The changes were subtle to strangers, but to Elizabeth Humphreys small signs were beginning to point toward a bigger and more worrisome problem in her mother.
“She was drinking heavily and losing her place in conversation,” Humphreys said. “She’d also drastically change her opinion on a topic in the span of a few minutes. That’s when I started to ask her to see a doctor.”
Madelyn Ringgold started showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease shortly after her 60th birthday. It took three more years for her family to receive a formal diagnosis.
“She fought tooth and nail against going to a doctor,” Humphreys said. “Finally, I pointed out she had a facial tremor, which freaked her out enough to go see neurologist.”
But even at the doctor’s office, Ringgold did her best to disguise her symptoms — so much so, that Humphries was forced to pull the doctor aside in the hallway to fully explain the changes she’d noticed in her mother.
Today, five years later, Humphreys said her mom is just starting to accept the fact that she’s living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease — a deadly disease for which there is no effective treatment or cure.
“My mom fought and beat breast cancer, she’s buried her son,” Humphreys said. “She’s had a tremendously painful life already and this disease is pretty much the most undignified way you can go.”
The Alzheimer's Epidemic in Tennessee
Ringgold is one of 120,000 Tennesseans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. And her daughter is one of 435,000 people providing unpaid care for someone living with Alzheimer’s.
Tennessee also ranks fourth in the nation for Alzheimer’s deaths.
Humphreys and Ringgold will be the first to tell you the future can seem bleak at times — but at the Alzheimer’s Association, we’re committed to finding a cure for this devastating disease.
“The Alzheimer’s Association is the only organization that’s committed to funding cutting-edge research across the globe,” said Sarah McCarthy, Communications Director for the Tennessee Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “We fund projects others won’t, because we know ending this disease demands that we look at the problem from all angles and bring fresh ideas to the table.”
Right now, the Alzheimer’s Association is investing more than $165 million in more than 450 projects in 25 countries. In aggressive pursuit of its vision of a world without Alzheimer‘s, the Alzheimer's Association made its largest-ever research investment in 2018, granting more than $30 million to 131 scientific investigations.
But this work cannot continue with your support.
How You Can Help
That’s why this June, which is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, we’re asking you to get involved with your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association — and the ways in which you can do this are endless.
You can help us organize and improve our largest fundraising initiative, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Or you can participate in The Longest Day and throw a donation-based backyard barbeque benefitting our organization.
If fundraising isn’t your thing, we also need more and more volunteers to facilitate support groups and lead educational workshops so we can extend our reach in your community. And we’re also adding to our public policy team of Alzheimer’s ambassadors and advocates.
We have countless opportunities for you to get involved and getting started is as simple as filling out this form.
“My mom, as I knew her, has been gone for a long time,” Humphreys said. “But there’s no reason we can’t save other families — other mothers and fathers and children — from experiencing this heartache.”
Every minute of volunteer work makes a difference in the lives of people like Humphreys and Ringgold. Every person who steps forward and offers their support brings us that much closer to a world without Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's. For more information, visit www.alz.org.