06 September 2016

Beauty and the Beast

I don't usually get too personal here on the blog, but today I'm going to make an exception. I usually blog about beauty, and in a way, I'm still doing that, because I'm going to talk about one of the most beautiful women I know - my mother-in-law. She's beautiful both inside and out, but she is battling an ugly, wretched beast.

My mother-in-law has vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. The symptoms can vary depending upon what part of the brain is affected by the multiple mini-strokes (in her case) or whatever other condition affects the blood vessels. Early symptoms might be impaired planning and judgment, uncontrolled laughing and crying, decreased attention span, impaired ability to function in social situations, or difficulty finding the right words.

Alzheimer's Disease is an epidemic - join the Walk to End Alzheimer's to raise awareness or make a donation to help find a cure!
(courtesy of the Alzheimer's Association)

I could probably make this the longest post ever talking about everything we've experienced since her diagnosis. She's 84 now, but was several years younger when she started experiencing symptoms. The thing with vascular dementia is that it can progress slowly, staying at the same level for many years, or it can progress almost overnight. It often worsens after a traumatic or emotional event. My mother-in-law became significantly worse after she fell and broke her shoulder in February. Before the fall, she could prepare simple microwave meals, do activities of daily living, and only needed minimal daily assistance. Within two months after the fall, she didn't remember that she had fallen. She no longer knew what to do with a microwave meal, had to be cued to wash her face, brush her teeth, and get dressed. She became increasingly angry and confused, more restless, and she started to wander out of their condo. She and my 93-year-old father-in-law (who was falling on an almost daily basis) went from living fairly independently to having 24 hour care in their home.

Three months after her fall, we reluctantly made the decision to move both of them to a Memory Unit in a nursing facility. They now live together in a suite of rooms where they are closely monitored, but still feel like they have some privacy. It was an adjustment, and there were tears from everyone. But they're settling in now, and they seem to have made a few friends. My mother-in-law even gets her hair done in the salon every week.

Unfortunately, my mother-in-law is not our family's first experience with dementia. Her father also had dementia later in life. My father-in-law's mother and sister both had Alzheimer's. I've witnessed far too many times how devastating this disease can be - both to the person who is afflicted, and to their family, who is left to grieve over someone who is still alive. Someone who is the same person, yet not. Then there is the anger, guilt, physical and mental exhaustion, and the drain on finances. I don't want this for my children. I don't want this for your children.

I'm sharing this with you now because on Saturday, October 1, my family and I will be walking for my mother-in-law, Mary, in our local Walk to End Alzheimer's. We'll also be walking in memory of my husband's Grandpa Joe, Grandma Annie, and Aunt Jo-Jo. You can watch my video here.


If you live in the Cincinnati Tri-State area, I encourage you to get involved. Walking is free, but you do need to register.* I would love for you to join our team at Sawyer Point, to walk with us and the many others gathered there to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research, care, and support.

If you can't join us but would like to make a donation to the Alzheimer's Association in honor of la nostra famiglia (our family) you can make an secure credit card donation online by clicking on the yellow "donate" button on my #Walk2EndAlz page, or you can send a check with a printed donation page (click on mail-in donation on my page). All donations are tax deductible and will help the Alzheimer's Association advance research into prevention, treatments and hopefully one day a cure. This page shows how the donations are spent.

Alzheimer's Disease is an epidemic - join the Walk to End Alzheimer's to raise awareness or make a donation to help find a cure!
 (courtesy of the Alzheimer's Association

I encourage you to get involved. Chances are, you know someone affected by some form of dementia. Here are a few facts about the disease:
  • More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, and that number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050. 
  • It is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, and kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined. 
  • In 2015, more than 15 million caregivers (are you seeing these numbers?) provided more than 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care valued at over $221.3 billion. 
  • In 2026, Alzheimer's will cost the US $236 billion - by 2050, that cost could be more than $1 trillion.


If you don't live in the Cincinnati Tri-State area, you can go to this page to see if there is a walk scheduled in your area. Don't worry if you missed it this year - there's always next year!

Thank you for joining us in your support through walking, prayer, or donation! The end of Alzheimer’s starts with US!! 

(*The walk begins at Sawyer Point, and is about 3 miles of fairly flat terrain. Buses will be circling the route for those who can't finish or would just like a ride back to Sawyer Point. For those who are unable to walk but would like to be a part of the action, there will be lots of activities at Sawyer Point: 30 vendor booths, music, free food, beverages, a KidZone, and even a Barking Lot for dogs on leashes. Those who walk will receive a free hot dog or cheese coney and a goody bag at the end of the walk! Go to this page to join our team, this page to create your own team, or this page to read more about the event.)

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