Trish Walker has been involved in Walk to End Alzheimer's since 2011.
I’ve gone through a lot of hard things in my life, but Alzheimer's was the hardest, and most heartbreaking. My mom, Jerry, died in January 2012 due to complications of Alzheimer's. I wouldn’t have gotten through that 20-year journey without my faith, the support of family and friends, and Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Finding My Way
I was visiting friends for dinner when I spotted an ad for West Georgia’s Walk to End Azheimer's in the newspaper, an event I had never heard of. It felt like God had placed that paper in my hands. It hit me immediately — I’m just going to go. That was more than a decade ago, and I have been walking ever since.
Walk to End Alzheimer’s has given me many opportunities, including the chance to speak to civic groups in the West Georgia area, organizations who have a lot of power to make change. I share Alzheimer’s stories with them, mine included. I want to break down the stigma around this disease. Cancer, as terrible as it is, seems to be a disease that people are more willing to talk about, in part because there are victories. And until we have effective treatments or a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, we continue to raise funds and awareness and create hope for a different future for other families like ours.
My Commitment to End Alzheimer’s
Some of my most rewarding experiences over the past years have been conversations with caregivers that I've never met. I’ve cried and prayed on the phone with them, and provided support. It’s a way for me to be there for them, as others were for me; that contact and support was absolutely essential in me getting through the long journey that is Alzheimer’s.
Being a committee member for the West Georgia Walk to End Alzheimer's has allowed me to stay connected to Mom, and allows me to honor her memory. It also fulfills a higher purpose and commitment to be part of the solution to end Alzheimer’s so other families do not have to go through what we did.
What you find when you start talking to people about Alzheimer's is almost everyone has a connection, and it is often a close immediate connection. Alzheimer’s may have robbed Mom of her last 20 years, taking more of her away from us, day by day, and yet my heart is filled with love thanks to all those who have joined me in this fight.
Even though a family’s journey with Alzheimer's comes to a sort of end when a loved one passes, it doesn't mean it’s truly the end. My mom passed in 2012, but today, I continue to encourage others to face this disease, and not walk away from it. It’s important for those of us no longer in the midst of the disease to pick up and carry the load for others. By keeping others going, we continue to make a difference against a disease that has often felt insurmountable.
In the last few years of her life, Mom could only speak in gibberish. I could see the frustration on her face, but I always knew I’d have an amazing visit if I could just get a smile out of her.
I'd tell her who I trained at work, where I traveled — never changing how I spoke to her during the course of her disease, even if she said nothing back. One day, about three years before her passing, she smiled back at me and said: “You are my sweetest child.” That was probably one of the best things she ever said to me. And it was more than enough.
For more than eight years, I was focused on Mom. I was never not a caregiver, even when we moved Mom into assisted living, and that feeling of constant concern for her never went away. All I could do is love her the best I could and make sure she was cared for, since there is not yet a cure for this dreadful disease.
So many things take on new meaning in today's world, and while it seems as if everything is different, my family stands strong, refusing to allow anything to weaken our resolve in this fight. We believe in a future world without Alzheimer's, and with your help, that can become a reality. Join us at alz.org/walk
About: Trish Walker is joined in her passion for Walk to End Alzheimer's by her siblings Lynn, Tim and Lisa. She has been involved in the West Georgia Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Carrollton for 11 years, and on her local committee for 10. Visit her personal Walk to End Alzheimer's page.