When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I was a healthcare professional working in assisted living. I didn’t have much personal experience with dementia or first-hand knowledge of what it would be like to walk with someone on this journey. Suddenly, it became my mother’s journey and, eventually, my story as well.
My sisters and I bought every book we could find about this terrible disease. “You read these three, I’ll read these four.” We felt desperate to learn as much as we could to help our mother. The books, along with the Alzheimer’s Association’s website and blog, were so helpful to us! I remember reading about the stages of the disease, and I could see my mother’s path in front of me.
That path led us to Walk to End Alzheimer’s. How wonderful to have an actual event to share with others on this journey! Whether you’re a person living with Alzheimer’s or family members representing and supporting loved ones, Walk is a place where you connect with people who truly understand the challenge and heartbreak of this disease. You feel less alone when you realize you aren’t the only one fighting this battle. True strength in numbers!
In 2010, my sister, Pam Lindsey, and I gladly volunteered to be on the publicity committee for Walk and the annual fundraising banquet. Pam documented Walk in a special video, as well as a song that I wrote for my mother and performed at the banquet. We felt it was a special way to honor her and all the other families struggling with Alzheimer’s.
After going on this journey with my mother, I knew I wanted to help others who were on this same daunting path. I was grateful for the opportunity to come to work at Brookdale Senior Living’s Belle Meade location, where a true continuum of care for those with dementia is available. I've now joined my co-workers as part of Brookdale Senior Living's National Walk team. I'm very proud to be part of a company that is so involved with a great cause.
It’s both exciting and comforting to attend an event that renews everyone’s passion for this rapidly growing cause. Every day I remember the devastation that Alzheimer’s disease has brought to my family in losing my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and her mother as well. I am grateful to the Alzheimer’s Association for all they do to help so many.
I know my mother would be happy to know that our story helps others. I have her photo on my desk so that those I help can see the woman who inspires me to do this every day. I lead two monthly support groups to help families deal with the loss, grief and unmerited guilt that comes when they realize that they can no longer care for their loved one at home. I try to help them understand that in getting professional help, they are not doing this to their beloved, but for them. For those fighting Alzheimer’s disease, there is still a life to be lived while focusing on what they still can do, instead of what they can’t.
As I remember my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, I remember her courage, strength and bravery which set my life on a path I could have never imagined. That path is to help as many families who struggle with the disease as I can. Her fight continues through me.
About the Author: Sheila Uselton is the director of sales and marketing at Brookdale Belle Meade in Nashville, TN. The 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Nashville is on October 15.