That’s my mom, Juanita. This photo was taken in the late 1940 on a family camping trip in California. She cherished her memories, keeping scrapbooks and making baby books for us. She worked hard to make events and gatherings special for everyone. This is one of my favorite photos of her, second only to the one where she’s holding a string of trout while wearing a floppy hat and a red car coat.
I know I take my memories for granted. Memories of family gatherings, trips, and the places I’ve been. Laughter over a glass of wine with good friends when one of us overbids our Pinochle hand. Even the not-so-pleasant memories give my life richness, depth, and context.
But 6.5 million Americans over 65 don’t have all — or any— of their memories. According to a 2022 Report from Alzheimer’s Association, about 1 in 9 people over 65 have Alzheimer’s. I remember our family holidays with 20 or more relatives around the table. Statistically, two or more of the people I loved would suffer from Alzheimer’s. Would it be my Aunt Susan, my father, my Uncle Miles? My sister? Me? It’s horrifying to know that some people I love will forget themselves, me, and their lives. The families suffer from this progressive and debilitating disease, too, magnifying the impact this disease has on our families and communities.
I’m lucky. My father never suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s, and my mom’s dementia was well managed with drugs. We were not that fortunate with Mike’s mom, who suffered memory loss and dementia. She hid it well and made up memories to cover the gaps. For instance, in her thirties, she raced sail boats on the Potomac River. She met my father-in-law at the yacht club.
We were lucky we could afford help for her and she was well cared for in her home. But even so, it was hard to see her life’s memories shredded beyond recognition.
Today some families resort to locking their loved ones in bedrooms because they don’t have money to provide the expensive care required for Alzheimer’s patients. Fear and grief and the sense of being untethered are Alzehimer’s companions. Yet new, FDA-approved treatments are not being approved for Medicare and Medicaid.
As our aging population grows, the expense of caring for sufferers also grows. Black and Latin American populations are hit at 2 and 3 times the rate of Whites. Money is needed to fund research that not only slows this disease but actually reverses it. And money is needed for lobbying, advocacy, and family support.
Alzheimers Bar, which supports research and advocacy through the Alzheimer’s Organization.
Learn more, find resources, join your local Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and find hope at their website.
Do you have a story you want to share? Please do so. Our community needs advocates and champions.