(Gloria Hale stands by her mom, Delia)
Gloria Hale is the second oldest in a family of ten children born to Delia and Franklin D. Hale, Sr. of Milwaukee. Family has always been very important to Gloria. So when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in August, 2003, Gloria knew there was really only one option. She took the reins and helped her dad provide home-based care for her mom.
The Alzheimer’s diagnosis came as a surprise to the family. Delia was formally diagnosed with moderate-stage Alzheimer’s only after a bad reaction to a prescription medication landed her in the hospital emergency room. That fateful day in August would mark the beginning of a six-year caregiver’s journey for Gloria Hale, one that wouldn’t end until Delia’s passing on Christmas day in 2009.
“My mother turned into a stranger I didn’t know,” said Gloria. “Her moods ran the gamut from happy to sad. She could be as mean as a rattlesnake, or as sweet as a little child. And I so desperately wanted to understand my mom.”
To further her understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and what was happening to her mother, Gloria joined the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP) program at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute. There she attended education and research events and found strength by sharing with others at support group meetings. Even today, she maintains her involvement with the group, because as Gloria explains, “I need to know answers. It could be me one day, or one of my siblings.”
Delia required full-time care during the last six months of her life. Her husband, Franklin, had passed away, and her nine other children were seemingly in denial of the severity of her illness. That required Gloria to inherit sole responsibility for her mother’s care. “Many nights I went to bed bone tired,” said Gloria. “My mom no longer recognized herself in the mirror. And she didn’t even remember that I was her daughter. She did know I was family but she thought I was my dad’s sister, Minnie.”
It was a painful period in Gloria’s life, and an experience that drained the family of emotional strength and financial resources. Even so, Gloria admits, “If I had to do it all over again, I would. She was my best friend.”