(from left) Shirley Sperger and granddaughter, Alisa Hass
One thing is for certain. Shirley Sperger would have been proud of her girls. Daughter Kathy Hass and granddaughter Alisa were there for Shirley when she struggled with dementia. But after she passed on in May of 2009, Kathy and Alisa were still there for her. Just months after their loss, Shirley’s Girls started a team for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“The walk is a great way to remember my mom,” said Kathy. “It is one small thing we can do to keep her memory alive and celebrate her life with others who have or are going through the same disease. Tears and smiles abound in our walk and knowing that we share the same emotions with friends and strangers is very comforting”.
In addition to remembering Shirley, Kathy knows the importance of raising funds and awareness about this devastating disease. During the time that her mother struggled with dementia, Kathy used many of the services offered free of charge through the Alzheimer’s Association. “I often went to the Alzheimer’s Association web site to gather information,” said Kathy. “The web site was and still is invaluable to me with its wealth of information.”
Kathy also attended support groups where she was able to share her frustrations with others, learning in the process that everyone else had similar experiences and stories to share. “One interesting fact that I discovered at my support group is that the dementia patient normally ‘lashes’ out at the daughter,” said Kathy. “My brother only saw the negative side of my mother once and, because of this, he had a hard time understanding my feelings. By going to this support group, it really helped with my situation in knowing that her feelings toward me were normal.”
On October 6th, Shirley’s Girls will embark on their fourth Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Each year, they invite their circle of loved ones to join them at the Fond du Lac Walk. “We ask family and friends to donate,” said Kathy. “If they cannot donate monetarily, then we always ask them to please keep the memory of Shirley in your hearts. Getting the word out about dementia and Alzheimer’s is important to us.”
“My mother only had severe dementia for about a year in which she really had difficulty recognizing us,” said Kathy. “Three years before that she was in assisted living due to safety concerns, but she could still recognize us and leave the facility. We are thankful that her time with dementia was not for a long period of time. I know she is in a much happier place now – smiling and watching us from above”.