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Alzheimer’s Association Advocate, Abby, Shares Her Grandparent’s Story During Volunteer

Grandparents are a crucial part of a young person’s life. Unfortunately for me, at the age of 22 and a year away from getting married, I lost all four of my grandparents, two of whom passed due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Along with this, my Dad, at the age of 70, has been recently diagnosed with MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) and a form of Lewy Body’s Disease. What has most impacted me in this fight is watching someone you’ve known your whole life, forget the core memories that you made together.


My name is Abby Walker and I want to share my grandparents with you. In November 2017, the Monday before Thanksgiving, my Grandpa Gillespey passed away after a several year long fight with Alzheimer’s with my Grandma being his primary caretaker while both in their 80s living on their own. Some of my favorite memories with my Grandpa include spending the night at his house, calling him on the phone when I was just three years old, and having conversations with him about his time spent in the military back in the 1940s as a U.S. Merchant Marine. As his disease progressed, I frequently had to remind him of who I was and you could always find him in his recliner in the sunroom whenever my family would go visit. On the weekend before Thanksgiving of 2017, my mom sent me a text while I was at the movies stating that we were leaving as soon as possible because my Grandpa was in the hospital and would not survive much longer. A couple of days later, I sat in the room with just my Grandma and watched him take his last breath. As a high schooler, watching someone die in front of you and not being able to do anything about it really affected me and that’s when I began a deep dive in to advocating with the Alzheimer’s Association.

Five months later, my Grandma Walker passed away from Alzheimer’s. This occurred on Mother’s Day and one week before my high school graduation. The pain of her passing hit me in my core as I had always dreamed of having her at my high school graduation. I watched how hard it was for my Dad to be her medical power of attorney while maintaining a full-time job and having a family at home. Some of my favorite memories with her include riding in the basket of her bike and swimming at the pool in her trailer park in Fort Myers, Florida, having her do my hair whenever she came to visit, eating Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day meals at her nursing home, and my favorite by far, teaching me how to people watch by sitting at the front of Walmart while Mom and Dad were shopping.

In 2017 I participated in my first Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Now in 2023, I am going on my second year of being on the planning committee for my local walk. Throughout the years I have advocated through fundraising for the Walk and the Longest Day and attended Advocacy Day at the Illinois State Capitol. Last month I had the honor and privilege of attending the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement Advocacy Forum in Washington D.C. Along with these activities, I am the 2022 American Royal Beauties National Excellence Miss and speaking about the Alzheimer’s Association is my platform and I have had the opportunity to speak about it on national stages and in the interview room.

I am most passionate about bringing awareness of this disease to the 18-25 year old population because it is something that affects young people or most likely will in the future. I also advocate so there can be a future where grandparents and parents are there longer and to see their grandchildren and children accomplish major life achievements. If you or a loved one are suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or are a caretaker for someone who is, please reach out for support. We are in this fight together. No one fights alone. We are all praying for the day when there is a white flower in the garden representing the first survivor of Alzheimer’s. As a Political Science graduate student who is focusing on Public Policy and Public Administration, I hope that I can continue to speak for those who no longer have a voice.

As the size of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to grow, so too will the number and proportion of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias; therefore, more volunteers are needed to help us achieve our vision. Thank you to all our volunteers throughout Illinois. We honor you and all you do to help us with our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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