Tedstrom: Why I walk to end Alzheimer’s disease
Special to the Daily
Editor’s Note: The Vail Daily is running testimonials leading up to the Sept. 26 Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
When I first saw my mom’s “dorm room” in her memory care facility I commented on how nice it was, how friendly the staff was, how beautiful the setting on a small lake in Minnesota was.
Then, after I got in my car to leave I broke down sobbing. How did it come to this? All of the above was true — it was a nice place and the staff was wonderful. But I did not want to see my mom as a memory care resident and more importantly, I know she would not have wanted to be there if she knew any better.
My mom, who was super-organized and in charge of everything (including my dad) was now a different person. She had been a top-selling realtor in Rochester, Minnesota, and the president at one time or another of every organization she belonged to. She was always dressed impeccably, always put together and now she needed help going to the bathroom and brushing her teeth. I wished they would wash her hair more than the once a week dip she got by a lift into a hot tub. It was all so surreal.
Because I lived 1,000 miles away, my only brother and his wife had the responsibility to research and visit memory care facilities and make the decision to move her. Like 16 million other caregivers in the country, their lives changed drastically, too. My dad was also dealing with his own ailments and feeling guilty that he could not take care of her anymore.
I was sort of “dropped” into this new reality for my parents. I did not have a lot of legwork to do besides dealing with the long-term care insurance company that my mom had thankfully bought a policy from 10 years prior. The average cost for a private room in a nursing home is $280 per day or $102,200 per year, and the average cost of a semi-private room is $247 per day or $90,155 per year. Without insurance, every bit of their savings would have been drained.
In some ways, I felt very useless. I couldn’t visit very often and when I did, my mom did not say much. She would just listen to my dad and I make conversation. As it progressed she did not know who I was. My mom has since passed away. It was almost a year to the day we admitted her to the memory care facility.
It is for her that I walk to end Alzheimer’s disease. This is a horrible disease that affects over 5.8 million people in the United States. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by 2050, that number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million people. With statistics like that, it is very likely that one of your own loved ones will be moving back into a “college dorm setting” with twin bed sheets and a roommate but it will be in a nursing home.
I think I cried more placing my mom into a nursing home than my mom cried when she dropped me off at college. Alzheimer’s disease takes our loved ones long before they are actually gone. It changes their personality so they are not even recognizable.
There are too many families that are going through this and they also need the resources that the Alzheimer’s Association can provide. Please consider donating to this important cause. We are walking on Sept. 26 to help fight Alzheimer’s disease. The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s Vail Valley fundraising event will look different this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead of walking as a group, we are encouraging you to get your family or a small group out for a walk or hike wherever you are. You can join my team at http://act.alz.org/goto/CarriWalksforMom2020.
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