Chris Anderson’s Walk Story

Why did I get involved in this Walk to End Alzheimer’s?

This is a personal story. I married my husband about 54 years ago. We were young, energetic, and a bit naïve as we began our life journey together. Both teachers, we enjoyed summer as a time to travel and explore the world. We volunteered at the Ft. Miley Ropes Course, working with all ages in a day of personal and group challenges. The experience was powerful in helping people change their “I can’t” voice to “I can.” Applied to life, challenges were surmountable with the right attitude and skills.

Then, about 6 years ago I began to notice that my husband Dave did not drive as well as he used to. He was always an excellent driver, on and off the road, but now he didn’t seem able to anticipate and maneuver very well. His driving scared me. I knew something wasn’t quite right but didn’t know what to do to help him. A doctor’s visit and a memory screening test suggested dementia. But Dave was only 74 years old! The word “Alzheimer’s” was mentioned but we didn’t really understand.

As time passed, I noticed more examples of his memory slipping. He had taught computers for 30 years and now had trouble navigating even the simplest tasks online. He began doing the memory games daily, determined. He would not accept that he could not do things as before until he went to renew his drivers’ license and could not even pass the written test after much practice. DMV took his license which was a god-send for me—it wasn’t me telling him he could no longer drive.

We needed help in understanding the disease and our options so I signed up for the support groups at the Alzheimer’s office. I found this to be enormously helpful—talking with other caregivers and sharing our experiences, frustrations, guilts, and sorrow. Meanwhile, Dave was in a group of others with Alzheimer’s and through that learned more about his situation and also had a safe place to talk about his fears and frustrations.

These groups provided vital information and resources. As his condition worsened, he progressed to different groups, geared to his level of functioning. I too progressed, Without these groups, I think we would have muddled along in isolation. But the group support helped me cope with the stress of 24/7 care, to laugh a bit each week, and to know that my feelings of guilt and sorrow were not unique. Hearing from others who were a few stages ahead of me helped prepare me for what was coming. Dave learned to speak up “I have Alzheimer’s and need you to be patient with me” when he was in the midst of other people.

Through the groups, we learned about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and joined with the office team the first year. The next year, I decided to form Dave’s Gang, a team to walk together in support of the work the Alzheimer’s Association was doing and we were benefitting from. Our team was only us, a couple of close friends, and a couple of family members. Each year since Dave’s Gang has added members until in 2019 we had about 22 family and friends. Our fundraising goals increased from about $2000 in 2015 to $20,000 in 2019. People want to help and being a part of a team makes the experience more personal and fun.

Dave’s Gang

Dave passed away in November 2016. I was so sad to lose my life partner but grateful that he didn’t have to live longer in such a miserable state of health—could not talk much, could not walk, and at the end, could not get
out of bed. I then decided to volunteer to do more to help the walk. This year I increased my involvement by taking on the Walk Co-Chair role in addition to Team Retention Committee Chair. Why? Because teams are what makes this event work!

So this is my story, but it is the story of so many others who have faced the painful Alzheimer’s journey as the patient or as the caregiver. I believe that the research will find a way to diagnose this disease before it develops and find preventative approaches and treatments that alleviate the symptoms. But until this disease is conquered, people need the support provided by the Alzheimer’s Association. We need to continue to advocate for resources and the walk is one way to contribute. I urge you to join the fight, join one of the committees and meet others who share your commitment.

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