I guess all of us have a “story”. A story that explains what drew us, as professionals, to caring for patients and families suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Over the years, I have heard so many stories from my colleagues about how Alzheimer’s disease has touched them personally. Stories about their mom or dad or grandparents. Stories about how Alzheimer’s invaded their lives and made them passionate professionals, experts and advocates. They have built careers in part, because this disease is so much a part of their daily lives.
I have been blessed. No one in my family has Alzheimer’s disease. No one in my family has dementia. Yet for over 15 years, like so many of my colleagues, I have built a business that helps thousands of families every year.
So what is my story? Until recently, it revolved around a woman who “knocked on my door” many years ago, by stirring me with her passion, dedication and unwavering commitment to patients and caregivers. She was then, and remains now, unrelenting in her determination to assure that those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are not alone. Her organization has become a model in this community and has paved the way in so many crucial areas – adult day care, advocacy, heightened awareness, and education, to name just a few. It was because of her, and her ability to ignite a fire in me, that I wake up every day and do what I do.
Ironically, last night I was sitting in my chair reading her organization’s latest magazine. It celebrates 15 years of tremendous success under her leadership. As I was reading it, I was oblivious to the fact that I have been completely shielded from the stress, pain, and loss that come with Alzheimer’s when it strikes close to home. And then, right out of the blue, Alzheimer’s disease knocked on my door – again.
This time, I opened the door and found a friend that looked like a deer caught in the headlights. She came in and so did Alzheimer’s. It’s here now, this insidious thing that I thought would never find its way. I should’ve known better. I know the statistics and now Alzheimer’s is here to stay.
We spent a lot of time talking. I struggled and failed miserably in my attempt to strike a balance between being a professional and being a friend. To me, my friend’s situation looks like a train wreck. I see her and her family barreling down the track into a brick wall, and sadly, there is nothing I can do to stop it. The dynamics are some of the most challenging I have ever seen as a professional, and the likelihood of the primary caregiver ending up in the hospital is very high.
So here it is, Alzheimer’s disease. It’s in my house because it’s in my friends… I’m mad and frustrated and sad. It’s as if all the knowledge and skills I have gained over the years have flown right out the window. I am suddenly as dumbfounded by this disease as I was so many years ago before another woman knocked on my door and introduced me to Alzheimer’s.
Until next time…