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Why I Walk to End Alzheimer’s: Dementia Stole My Sunshine, Not My Passion

Why I Walk to End Alzheimer’s: Dementia Stole My Sunshine, Not My Passion
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October 30, 2019
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Joe Fischer is a senior director at Brookdale Senior Living in Nashville, Tennessee.

My father Henry spent his final moments surrounded by his wife and eight children. Locked hand-in-hand, we sang “You Are My Sunshine.” Just a few moments after we sang the final verse, “…please don’t take my sunshine away,” my dad took his last breath. 

Dementia robbed my family of our sunshine in April of 2005. But it also lit a fire within me.

My dad was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in 1999, just two years after his older sister was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My family — including my mom, seven siblings, five cousins and dozens of in-laws, nieces and nephews — supported their hard-fought journeys. From drug trials and nursing homes to overnight caregiving shifts, we worked together in our fight against the ruthlessness that is Alzheimer’s and dementia.

My Aunt Josephine passed away seven years after my dad. Since their passing, seven more immediate family members have fallen victim to dementia, including my Aunt Dolores this past January.

This has only fueled my passion.

In 2015, I took a job with Brookdale Senior Living and moved to Nashville. In working for the nation’s largest senior living provider, I have satisfaction in knowing that I work for a company that is dedicated to providing a person-centered environment that promotes feelings of belonging and purpose for people living with dementia. 

As a proud supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Brookdale is a Diamond National Walk to End Alzheimer’s team. Since 2008, Brookdale has raised more than $15 million dollars for the cause, and since 2017, I’ve been on the Nashville Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee, dedicating myself to raising awareness. This year, I am proud to be one of the event co-chairs.

I walk to raise awareness of the disease that stole the sunshine from my family:

  • I walk to honor my dad Henry, aunts Dolores and Josephine, Uncle Bill and extended family members Barbara, Marge, Betty, Hugh, Maureen and Bettye.
  • I walk for the thousands of Brookdale residents who are living with this disease. 
  • I walk for the caregivers who spend countless hours caring for people with the disease so that they can continue living meaningful lives filled with moments of joy.
  • I walk to share my fiery commitment to fighting this disease so that no other families have to experience its effects.
  • I walk to light a torch for those who feel hopeless. 
I walk to unite us all in this fight. Together, I believe we will end Alzheimer’s.

Related articles:
Nashville Walk to End Alzheimer’s
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