My grandmother visited me for a week in 1996 when she had moderate dementia. To ease the burden of having one caregiver, my grandma traveled between her three children’s homes and would stay for up to four months at a time at each place. My home was a stop-over one year as she went from my uncle’s home to my mother’s. I was glad to have her with me, and in my hurried life with little ones, it was nice to slow down and be with grandma in her world for just a bit.
I adored my grandmother who died in 1999 with advanced dementia. But do you know what I remember the most from her visit? I remember her asking the same questions over and over, and me repeating the same answers over and over. I wasn’t prepared. She didn’t know where she was or who I was. And whoever I was, I had some of her things that I needed to give back to her! Talk about a crash course in dementia. To go from the grandma who used to love on me and call me her “little dumpling” to not knowing me at all was tough — shocking even.
I didn’t know at the time that my dear grandmother would be practice for what lay ahead.
Fast forward to 2005. I am with my mother in the kitchen and she doesn’t know what to do or how to help. She is lost and seems to find comfort staying at the sink and washing dishes. She is clearly overwhelmed, and this is the moment when I knew. She is 68 and slipping away so incrementally it’s almost impossible to see — but I see it here in her face, at the sink in the kitchen.
In 2008 mom can no longer pay bills or make a phone call, and caring for her home has slipped through her fingers like the hair she no longer combs. Eventually, the names of mom’s friends, children, grandchildren, and even her own name, are gone. Mom could hardly communicate at the end, long after she lost the ability to do most everything else.
Mom died this year at the age of 75. Her Death Certificate lists “Alzheimer’s Dementia” as her cause of death, which I’m grateful for in this under-reported disease.
I walk for those who are already gone. I walk for the more than 5 million Americans who don’t know who they are or who you are, and for their families who love them. I walk for the 15 million caregivers in this country who are too overwhelmed and exhausted to walk. I walk for the billions of dollars needed to make the National Alzheimer’s Plan an ACTION plan. I walk for my children, and my future grandchildren. I walk for my grandmother, my mom, and for me.
I walk to be seen and heard and I walk because I HOPE.
It’s not too late to register to walk or to donate. Go to the Winchester – Shenandoah Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s to join my team and/or make a donation. Look for Racing Alzheimer’s. Get more information HERE.