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Navigating Alzheimer’s: Lessons from Cheryl’s Journey

Shared by David Myers:

When someone receives the diagnosis of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, they refer to it as their journey. Our Alzheimer’s journey started in July 2012 when my wife Cheryl was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 47. Cheryl was having difficulty finding locations while driving, and when simple tasks at work became too hard for her, we knew something serious was going on.

After two years of looking for an answer, we finally received the diagnosis that changed our lives. Cheryl and I enjoyed taking vacations, and one of our favorite spots was the Smokey Mountains.

“The journey is the Destination” was a quote that was on one of Cheryl’s t-shirts she got when we were in the Smokies one year, and the saying stuck way before our ALZ journey and is still a saying we use today. She loved walking the many trails in the Smokies, and when she found a guidebook called Scavenger Hikes of the Smokies, her goal was to hit all 20 hikes.

One of those hikes took us on an 8-mile adventure, where we found a locomotive that had rolled off the mountain and was left there. The guidebook gave us the opportunity to see things we would have missed on our trips to Gatlinburg, Tn. But the guidebooks only gave us the information the author had knowledge of.

We realized even with a guidebook, there were things that were not covered that could happen. What we realized was when on a journey, you just need to go with the flow and find the joy.

This Alz Journey is not unlike those adventures we enjoyed back in the Smokies. In order to make sure our loved one is safe and happy on THIS journey; you need to have the right equipment. That equipment, believe it or not, is similar to the equipment you use when you are hiking.

Wearing a hat:

You will wear many hats during this journey.

  1. Chef

  2. Housekeeper

  3. Personal secretary

  4. Nurse

  5. Attorney

  6. Chauffeur

  7. Friend

  8. And yes, even guide

Using the Guide/GPS:

The Guide is responsible to make sure you know where you are going, but sometimes, the GPS can help show where you have been as this can be just as important at times. The GPS can document the progression of the journey, so we know exactly where we are and can provide the documentation needed to help the doctors provide the best care for our loved one. The guide can provide topics to read about so you are prepared for “What’s Next.”

The Backpack can be both good and bad:

Every good guide has a backpack to keep all of the items needed for the journey. Everything goes into the backpack, just remember to leave out the burdens, fear, worry, anxiety, and all things unknown and out of your control that you might find yourself carrying as well. You never really know how long this journey will take you. Your concerns need to be shared with others to help you on your journey.

The walking stick is my favorite item:

The walking stick comes in many shapes and sizes. It is used to move objects out of the way. It is used to help us keep our balance. And it is used to lean on when we are tired. The reason the walking stick is my favorite is not just because it looks cool, but because it serves a great purpose.

In 2019, my wife Cheryl completed her Alzheimer’s journey, and that is when I realized that this journey I had been on didn’t have to stop. I may have felt like stopping, however, there is so much that I had learned over her 7-year journey that it just didn’t seem right to quit when I was still on my own journey.

Volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association is my therapy. It gives me the opportunity to talk about the love of my life, Cheryl. It also gives me the opportunity to share my story and the tools to navigate to the end and allows me to be the walking stick for others who are on this journey.

Volunteering has been one of the most important things I think I can do for my community.

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