Every year, the Alzheimer's Association sponsors walks throughout the country to raise money to fund research and help those impacted by Alzheimer's and other dementias. In addition, they provide care, support and education through their website www.alz.org and through the various local chapters. The local chapter for Marin is located at 4340 Redwood Hwy., Suite D314 in San Rafael.
I found out about this organization when I was trying to make sense of my mom's symptoms. She had a stroke three years ago which we now believe triggered vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia - the first being Alzheimer's.
There are no words to describe the sadness of watching your loved one's memory fade away on a daily basis. You do your best to stay strong and upbeat on your daily visits. You just sense they know... But you want to make life as happy and positive as you possibly can for them... Inside, however, your heart breaks each time they can't recall a name or an event.
I would call mom when I got home after a visit to let her know I was home safe and she would not remember I had been there a half hour ago and wonder why no one ever visited. I came to believe it was more about the moments. She was happy while I was there... Even if she didn't remember it. My goal became to make every moment with her as happy as it could be for her.
Mom passed away on May 18th, nearly a week after Mother's day and a week before her 79th birthday from a series of strokes. Losing Mom devastated our family. She was the center of our family, the heart... and my best friend.
My son and I decided to walk in this year's Walk to End Alzheimer's to honor Mom/Grandma. We became "Team Grandma Joan".
We wanted to do something positive to help us through our grieving process. Through the blessings of family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, Chris and I raised $2,065. Raising money for the Alzheimer's Association helped us feel like we were making a difference and we held onto hope that perhaps the money raised could help lead to a cure. We would love to have no other families have to have a loved one lose their memory.
Last weekend's Walk to End Alzheimer's at Shollenberger Park in Petaluma raised over $193,000. In addition, there are lots of other Walks to End Alzheimer's happening all over the country and they are all raising money for this worthy cause.
Many people, both young and old, gathered in Petaluma on Saturday morning to walk together to honor their family members and friends. It was a wonderful experience. When we arrived on saturday morning, each of us received a "promise flower" which symbolized a promise to honor, care, remember and fight for our loved ones.
We picked a flower based on the color and what it represented: Blue for those who have Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Purple for those who have lost someone to the disease. Yellow for those supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer's and orange for the people walking in support.
We decorated our promise flowers with messages of love for our loved one and participated in a sweet little ceremony.
As we walked with our flowers spinning in the breeze, I definitely felt Mom's spirit with me and Chris. She was smiling down from Heaven.
The statistics are scary! We are losing a huge number of loved ones to this devastating condition. I urge everyone to think about walking for this great cause. If you want to learn more, check out www.alz.org.