In 2005 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. She suffered with this disease for eight long years.
Of course, there were signs all along. They were mild at the beginning, simply forgetting an appointment, confusion of the day of the week and so on. Over time, the signs became much more pronounced such as putting things away in odd places, referring to an orange as "that round thing", not recognizing her own home, and many more.
I don't know if there is a gentle way to deliver such devastating news, but I clearly remember the day I heard it. Her doctor advised our family to get education. To that end he suggested the Alzheimer Outreach Services of McCormick Home. He explained the family would be just as affected by her disease as she would be. We had no idea how true that turned out to be.
McCormick Care Foundation provides grants and funding to the Outreach program. It provides programs and services to patients with Alzheimer's Disease and related dementia. As well, it provides respite and support services for caregivers. Today Alzheimer Outreach Services, with the assistance of the Foundation, offers recreational activities, subsidy funding for those unable to afford the day program, art therapy programs, and more.
At the time of her diagnosis, my mother's family consisted of my two brothers and my sister. My father had predeceased my mother many years previously. So we were a small tight family. One of my brothers was ill and was slowly dying. Now, our mother was diagnosed with this terrible disease. Our family situation was tense trying to deal with these illnesses. My sister, brothers and I could not reach common ground on how she was really faring through her disease. She would demonstrate one behavior to one of us and something completely different to the other. The four siblings were arguing constantly about her care, when our usual behavior with each other was one of love and respect.
This is where the Alzheimer Outreach program came into our lives.
Although we could never convince our mother to attend the day program, we as a family benefited enormously from the program offered to the caregivers. There we learned about the disease itself, what to expect, what things we should do for her regarding her care. We were put in touch with community services and we learned what we should attend to on a legal basis to properly care for her as she declined. Most importantly for us as a family, we learned there is a huge difference how our mother, regardless of where she was in her illness, perceived each of us individually. This finally explained why each of us would see and experience different things with her. We all sincerely believe this learning was paramount to us understanding why we were in disagreement. It saved our relationships with each other. That was important, because as the disease progressed, we leaned on each other more and more for support.
I have firsthand knowledge of the good which can come when there are resources to help you down the long and lonely road of this disease. Last year I became a board member of the McCormick Care Foundation to help in my small way to assist with the important work they do for the funds and grants they provide to improve and increase the services of the Outreach program.
Learn more about McCormick Care Foundation