Turning feelings of helplessness into action

My father was the kind of guy who could walk into a room full of strangers and leave with new best friends for life! He was a hard worker and was known as “Mr. Fix-It” to everyone in our family and beyond. He was also one of the most cheerful, affable and gentle people you will ever meet.

But when Dad was in his mid-50s, my family began to notice him struggling. His work and handyman skills began to deteriorate, and he became depressed and withdrawn. This was not the man I knew. By age 58, Dad was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It was devastating for our family.

Anjanette Kichline poses for a picture with her family. Our first step was to attend a meeting hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association to learn more about the disease and about programs that might help us. Our whole family went — my mom, my dad and my sister. That meeting inspired me to start a Walk to End Alzheimer’s® team. But I still wanted to do more. Over time, I became involved in advocacy through the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), a separately incorporated advocacy affiliate of the Association, and I began talking with lawmakers about my family’s experience. In 2017, I became a board member of the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter.

The loss from this disease is gradual — and painstaking. My father’s decline continued for several years. Losing my father more and more each day was leaving a big hole in my heart and my life. I decided to fill that hole with action to honor my father.

Giving back through the Alzheimer’s Association means so much to me. But I had no idea how much I would get back in return. Nearly 10 years after joining my first Association support group, I still have a community of close friends who are always there for me. They helped me understand that I was not alone in my sadness and personal struggle, and they motivated me to turn my feelings of helplessness into action. I know my dad would be proud.

That’s why I recently decided to leave a gift to the Alzheimer’s Association by naming it as a beneficiary of my retirement plan. My future gift will support research because I don’t want another person in my family or in other families to have to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Making this gift brought up a lot of emotions for me, but the process itself was really easy. I simply changed a form and signed my name.

I am so proud to be able to honor my father and other family members who lost their fights to Alzheimer’s in this way. My dad was an inspiration to me, and I hope, through my gift, I can inspire others to join the fight to end Alzheimer’s.

Anjanette Kichline is the proud daughter of Gary and Joanne Kichline and a board member of the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter. She has named the Association as a beneficiary of her retirement plan and is dedicating her gift toward Alzheimer’s research.