September 21st, 2017 | For Family Members
by Carrie Hutto, associate at Legend Senior Living
In 2012, I got my first look at Alzheimer’s disease - my mother was diagnosed. I immediately started educating myself on the disease and became horrified at the giant she was facing. The slow realization began creeping in that it would steal and destroy her memories. Memories of those she loved. And, in turn, this disease would begin taking punches at anyone who loved her – including me. My dad had passed away a year before and, living only a block away from her, I became her caretaker. I tried to help clean her house, go to the store and help her pick out groceries that were easy to prepare, make sure she was sleeping and took her to social events with friends and family. At that time, I was the mom of a 2-year old, a wife, and worked full time. I continuously felt guilty for either not spending enough time with her, or not spending enough time with my little family. More than 15 million Americans care for someone with Alzheimer’s, I was one of them. These were my first small battles with this disease.
In 2014, I accepted a position at Legend Senior Living. As with most new jobs, my first tasks were to read manuals and watch videos and PowerPoint presentations. I especially remember the material covering Alzheimer’s and dementia. Absorbing so much information – so many things I didn’t know, I spent moments at my desk with tears running down my face. As I was learning more and more, my heart was breaking as time took its toll on her memory and I stood by watching her decline. I felt helpless with no control over this new reality. She had been living in an assisted living community across town, but I needed her in a place where I knew she was safe and cared for by the best experts in town. It was an easy choice. I moved her into Regent Park, a beautiful Legend Senior Living community that was much closer to work and home. A new realization came that perhaps God had put me in this place and this time, to do good work, to be His hands and feet, to bring beauty from ashes.
One bright Saturday morning in September of 2015, I laced up my walking shoes to attend the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I was so amazed at the number of people that attended here in Wichita, KS. Teams of families, friends, co-workers – all there to raise funds for research, and to support and honor someone they loved. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and it is growing at a frantic rate. By 2050, this number could rise as high as 16 million. Those are pretty intimidating statistics.
Now, five years later, I finally understand that mom and I are facing a giant together. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the US and every 66 seconds, someone develops the disease. I got scared, and fear can bring you to your knees. It was while I was on my knees that I had a memory. Memories have become a precious commodity to me. She once told me I had “moxie” – which Oxford dictionary defines as ‘a force of character, determination, or nerve’. I had forgotten how much she believed in me. It is likely the biggest compliment I remember from my mother. I needed to take that “moxie” out of my pocket and put it to good use. So, I made up my mind. I’m going to fight.
Working at Legend Senior Living has been an amazing blessing in my life. I work for an employer with great empathy to Alzheimer’s disease, a passion for seniors, and a spirit of servanthood for the community. This past June, Legend sponsored a golf tournament that funds respite care for the Alzheimer’s Association. Legend Senior Living is also the Presenting Sponsor for the upcoming 2017 Alzheimer’s Walk in Wichita.
What can you do to help? Will you help in the fight? Will you get involved? Sign-up this fall for the Alzheimer’s Walk in your local chapter, raise awareness, raise funds.
Mom and I switched places somewhere along this journey, and now I encourage her instead of her encouraging me. Some days she doesn’t even know who I am. But, oh – the days when she does recognize me? Well, her smile reaches her eyes and fills my heart. And that…that smile…that is why I will keep fighting.