I remember the moment I asked my dad if he saw anything different about my mom's behaviors. He said he had noticed and asked her if she would go to the doctor. She vehemently said no and said she was 'fine' and it was "normal to forget things as you get older".
I felt like the worst daughter in the world when I took my mom to see a neurologist three days after my dad passed. She was crying and asking me why I was doing this to her. She had just lost her husband of 50+ years. My heart was broken, but I knew my choices were limited. I knew she couldn't live alone in NY while I was in Florida.
I can still see my mom's face when the doctor asked her to draw a clock, just the numbers 1-11. He had drawn the circle and the number 12 at the top. She was able to get to 3 and started crying "I just lost my husband. I've been with him since I was a little girl. Why are you doing this to me?". I remained stoic and asked my mom to do the best she could, while inside I literally felt myself start to fall apart.
Alzheimer's runs on both sides of my family so I immediately knew what this meant for my mother's future. I was determined to get her on medication as quickly as I could, hoping it would be enough to stop the progression and keep her with me that much longer. I remember running the full gamut of emotions from depression, anger, frustration, sadness and selfishness. Most people call me 'a good daughter' and can't fathom why I would feel selfish. Imagine for just one second, your mom sobbing, begging you to just let her grieve and not ask her to remember words or draw 'things'.
It's been 6 years since my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She lives with me and my wife in Florida. Since the last time we walked, mom has declined quite a bit. She must be supervised 24/7, she needs prompting for tasks we all take for granted such as eating or going to the bathroom, and she can get frustrated pretty quickly. All of our lives have changed dramatically, but we do our best to keep mom smiling every day.
UPDATE: It has been 7 years since my mother was diagnosed with this horrific disease. I would give anything to go back to her only needing to be supervised. Mom is now bed bound and can no longer do anything for herself including hold her own head up. Mom spends the majority of her days/nights sleeping and jerking her body uncontrollably as though she has Parkinson's. If mom is awake for several hours so we can feed her and give her drinks with thickener in it so she doesn't choke, it's a good day. Mom can no longer communicate in any fashion and at times she will repeat one word for up to 20 minutes. Why? We will never know. Why? Because Alzheimer's is like watching your loved one become schizophrenic in front of your eyes. Nothing makes sense anymore and nothing ever will again.
Millions of people are affected by Alzheimer's, each story is different, each face is unique, and each one can be helped with our efforts. I refuse to believe we can't end Alzheimer's. There is a fix waiting to be found and we can't stop looking until we find it.
I walk for my mom. I walk for my wife who quit her job to be a caregiver. I walk for those in my family who lost their battle too early. But mainly, I walk to find the cure that will put an end to anyone having to suffer from Alzheimer's ever again.
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