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Tammy's Heartbreaking Journey: Sharing Her Mom's Story with Alzheimer's During Alzheimer's Volunteer Week (April 16 - April 22)

Author: Tammy D.

I thought I’d seen it all, but nothing prepared me for the day in February 2018 when my mom, Joan, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. It all happened on the way to a craft show when she started repeating herself, and suddenly I knew something was wrong. My dad had noticed some worrying things like her needing help remembering things and writing checks. That's when we realized it was time to get her checked out by a doctor.

I looked at the Alzheimer's website for information and gave my mom some cognitive skill tests at home. It was worse than I had hoped: She could no longer count money back or tell me the time. We decided to go to a neurologist, and that was when it all became official, she had Alzheimer's.

The neurologist confirmed no cure was available, and that's when it hit me in the face. I felt like my heart had dropped into my stomach. To see the look on my father’s face was the second hit.

I knew this was going to be a long and difficult journey for our family. We had a good year with my mom while she was on the medication, but it started to take a toll on my father; he was tired, run-down, and not eating well. I had my mom at home during the day to care for her, but I was working from home at this time due to COVID and wanted to give my dad a rest.

We took comfort in the fact that we were not alone on this journey. I could always rely on the Alzheimer's website for many questions and webinars to help my mom. They often had answers for us when we felt like no one else did.

One night, I was with my mom and dad playing cards with my brother. I showered my mom, washed her hair, dressed her, and got ready to tuck her into bed. While dressing her, she asked me, "Can you get my daughter if she is still here? I want to say good night." At that moment, my heart broke. Here was this amazing woman, yet she could not remember that I was her daughter. I walked the short distance to the kitchen, returned to the bedroom, and said with a witty yet compassionate tone, "Hi, Mom; I hear you wanted to say good night." She looked at me lovingly and said, "Good night. I love you." Tears filled my eyes as I responded, "I love you too, Mom." She then asked me if the lady caring for her and the cleaning lady were still there because she wanted to speak with them. I said yes, and at that moment, for a few minutes, we were the same three people - daughter, cleaning lady, and caregiver.

It is horrible when they look at you, and you know they have no idea who you are. Ever since then, I have been telling everyone the same two things: First, "time is the most precious gift in life!" and second, we lose our loved ones twice.

My mother passed away in May 2021, and my father passed away due to lung cancer shortly before that. I was determined to make the most of the time left with them and to help others, so I got involved with the Alzheimer's Association to raise awareness and funds for research.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 2022 Facts and Figures report, conversations with family members and health care providers outreach and educational messages may empower individuals to seek help when they become concerned about cognitive issues. 

Community-based, participatory educational campaigns are another way to reach people who may not believe their problems are serious enough to warrant a medical visit. A dialogue between individuals with cognitive concerns, their families, and their physicians is a crucial first step on a journey toward understanding the magnitude of the issue.

The report also shows the need for care, support, and research for the 6.7 million Americans with Alzheimer’s. Behind these numbers are friends, family, and loved ones, which is the reason why I fight. My hope is that no other daughter or son ever has to face such grief, sorrow, and despair again. I vow to never forget my parents, their love and dedication, and the hope I have for a brighter future.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's is a long, arduous journey. I hope my story helps give you the strength and courage to make the best of this time, no matter how hard it might be. Together, with the help of the Alzheimer's Association, we can make a difference in this fight.

To our volunteers, you strengthen, empower & inspire our communities. Your stories of love and hope remind others they are not alone and move the fight to #ENDALZ forward. During #NationalVolunteerWeek and always, we thank you for being the heart of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers free local support throughout the state, including support groups, education, and the Association’s 24/7 Helpline 1-800-272-3900. This support can be a lifeline to caregivers. The Alzheimer's Association website and the phone number were my lifelines during my difficult time. If you are dealing with Alzheimer's disease in your family, I urge you to take advantage of these invaluable resources.



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