzheimer's Disease like Grandpap, Mimi had a massive stroke that she didn't come out of. She knew and she couldn't watch her daughter go through what her husband did.
But here is the good thing. Mom believes in the power of prayer. She has a great husband, 3 wonderful kids (if I do say so myself), sisters that are active and brothers that send their support. This doesn't count the grandchildren and tons of friends. We share duties and keep each other going. It's amazing.
So a few years ago I was at the Pittsburgh Walk to End Alzheimer's, I watched my daughters and niece cry because it was real to them. I said to myself I have to do more. So I reached out to the Alzheimer's Association and asked "What can I do?" I joined the walk planning committee and for the 2019 Walk. Logistics was my life so why not Chair the Logistics Team. And with this my passion continues to grow. 2021 I was the Committee Chair and now 2022 I am the Community Engagement Chairperson. The Alzheimer's Association has opened a whole new path for me. I have called the 800 support line several times for guidance and direction. I have spoken to people from memory care facilities that gave me books and literature that has helped me understand. It's a whole new perspective.
Sadness is always there, but its breeze is so soft. I now look at the privilege of having her love and guidance and that is truly the wind.
I truly would not have this positive feeling without the support of my owner, co-workers and Mike Kelly Automotive Family. With their support I am able to attend all of the doctors appointments and sit by her side when medical emergencies arise. My work family supports me with fundraisers, walk prep and sometimes a shoulder to cry on.
So I am asking you now.
** Be a volunteer
** Help me fundraise
** Start a team
** Become a sponsor
** Ask me how the Alzheimer's Association can be a part of your Community
** How can you help us find the cure to Alzheimer's and all other dementias?
Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
I have raised