My Personal Connection to Alzheimer’s

My connection to Alzheimers sadly is a very personal one. My mother-in-law, Kay Rhodes, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers in her mid 50’s. She had shown some symptoms for years before being diagnosed, but what we all mistook for absent-mindedness clearly and quickly progressed into the devastating disease. Though my father- in- law had long saved for their golden years, with plans of travel and great adventures, instead he found himself acting as a caregiver.

He did it bravely on his own for the first 10 years, but saw his own health suffer (as most caregivers do with the stress and difficulties of providing care for others). He finally put her in a specialized Alzheimer’s facility, where Kay continued to decline progressively. She did live more than 15 years, though her quality of life was zero. She could not walk, talk, and had long lost any recognition of her loved ones. It was devastating to see the decline and heartbreaking to see a once beautiful, vibrant and very social woman, disappear before our very eyes.

Kay is not a statistic to me… but when you do look at the statistics, they are frightening. More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to more than triple in the next 3 decades. And if you have a family history, as my family does, “familiar Alzheimer’s disease” is a very scary concern whereby if you have a parent or sibling who has the disease it is much more likely to be due to heredity.

I have been an Alzheimer’s foundation champion for years trying to bring awareness to a disease that affects so many of our family. Most likely we all will know someone within our own family circle who will be affected with Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia. The more we learn now the better we are at planning for our future and doing all that we can to better educate and prepare for ourselves or our loved ones.