Why I Walk – Denise Johnston


My name is Denise Johnston and I Walk to End Alzheimer’s for my 83 year old mother and my 63 year old brother-in-law.

I Walk to raise awareness in hopes that others begin to understand what it is like to be a caregiver like my sister is and that others who haven’t been affected by the disease understand what it’s like to watch a loved one have their future stolen right before your eyes.

Nobody can do this alone and I could not have made it through the last few years with my Mom, and going through our brother-in-law’s early onset without the love and support of my husband, Nelson. He is my rock.

My mom started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s when she was 80 years old, but there were subtle signs even earlier. I come from a large family, one of seven siblings, and our emotions have played a role along the way as we have had to come to terms with Mom’s diagnosis. My mom has been living in an assisted living facility since May of this year.

Before retiring from the University of Richmond, I helped start an Elder Care Support Group for staff and faculty. At the meetings, we’d all get together and listen to stories. Share advice. Laugh. Cry. Then laugh and cry some more.

Emotionally, it’s been hard on all of us, but especially watching my brother-in-law’s early onset Alzheimer’s progress.

He’s 63. A husband. A dad.

When he first started showing symptoms, we reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter to see what assistance they could offer. Upon hearing they had an Early Onset Support Group, I took my sister to a meeting. It truly was a wonderful experience and she still attends their ‘Butterfly Café’ every two weeks.

This year was the first time I participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and my husband and my brother from Georgia participated too.

Being there meant so much to us.

We Walked the 3 mile route and were so moved seeing all the people involved. In fact, we are already discussing having our family reunion centered around the Walk next year.

There was one defining moment for me during the Walk.

As I looked around the sea of people, I saw someone I knew holding a blue flower signifying they had Alzheimer’s. I had no idea.

Right then it hit me.

Alzheimer’s affects ALL OF US!

We HAVE to support each other.

We HAVE to do more.

We all NEED to be aware of the disease and its symptoms.

The Walks to End Alzheimer’s may be over, but there is still time to donate.

Get involved and make a difference for the millions of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias!

Northern Neck – Middle Peninsula: Donate at http://bit.ly/ALZ_Walk_NorthernNeck

Fredericksburg: Donate at http://bit.ly/ALZ_Walk_Fredericksburg

Tri-Cities: Donate at http://bit.ly/ALZ_Walk_TriCities

Richmond: Donate at http://bit.ly/ALZ_Walk_GRVA


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