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Why I Walk… Betsy’s Story

Betsy Skibinski is a resident of Palatine, Illinois and an active member of the Lost Souls team for our Northwest Suburban Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Betsy lost her mother to Alzheimer’s after a twelve-year fight against the disease, inspiring her collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association. Betsy has two adult sons and six grandchildren who she loves very dearly. Retired from teaching English, Drama and Speech and then corporate sales, she currently designs costume jewelry in her private, 1000 square foot studio. From necklaces to bracelets and earrings, Betsy has “never met a bead she didn’t like”. You can see Betsy’s work on Etsy.

Betsy’s mother, Jeanie Gibbs was an active member of her community in both Rockford, Illinois and Sun City West, Arizona. In Rockford, she was the head of the Pink Ladies volunteer group at the Rockford Memorial Hospital. Upon moving to Sun City West, she became involved with the Lioness Group and many other community associations. Jeanie was an avid lover of fashion and jewelry, boasting a shoe collection of over 300 pairs. She hosted parties at her apartment in Sun City West and remained a central and unifying member of her community for years before her diagnosis.

Betsy began to notice a change when her mother started struggling with balance. She would lose her stability when using the stairs or stepping off a curb. Because her family didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s, they did not realize the source of the problem. After Betsy’s father passed away, she began calling and visiting Jeanie more frequently, as they lived in different cities. She began to notice changes in her mother’s behavior. Jeanie would insist upon putting away Betsy’s car keys and purse in places where Betsy couldn’t find them. She poured herself a glass of orange soap thinking it was orange juice. Betsy learned that her mother’s assisted living dinner mates didn’t want to sit with her any longer due to her repetition of words and stories.

Upon visiting her doctor, she was originally diagnosed with cognitive impairment. The doctor told them to be patient, as the disease would progress. Betsy was forced to take away her mother’s keys, and moved her into a care center, across from her former apartment. In her new home, Jeanie began sitting by the door and waiting for someone to enter so she could sneak out. Betsy had to maintain constant communication with the day and night staff so that she could monitor her mother’s movements and activities.

Betsy was heartbroken when the time came when Jeanie no longer recognized her. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, she just stopped speaking. Betsy was in Sun City visiting when Alzheimer’s finally took her mother’s life. “Although it was a long process, I loved my mom so much, and I know in my heart I did the very best I could.”

Betsy’s experience inspired her to become involved with the Northwest Suburban Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She’s hosted fundraisers and designed and sold bracelets to support her Lost Soul’s walk team. As a part of the Lost Souls walk committee, Betsy travels as a mentor to Rotary Clubs, Knights of Columbus, Lion’s Clubs, and various retirement homes to educate and fundraise for the cause. “I find it very rewarding to create this awareness by talking about my mom’s journey, and sharing a book called “My Mom”, that my mom and I had created together with my mom’s personal likes and photos of the family.”

In her sixth year as an active member of Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Betsy continues her work supporting the Lost Souls team and contributing to the fight to end Alzheimer’s. “A big thank you to the Alzheimer’s Association for the care and support to aid the families, as caregiving is a daunting task.”



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Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter

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