Christina Noon’s grandmother, Monica Russo was a quiet and sweet woman. However, in the early 2000s, her behavior started to change.“At our Thanksgiving dinner, she started to crack jokes and use profanities,” said Christina. “As a young adult, it was funny but it was also indicative that something was wrong. It progressed to a point where she would forget more details about the family and would leave her home more often.”
At first, Monica was diagnosed with dementia, which the family would later learn was caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly two-thirds of all Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women. Monica’s sister, Joan Ryan (wife of former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan), also had Alzheimer’s.
Christina’s father and uncle served as caregivers.
Monica lived in Queens and her two sons worked out a system. Christina’s dad would go to Queens early to have breakfast with his mother and set up her medication for the day before the aide arrived. And Christina’s uncle would stop by after work and have dinner. The family was also lucky that Monica’s neighbors kept an eye on her. But eventually, Monica could no longer live alone.
“At one point, my grandmother was living with us for six months,” Christina explains. “We wouldn't let her and she threatened to hitch a ride by picking her pant leg up. For someone that was a religious and sweet person, this was wild to see how progressive the symptoms were.”
By 2012, Monica had fallen and her family decided a skilled nursing facility was the best option. “In my family’s case, my grandparents did their planning early on as my grandfather’s health declined,” said Christina. “They had the power of attorney, healthy proxy, and asset protection in place. With all this, we could focus on her care and were able to place her in a nursing home. For many I know it is a struggle with being eligible for the cost of care because getting into a nursing home is expensive.”
On Jan. 8, 2014, Monica passed away, less than a year after her sister Joan. During her grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, Christina decided to become an elder law, trusts, and estates attorney to help other families prepare. She also chose to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s. Christina says, “Throughout college, I was involved with different charitable organizations. I learned more about the Long Island Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. And in 2012, I attended my first Walk To End Alzheimer’s®
in Riverhead.” The Walk is held in communities across the country each year and is the world’s largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research.
Since 2012, Christina and her team have raised more than $8,800. And she has gotten her employers involved as event sponsors, including Stefans Law Group PC
; Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo LLP
; and Dunathan Goodale PC
. “It is a good feeling to take part in the cause because I feel such a connection,” said Christina. “My favorite part of Walk To End Alzheimer’s® is the Promise Garden because it is the most inspiring part of this Walk and makes it unique. You feel a connection toward the other participants.”
In 2022, Christina joined the Board of Directors of the Long Island Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She explains, “We consist of a wide variety of individuals that are passionate about the cause. We are here to expand our reach in the Long Island community. Members of the Board of Directors are some of the most genuine and good-hearted people that I have come in contact with. It is great to see people are not just here for the title but are here to do the work and continue to grow.”
On April 22, 2023, Christina Noon, Esq. will be one of the presenters at the Legal and Financial Planning Conference at the Four Points Sheraton, Melville in Plainview. The conference is intended for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, their care partners, and family members. Topics include advance directives and guardianships, Medicaid, nursing home care, asset protection trusts, and more. To learn more about the event, click here
“This conference will allow you to digest information that will truly help your family,” said Christina. “This is a great opportunity to come in with no expectations and to have the resources that you need so you are not scrambling.”
Christina has a message for family members whose loved ones are living with Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia. “You are not alone. There are probably people in your proximity that are going through the same struggles. Through the Alzheimer’s Association Long Island Chapter resources, you have that connection and support. We are in this together.”
If you or your family are affected by Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association, Long Island Chapter is available with free services and support. Call 800.272.3900 or visit alz.org/longisland.
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.