My husband Gary was in his late 50’s when his symptoms first began. They were so oddly subtle at first, little things… random things. Something was certainly not quite right, but nothing obvious and nothing you could put a finger on. Of course, denial is powerful especially when it is your spouse or partner. Gary now 69, was a successful real estate attorney for many years. After two job losses and 4 moves in 3 years, he was finally diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment and then Alzheimer’s at age 63. The symptoms almost broke our marriage, but the diagnosis brought us back to face this disease in unison. Gary and I were able to be advocates together for several years and I still continue my involvement with Alzheimer’s Los Angeles because of the lifeline they gave both of us through many of their enriching programs. My family has a history with this disease; my mother, my grandfather and an uncle.
Through all of our trials and tribulations (there have been many), there have also been many silver linings throughout our journey. This disease has fueled my passion to help others and has made an advocate out of me. And, in addition to my advocacy work, in 2012 I began working as an Alzheimer’s and dementia placement specialist. It is a cathartic experience for me to connect with other family caregivers going through similar situations who are confronted with having to make necessary and difficult decisions, share our compassion and emotions and encourage them to reach out for support. The connection with others is a bond like no other on this lonely journey. No one signs up for this, but whether we realize it or not, we all get to choose how we will face this heartbreaking disease. There are two ways for every family to face it: acceptance or denial, it is that simple. It is an opportunity to learn and grow, whether we want to or not; to live in the moment and also dance in the moment with our loved ones. I have learned skills and discovered strengths about myself that I never knew I had.
So, I ask you from my heart to yours – if you are faced with this disease, who will you choose to be? The time has come to reach out and find a way to face this together.