Each year as Mother's Day approaches, I can't help but think of how the strong bonds between mother and child can be turned upside down in the face of fate. My mother's fate was early-onset Alzheimer's disease, an illness which not only changed our relationship, but made me realize how fragile life really is.
At first, she didn't want to get a diagnosis because she feared the worst. She thought that once people knew she had Alzheimer's, they would treat her differently. She thought the stigma associated with the disease would make people nervous and her friends wouldn't come around as much. However, I knew what was best for my mother. And I knew there was no turning back. I knew the roles were reversed and I had to be there for her as she had been there for me.
As her sole caregiver, I saw my mother become a shell of her former self. She lost 30 pounds without saying a word. She could no longer keep track of her finances. A minor accident like knocking a pillbox off the counter or encountering a detour on her way to the dining commons in her apartment community could derail an entire day and have serious consequences.
On top of caring for my mother, I needed to be a mother to my young daughter. Being part of the sandwich generation, I struggled to maintain the delicate balance of being a compassionate caregiver to my mom and dedicating myself to my own family. Many times, I found myself racing to the car with a shopping cart full of groceries for my mother in the hope that I could unload them quickly and still make it to the show and tell event at my daughter's school.
I will always wonder what life would have been like if my mother hadn't developed this devastating disease. There are many family moments that would have been richer with my mother present. My daughter and my mother shared a love of music and books and I am thankful for the time they were able to spend together. We were robbed by this disease and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
There are 5 million people living with Alzheimer's and more than 15 million people caring for patients afflicted with the disease. Clearly, this disease does not discriminate. It steals life before it ends, taking a significant emotional and financial toll on families across the country and across the world.
As I spend time with my daughter this Mother's Day and cherish our moments together, I still have hope for a breakthrough. Since Alzheimer's detection outpaces treatment, my hope is that we can find an answer through Alzheimer's prevention research.
Because of this hope, I joined the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry to become part of a movement of people who want to move forward this new era of Alzheimer's research. Whether you're a caregiver or a family friend who has seen the impact of Alzheimer's firsthand, please join us in the fight against Alzheimer's and help prevent this disease before another generation is lost.
To join the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry, visit www.endalznow.org.