My mother, Gloria, used to be a loving, welcoming, energetic person. She played golf and was a mater bridge player; she socialized, and she was always happy. In fact, “Happeee” was even on her license plate. It was the piece of herself she was most proud of – that she was always feeling great. Than, we started to see changes. Mom became depressed. Sometimes, we couldn’t get her to eat or come out of her room for days. She would sleep all the time. She became angry and confused about little things. She lost her way while driving to a familiar doctor; it scared her, and she didn’t leave the house for over a week after that. Mom’s symptoms became such a strange and scary phenomena for our family – she just didn’t seem like herself anymore. One horrible Christmas Eve, she was supposed to take a five-minute drive from my brother’s house to mine. Over the next four hours, we made several calls to 911 and the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline, and drove around aimlessly in panic trying to find her. Silver Alerts were issued, and we were all so distraught. I, in particular, was such a wreck, as every worst-case scenario came to mind. Just past midnight, a kind soul called us from Tampa which was three hours away. He had my mom; she had run out of gas, had no money and could only remember my phone number. She had no idea how she’d gotten there or how long she’d been gone. That was a dark time for all of us. We took the car away, and mom didn’t speak to anyone for awhile. She was angry and hurt, but mostly, I think she was really scared…so was I.
Mom was diagnosed with dementia and we immediately began to put a care plan in place. Today, she lives at The Cloisters of DeLand and receives excellent care on their Memory Floor. She spends a couple of nights with me a week while we can still manage it. I want to savor this time while she still knows my face. As of right now, her smile still lights me up when she smells my cooking.
My daughter, Michelle Branham, works for the Alzheimer’s Association – so, we now know where to get help and support. She visits regularly and was saddened that on her last visit, mom wasn’t sure who she was. We’re blessed because we have great help and a means to provide it through The Cloisters and the Alzheimer’s Association. With the support services and education programs offered by the Alzheimer’s Association, we feel better prepared for what lies ahead. And while this does help us, it’s simply not enough for me. I want this disease eradicated. I want it to end with my mom – God knows I wish I could turn back her situation, but I can’t, so I want it to end here.
I’m President of the DeLand Rotary Club and we continue to increase our annual donations to the Alzheimer’s Association. As a family, we form a Walk team every year. For me and for all women, we need to get involved, get to know this disease, and do whatever we can to stop it. Women are more than twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease, and also make up more than 70% of the caregivers in this country. This is our disease so I’m walking…I’m donating…I’ve signed up for Trial Match®; my husband has become an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association – we are all willing ourselves in the direction of change that we know can and will come…It takes our effort, and your effort. It just simply can’t stay as it is now – we just can’t allow it to take over our lives and our country’s vibrant, aging population. The end of Alzheimer’s starts with me.
Diane Zeidwig – Deland, FL