A major focus this year has been the Alzheimer’s Association. Its missionis one that is very personal to members of our Waverly family, who are facing the daily challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. As you read their stories be low, you will quickly learn the devastation and heartache this disease brings to entire families and their friends. You will also learn that this disease does not only affect the elderly…and it can happen to any one of us…
Kathy, the wife of one of our partners, and a very vibrant personalitywith a passion for travel, was diagnosed 10 years ago, at the age of 52, with a form of Alzheimer’s known as PCA (Posterior Cortical Atrophy). This disease affected her eyesight early on, and as time as progressed, her memories and ability to function and care for herself. A wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, co-worker – tragically, she can no longer comprehend what these things mean.
Over the years, Alzheimer’s ravaged her brain to a point where 24/7 care b ecame a necessity for her safety and well-being. Even though in-home help was hired, with family and friends pitching in, the toll of this disease was not only claiming the life of Kathy, but that of her husband and three children. With their worlds falling apart and becoming smaller as they spent every spare moment caring for Kathy and mourning the gradual loss of the wife and mother they all knew and loved, their lives too were gradually deteriorating.
Last Fall she was moved into a home that specializes in caring for those with Alzheimer’s. Although bringing some much needed relief to the family, this decision also came with a price –emotional, psychological, and forever changing the relationships of those involved.
Mark, the husband of one of our team members was diagnosed last year, at the age of 56, with early on-set Alzheimer’s. An easy – going lovable guy, Mark always enjoyed hunting and fishing with his friends, or to just hang out and relish their company.
In hindsight, there were early signs, all of which could be explained away as something else such as dehydration, his medications need adjusting, he wasn’t eating right, or he is just not getting enough sleep. After all, he was only 56 years old. But with time, he was slowly becoming more forgetful, stopped doing things with his friends, and was having a harder time comprehending and had difficulty finding words. Since his diagnosis last year, all of these symptoms have only progressed – causing him great distress, frustration and a loss of independence. He can no longer drive, and often forgets things that used to come as second nature to him. Although still functioning as far as taking care of personal needs, he is forced to rely on others for things the rest of us take for granted.
Mark is a father, husband, brother, son and friend, and like Kathy, is slowly being robbed of his relationships and his life. His wife and daughter, with the help of friends, are able to care for him currently. However, he is not far from needing more than what they can give. And, unknown to most, many extended care facilities will not take men, under the age of 62, that are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Some see this group as a potential safety risk to the staff and other patients; others struggle to place a younger man with a generally older population. His wife and daughter put on a strong front; however, it has been devastating for them to watch the steady decline of his health and abilities — knowing there is no cure. The only thing they can do is be there for him and bring moments of joy to an ever fading life.
For Waverly, this disease has hit home and hit hard. “ Today, 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. It is the only cause of death, in the top 10, that cannot be pre vented, cured or slowed.”( www.alz.org) .
It is in the name of Kathy, Mark and all others living with Alzheimer’s, that we work to raise not only funds to go towards research, education and care, but to raise awareness of this unfair and heartbreaking disease.