Why I Walk – Heidi Bristow

WhyIWalk

My name is Heidi Bristow and I Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Memory of my dad, Ellsworth German, and my grandfather, Christian German.

Unfortunately Alzheimer’s has taken its toll on my family since 1983 about the time that Alzheimer’s awareness began to finally take shape in our country. My Grandfather was diagnosed in late 1983 with this disease along with ALS…yes double trouble. With these two serious diseases working against him his life was cut short in August of 1984. Watching this decline in my grandfather in my late teenage years was very traumatic especially when he was unable to recognize me. Being an only grandchild, he spoiled me rotten and he was truly my hero. Loosing him even before his death hurt deeply and I had hoped to never face that disease again.

Years later in 2009 about 10 years after my mother had passed away from heart disease I noticed some very disturbing symptoms begin to appear in my father that were all to familiar to some seen in my grandfather. Not something anyone wants to hear but being an only child the news was even more devastating. Finally after much persuading I talked my dad into seeing a neurologist and yes the diagnosis was as suspected…early stages of Alzheimer’s. My heart sunk into my chest…oh no not again.

Luckily my dad was still able to live at home, travel and be very self-sufficient much longer then I had thought. He was one good spirited and highly independent man that was not going to let this disease get the best of him. However in 2014 we noticed other complications were beginning to appear in him that now indicated he also had Parkinson’s disease. Yes…double trouble once more.

From that time on my dad experienced a much more rapid decline in his health both physically and mentally. At this point I knew that it would not be long before my dad would require 24/7 skilled care so my search for the best facility possible in our area began. By April of 2015 we knew the time was close to when dad would need to move from his home into a long term care facility. I had selected Heron Cove a Riverside Facility in Gloucester, VA. But how do I tell him this? He will be heart broken and as usual angry with me. As most caregivers know they like to lash out at the ones closest to them. This was probably the hardest part for me in dad’s decline until of course he no longer recognized me, my husband or his wonderful grandsons (in their early 20’s). His decline was very hard on the boys but the importance of visiting with him no matter how hard it was could not be stressed enough.

Late in May my dad’s ability to eat solid foods was greatly effected by the Parkinson’s disease complicated by Alzheimer’s and this required a hospital admission. Definitely not what I would have planned but it proved to be a blessing in disguise. Mainly because the news that he was no longer able to go home came from his doctor not from me. Praise the Lord!!!! Luckily I had made some preliminary arrangements with Heron Cove and dad’s transition from the hospital to there went extremely well. I cannot stress enough to families dealing with this illness to pre-plan for long term care. You never know when something sudden like my dad’s hospital admission could be a game changer and you are left to settle for some place you may not want versus already having planned ahead and selected a place for them. My pre-planning although very difficult at the time had truly paid off.

The first 3 weeks dad was at Heron Cove he was pretty stable and was able to be taken around the facility and out in the garden by wheelchair and enjoy meals in the dining room with the other residents. Having a very strict soft food diet he was not very pleased however he never turned down this bowl of vanilla ice cream at each meal, even breakfast. I loved to tease him that I wanted to be on his ice cream diet, which sounded good to me. Those 3 weeks were filled with visits from many friends and family members, even our little dog Buster came to visit a time or two. On my daily visits we reminisced about earlier times, listened to music and looked over old photo albums, anything to make him smile was my goal.

However much to my surprise on June 30th I received a call from his nurse that turned my world upside down. I was told to gather our family and come to Heron Cove. She felt my dad’s time was short and she wanted me and my family to have as much time with him as possible. This was just such a shock for me…I knew he was worse but to loose him already was so unexpected. We all gathered that evening and spent quality time with him and he responded to each of us even by name…yes by name.

The following morning I was called to Heron Cove bright and early to find that dad was now bed ridden and very unresponsive. The end was near and my heart was breaking. I kept vigil by his bedside with other family and friends until he went to his heavenly home on July 2, 2015. It was a peaceful passing and I know dad has been made new again.

So that is why I walk….in the memory of my grandfather and now my dad. We MUST fight to find a cure for this horrible disease that is taking so many of our loved ones. I worry about myself and my children with this disease being so prominent in our family. It’s not too late for us…WE MUST FIND A CURE, and that is why I walk and I know he will be walking beside me every step of the way.

Register for the 2015 Walks to End Alzheimer’s!

Northern Neck – Middle Peninsula; Saturday, September 19th at Bethpage Camp Resort. Register and donate at bit.ly/NNMPWalkToEndALZ2015

Fredericksburg; Saturday, September 26th at University of Mary Washington. Register and donate at bit.ly/FredericksburgWalkToEndALZ2015

Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s; Saturday, November 7th at Innsbrook. Register and donate at bit.ly/RVAWalkToEndALZ2015

Why I Walk – Sydney Cameron

WhyIWalkSydney

My name is Sydney Cameron and I Walk to End Alzheimer’s for my granny.

Some of my earliest memories of my grandmother (when I was around 6 years-old) are when she would travel from her home in Chicago to visit our home in Dallas. She would always sleep with me in my room. My parents even bought me a queen-sized bed so we could share it together.

She would always put rollers in her hair at night and used a head scarf that reminded me of a fish net. Whenever I wanted a French braid in my hair I always went to her (she was a hair stylist.) I remember she adored a string of pearls and one night she gave them to me, just because. (I wore them on my wedding day, in honor of her.)

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized my granny wasn’t quite the same as when I was younger. She didn’t fuss at me anymore and she didn’t always have a hug or smile ready for me when I walked into a room. She stopped visiting our family in Texas.

It was then that I learned she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

As a teen I’m not sure that I fully comprehended what it all meant. I just knew every time our family would visit her in Chicago she talked less and less. Then I noticed she moved less and less and eventually could no longer even feed herself.

One vivid memory I have is one day my mom was giving her a pedicure and keeping up a constant stream of chatter. Every once and awhile my grandmother would make a non-committal noise.
But, after all these years it was her eyes that I still remember the most. Every time my mom moved my grandmother’s eyes would follow. It was like she recognized her daughter even though she couldn’t voice it.

My granny, Valadia Williams, traveled to the Kingdom of God in 2007.

I Walk to give her, and everyone else who has Alzheimer’s, a voice.

I Walk to find a cure.

I Walk to relive those memories.

I Walk to walk with her one more time.

I Walk to give strength to others.

I Walk to end Alzheimer’s.

You can now register for the 2015 Walks to End Alzheimer’s!

Northern Neck – Middle Peninsula; Saturday, September 19th at Bethpage Camp Resort. Register and donate at bit.ly/NNMPWalkToEndALZ2015

Fredericksburg; Saturday, September 26th at University of Mary Washington. Register and donate at bit.ly/FredericksburgWalkToEndALZ2015

Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s; Saturday, November 7th at Innsbrook. Register and donate at bit.ly/RVAWalkToEndALZ2015

Why I Walk – Paige Lanier Chargois

WhyIWalkPaige

My name is Paige Lanier Chargois and I Walk to End Alzheimer’s for my father, Earlie Hayes Lanier, a man I have revered for many years who succumbed to Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago. This year I will Walk for him!

Every child needs a parent to hold his or her hand to guide, secure, or protect them!

Throughout much of my childhood, I would walk with Dad to the big supermarket nine blocks away. Alone or allowing me to tag along, he always walked to the store, bought the groceries then caught the bus back home. When I would hear him announce that’s where he was heading, I’d holler out, “Dad, can I go?” Of course he would say yes, grab my hand and we would take off.

There’s a special memory about Dad within each of those steps – some of the best “daddy-daughter” conversations ever!

Most special would be the moment as we set out walking when he would grab my hand in his. The strength in his hands was amazing. Compared to my tiny hand as a little girl, his hands were so large. The confidence that hand allowed me – that nothing could “touch” me as long as my Dad was holding my hand! All was right in my world!

I remember the questions he would ask about school, about my playmates, about what I wanted to become. My responses are not all that important now, but I still relish the sense of strength and security I felt as long as Dad held my hand. I had no worry because I was walking with my Dad!

Fast-forward about 60 years as I began providing care for Dad who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He still loved to walk throughout the community, but would occasionally lose his way although we had lived in that house more than 20 years. That helped me decide to relocate.

The apartment to which we moved within a retirement community was a bit limiting for him and his love of walking. Some evenings I would take him into the long hallways of our building where we would set out walking. Although Dad did not need a walker or wheelchair, one particular evening he said to me, “I could walk better if you would hold my hand.”

I experienced a “nuclear melt-down” of memories covering hundreds of days he had held my hand when we walked together – including to the grocery store! The strength he had provided me over those years – just by holding my hand – became a power-surge of mega proportions! I slipped my hand around his hoping for and trusting in a similar surge of strength and confidence in Dad that he would then be able to walk a little better. And he did.

This year I will Walk to end Alzheimer’s and Dad won’t be holding my hand nor will I be holding his; but the strength remains because it is still very clear and very real that I will “walk a little better (as) he holds my hand!”

You can now register for the 2015 Walks to End Alzheimer’s!

Northern Neck – Middle Peninsula; Saturday, September 19th at Bethpage Camp Resort. Register and donate at bit.ly/NNMPWalkToEndALZ2015

Fredericksburg; Saturday, September 26th at University of Mary Washington. Register and donate at bit.ly/FredericksburgWalkToEndALZ2015

Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s; Saturday, November 7th at Innsbrook. Register and donate at bit.ly/RVAWalkToEndALZ2015

Why I Walk – Brittany Eckstein

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My name is Brittany Eckstein and I Walk to End Alzheimer’s for my Grandmother.

In 2007, when I was just 12 years old, my Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was old enough to know what it was, but too young to know how bad it could get.

In the beginning stages, little things would slip such as names and places. It progressively got worse and eventually got to the point where my Grandmother could not live on her own.

In 2009, she came to live with my mother and me and we took care of her for about two years. Eventually, it became too much for us to handle, so my aunt took over the caregiving.

We would go over to visit and to check up on her and I even spent an entire summer with my Aunt helping her take care of my Grandmother. It was hard to watch her not remember who I was, but deep down I knew that she would never forget me no matter how bad the disease got.

She eventually got to the point where she could no longer speak or walk and the family placed her with Hospice. She was only given a year or so to live.

I remember visiting her one day and as soon as I walked in the room she gave me the biggest smile. It had been a long time since I had seen her smile that way.

When it was time for me to leave, I gave her a hug and told her I loved her. Even though she could no longer speak, she mumbled something, and to me it sounded like “I love you.”

That’s when I knew that deep down, she still knew who I was and that she wouldn’t forget me. That moment gave me hope.

She was in Hospice for two years before she passed away.

My Grandmother was a strong fighter and continued to surprise the doctors every day. When she no longer had the strength to fight, she let go and passed in July 2015.

So, I Walk for her.

My grandmother was one of the strongest people I have ever known. She was always a fighter – before and during her fight with Alzheimer’s.

I Walk to let people know to not give up hope.

I Walk because I know one day, we will find a cure!!!

You can now register for the 2015 Walks to End Alzheimer’s!

Northern Neck – Middle Peninsula; Saturday, September 19th at Bethpage Camp Resort. Register and donate at bit.ly/NNMPWalkToEndALZ2015

Fredericksburg; Saturday, September 26th at University of Mary Washington. Register and donate at bit.ly/FredericksburgWalkToEndALZ2015

Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s; Saturday, November 7th at Innsbrook. Register and donate at bit.ly/RVAWalkToEndALZ2015

Why I Walk – Fran Zehmer

Fran

My name is Fran Zehmer, and I Walk to End Alzheimer’s for my husband, Jack.

More than eleven years ago my husband Jack was diagnosed with dementia. He was 62.

Jack was an author and avid traveler and had just retired from a career as an architectural historian and was looking forward to having time to complete several books and take a number of trips. The progression of the disease made finishing the books a growing strain on him, and the possibility of the trips disappeared.

As a couple, we turned to the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter for guidance, attending the organization’s support group meetings and gathering vital information about the disease.

Because of the Association, we both learned how to navigate the potholes in the long road of memory loss and with the Association’s help it became very clear that until a cure is found, countless other couples will have to face what we are facing daily.

Finding a cure will take extensive research. Extensive research takes money.

Until a cure is found, more support for caregivers is vitally needed. Funds are needed for respite care and educational resources that can help caregivers better handle the unpredictable challenges that may face them.

So I Walk to help raise funding to find a cure.

I Walk to help fund support for other caregivers in their unpredictable journey.

And I Walk for Jack, who I am sure would not have wanted the evaporation of his mind to have happened.

You can now register for the 2015 Walks to End Alzheimer’s!

Northern Neck – Middle Peninsula; Saturday, September 19th at Bethpage Camp Resort. Register and donate at bit.ly/NNMPWalkToEndALZ2015

Fredericksburg; Saturday, September 26th at University of Mary Washington. Register and donate at bit.ly/FredericksburgWalkToEndALZ2015

Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s; Saturday, November 7th at Innsbrook. Register and donate at bit.ly/RVAWalkToEndALZ2015

Why I Walk – Alicia Miller

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My name is Alicia Miller and I Walk to End Alzheimer’s for four family members – my grandmother, Uncle Johnny, Aunt Loretta and my mother. In addition to the family that I know about, I am also aware that this disease appears to carry further up the line on my mother’s side of the family. I may not know them all, but I Walk for them as well.

My first interaction with this disease was when I was a child and watching my grandmother decline over the years. Granted, she had a stroke about the time I was born, but it was Alzheimer’s that ultimately took her life.

I watched her physically and mentally decline over sixteen years of my life. Alzheimer’s took away the opportunity to play, bake, talk about things, and just to have a normal interaction with my grandmother.

For what I knew of her, she was kind and soft-spoken and she smiled at me often.

Being a child and into my young teens, it was scary to watch someone slip away and have conversations with her father (an empty chair to the rest of us), to randomly cry and you didn’t know why, to have no control over daily functions, to hold a baby doll and basically just revert back to being a little girl.

She slipped away to heaven in January of 1995.

My Uncle Johnny is actually not a “blood” relative but was married to my Aunt Loretta. He lost his battle to Alzheimer’s in March of 2001. Aunt Loretta is currently living with the disease and is my mother’s only, and older, sister.

My mother has not been officially given a diagnosis but there is no question to anyone in my family that that’s exactly what this is.

We’ve seen and dealt with this tragic disease before.

It’s been so much harder now being the child rather than the grandchild or the niece and seeing it firsthand. It’s hard knowing that there are times my mom doesn’t know who I am, there are many times that she’s very difficult to deal with – it’s hard to build a thick skin sometimes and to have to teach your children, nieces and nephews to do the same when they should just be able to be children.

It’s hard to watch your mom to repeatedly discover and rediscover the loss of a loved one from almost 30 years ago and to know that I can’t take that pain or those tears away.

It can be difficult to repeatedly hear the same conversations and to learn to give short answers, to learn that at times it’s just easier to agree than to disagree, etc.

There are so many more things that I could say about my mom, her struggles, and about all that I’ve learned and continue to learn.

For those reading this, remember that even through the difficult times, take every ounce of joy that you possibly can out of every moment you can because you never know when it will be their last.

Celebrate life, take mental pictures if not real ones, ask questions, build memories and be thankful for all of the little things.

Then after you do that, apply those same principles to your everyday life. Cry when you need to, lean on others when you need to, find healthy outlets, seek the Alzheimer’s Association and all of the incredible resources available – that’s what they’re there for.

Remember to take care of yourself in the process of caring for your friend/family member.

I Walk for my family.

I Walk for the caregivers and the amazing things they do every day.

I Walk for each person whose story I have seen or heard.

I Walk for answers and for a cure and I ask you to do the same.

Thank you, in advance, for all of the funds you are raising for research and towards helping families here in the Greater Richmond area.

You can now register for the 2015 Walks to End Alzheimer’s!

Northern Neck – Middle Peninsula; Saturday, September 19th at Bethpage Camp Resort. Register and donate at bit.ly/NNMPWalkToEndALZ2015

Fredericksburg; Saturday, September 26th at University of Mary Washington. Register and donate at bit.ly/FredericksburgWalkToEndALZ2015

Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s; Saturday, November 7th at Innsbrook. Register and donate at bit.ly/RVAWalkToEndALZ2015

Why I Walk – Ryan Redd

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My name is Ryan and I walk in memory of my great-aunt Eva and to find a cure for her sister, my great-aunt Bea (Beatrice).

I remember growing up and going to visit Aunt Eva; she knew her way around the kitchen and made the best brownies and always set aside a tin just for me, no nuts if you please.

At the time of her diagnosis, my family was unaware of the support and resources provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Since joining my local chapter as a volunteer, I’ve made it my mission to share my experiences and involvement with the chapter in an effort to help others; it seems as though everywhere I go, I meet someone who has been touched by this devastating disease.

My great-aunt Bea has been recently diagnosed, and though the news of her diagnosis is sad; she is still just as sharp and quick-witted as ever.

Please join me and thousands of other Central Virginians in our effort to raise awareness and funds to combat this terrible disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the brains behind saving yours; join us in the fight to end Alzheimer’s!

You can now register for the 2015 Walks to End Alzheimer’s!

Northern Neck – Middle Peninsula; Saturday, September 19th at Bethpage Camp Resort. Register and donate at bit.ly/NNMPWalkToEndALZ2015

Fredericksburg; Saturday, September 26th at University of Mary Washington. Register and donate at bit.ly/FredericksburgWalkToEndALZ2015

Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s; Saturday, November 7th at Innsbrook. Register and donate at bit.ly/RVAWalkToEndALZ2015