Halloran: Why I walk to end Alzheimer’s
Special to the Daily
Editor’s Note: The Vail Daily is running testimonials leading up to the Sept. 26 Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
I am participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday because I am scared. I am scared that Alzheimer’s disease will take me or my family members. I am scared that someday my wife may have to care for me the way my mom cared for my dad. I am scared that my kids will see me in a nursing home the way my siblings and I saw my dad at his end. Doing nothing is not an option; for those of us who have lost family members or friends to Alzheimer’s, we are driven to take action such as raising money for research to try to find a cure for this horrible disease.
My dad, Red Halloran, died from Alzheimer’s in September 2019. My dad was in assisted living or a nursing home for the last 14 months of his life. About three years prior to this my family knew my dad was not in good shape mentally. His short-term memory was sucked away from him. Red could tell you his identification number from his days in the army, the year he graduated from Fenwick High School in Oak Park, IL or sing along with “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” but he could not tell you what he had for breakfast or the names of the nurses at his care facilities. I don’t think he even remembered watching the Cubs win the World Series in 2016. He watched the entire series from his home but his dream of watching the Cubs win simply vanished away when he woke up the next morning.
In addition to honoring my dad by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, I am also walking as a thank you to the caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. My mom and three sisters went through so much. Every time one crisis was resolved, a new one emerged. In the 14 months that my dad was in his two care facilities, there was hardly ever a week without some major issue with my dad’s health, an insurance issue or some major discussion about where my parent’s finances stood. The amount of stress put on my mom and three sisters was enormous. My brother, who lives in Pennsylvania, and I would go to Chicago about every two to three months to check in, see my dad and spend time with my mom and sisters. But then my brother and I were lucky enough to go back to our homes and not have to deal with the day-to-day issues that would come about.
Additionally, the underpaid caregivers at these facilities were upbeat individuals who gave so much time and energy to the care of my dad and so many other patients on the Memory Care floor. These nurses and assistants were kind beyond ways to measure or describe.
When my dad finally passed away late into the night on September 5th, 2019, it was extremely sad but I would be lying if I didn’t say a huge weight was lifted off my family. We had a large celebration of life with so many people. As my sister stated, “He didn’t go quietly into the night, he raged against the dying light.” My dad literally fought for his last breath before Alzheimer’s and its side effects literally shut down his body.
My dad was the type of person that sat on school boards, volunteered to coach middle school football and volleyball and enjoyed a beer (or several) with his friends. He used to leave a six-pack on my elementary school principal’s desk; and she a was a Catholic nun! In essence, he was like me and many of my friends in the Vail Valley who volunteer our time to various causes, try to raise kids in a healthy environment and strive to have a positive impact on our community but who could be taken by Alzheimer’s random, terrible luck of the draw.
I want to turn my fears about Alzheimer’s into hope. I hope there is a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. I hope science comes through and figures out a way to stop this disease. I hope my siblings and my children can find peace by not worrying if they are going to get Alzheimer’s. I hope I get to live without Alzheimer’s.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be here in just a few days. On Saturday, please consider joining my team, “Doing it for our Dads and Moms”, creating a team of your own, or donating to the Alzheimer’s Association in my name by visiting the following link: http://act.alz.org/goto/johnhalloran.
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