“Why I Walk”
It all started with my mom casually sharing with me that my dad was changing and his behavior was “different” than it used to be. It was just little things: instead of paying at the cash register he would open up his wallet so my mom could pull out his money, or instead of ordering at a restaurant, he would just have the same thing my mom was having. But these little things eventually started to add up to a bigger picture.
My father was a proud man and was amazingly adept at hiding his symptoms. With him, there was never an acknowledgement that there was anything wrong, and certainly no openness to seeking diagnosis or treatment. This made everything extraordinarily hard, as we watched him decline and struggle, but we were unable to seek treatment without his consent. To say that we were unprepared for our journey with Alzheimer’s is an understatement. As my father’s cognitive skills declined more, he became more confused, dependent, and needy. It became unbearable for my mom as she struggled to shoulder the burden of 24/7 care taking. She lived in a constant state of anxiety and stress, and became depressed at her circumstances. I began worrying more about my mom’s well-being than my father’s.
The turning point for us came after, in a move of desperation, I convinced my mom to attend an Alzheimer’s support group with me. Coming from an Asian culture, talking about our feelings to a group of strangers was the last thing we wanted to do in the middle of our crisis, but our desperation for help was enough motivation to try. As we went around the circle sharing, I heard the stories of the people around me and I recognized my family’s story in all of them. These people were struggling with so many of the same issues that we were experiencing. By the time it was our turn to share, we found ourselves crying and sharing the burdens that we had been silently shouldering. We learned so much that day, as the people in the group shared recommendations on programs and services we should explore. It gave us hope that things could get better.
The best thing that came from that experience was that we learned how to ask for help and not carry the burden alone. We called the Alzheimer’s Association helpline when we had situations that we had no idea how to deal with. We reached out to resources to find relief for my mom: first to explore daycare, and eventually to find a memory care facility in which we would eventually move my dad to. Coming to the decision to move my dad out of his home was one of the most stressful things I have ever experienced, but my dad received wonderful care from the people at Carlton at Poet’s Corner, and I know that this decision ultimately saved my mom.
So why do I volunteer with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee? Because I hope that by sharing my experience I can help others the same way that others helped us when we needed it. Alzheimer’s can be a very isolating disease for caretakers, so it’s important for people to know that there is a community of people out there that understands what they are going through. I Walk because I truly believe in the programs that the Alzheimer’s Association provides and I am living proof that they work. I know there will be an end of Alzheimer’s disease, but until that day comes, we need to support the programs that support families, caregivers, and those living with the disease today. Please join me in this fight for a world without Alzheimer’s.
A special thank you extended to Deanna for sharing her passion, her commitment and her story with us.
To find out more of why Deanna walks so that other caregivers also receive support, we invite you to read more about Deanna’s story and her connection to the East Bay Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Check out the upcoming East Bay Area 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s to learn more information on how you can get involved and talk a walk with us! The walk will be on Saturday October 26th at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon.