By Claudia Bjorklund
The first week of June 2009 was a week to celebrate our youngest child’s high school graduation and Randy’s 55th birthday. It was a memorable week with a horrible twist when we received Randy’s diagnosis of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease. He had been undergoing testing during the prior month and the PET scan was text book Alzheimer’s. At the time we were anticipating becoming “empty nesters” we were suddenly faced with an unanticipated, scary future. No one in Randy’s family had Alzheimer’s. A mutated gene, we were told, was the probable cause. We cried, we hugged, we prayed.
Then what did we do? We jumped in with both feet. We had spent the past ten years fundraising and supporting the high school music program our kids were involved in, so we transferred those energies to learning about Alzheimer’s disease and supporting the Alzheimer’s Association. I started attending a support group sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association and Randy asked “What about me?” Fortunately within days we received the local Alzheimer’s newsletter that told us of a support group that we both could be involved in. I contacted the Alzheimer’s office, we interviewed to see if the group was a good fit for us and began participating in this group of couples, like us, that were dealing with early stage Alzheimer’s.
Randy handled his diagnosis incredibly well and was comforted that the issues he was experiencing had a cause beyond his control. I had attributed his symptoms to stress, and after his diagnosis immersed myself in reading all I could about Alzheimer’s disease. I spent my evenings reading and crying. I attended seminars through the Alzheimer’s Association. After some time I stopped reading so much. It was overwhelmingly depressing and I was getting too much information, too fast. A good friend of mine, who also has Alzheimer’s disease, said “If you have met one person with Alzheimer’s disease, you have met one person with Alzheimer’s Disease.” Though we all received the same diagnosis, the disease progresses differently for each individual. I began to see that much ofwhat I read may or may not pertain to Randy’s progression o
Education is a life line when dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. As a caregiver, I need to educate myself on taking care of not only my husband, but myself as well. Through support groups and seminars, a caregiver is able to spend time and share experiences with people in similar situations. The Alzheimer’s Association, both locally and through their website, alz.org, is an invaluable source of information.
Get the education and support you need, register for the Spokane Alzheimer’s & Dementia Conference today or call 1.800.272.3900 to learn more about resources in your community.