Editor’s Note: There are 16 Walks to End Alzheimer’s in Washington and Northern Idaho in 2017. Register today at alz.org/walk
By Julia Leonard
Bob Kaftan always admired his mother for her analytical abilities.
“She was a human calculator,” Bob recalls. “She could add, subtract and divide faster than anybody else in the family. She was very good with mathematics and very good at keeping things orderly.”
Bob remembers his mother as the matriarch of his family and very organized. However, Bob began noticing differences in his mother’s behavior, and orderly qualities, during visits with her.
“I would spontaneously visit as I was traveling around the country and my mother would always ask me, ‘When are you coming back?’” said Bob. “I might tell her that I have another trip in about two months and then that same question would come up. She didn’t remember that I told her that I was coming back in two months. That was a pretty strong indication.”
With each trip back home, it became apparent to Bob that his mother was “not quite the same as the last time we saw her”. After receiving a CAT scan in 2000, Bob’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Bob’s father became a dedicated caregiver to his wife and her treatment during the early years of her diagnosis.
“He was really in denial, thinking that there was a cure,” said Bob. “He was gonna work real hard and she was gonna get better, and he was gonna get the best care possible for her…He was very very active and very very committed to doing the best that he could for her.”
Bob and his siblings lived in different parts of the country, but they did what they could to help out their father with their mother’s care. Despite his vast understanding of the disease, Bob’s father could no longer provide the treatment for his wife that she needed. Bob’s mother passed away after living with Alzheimer’s for eight years.
“My mother passed in 2008 and it took me until 2015 to actually walk up to an Alzheimer’s Association table at a meeting that I was at and just very blindly ask, “You have volunteers? How would I start that process?”… That’s the moment that I felt like I was ready to take on devoting some of my time to the Alzheimer’s Association. I was able to face whatever emotions I had regarding my mom passing and the eight years of the disease.”
Bob’s inquiry about volunteering led to many opportunities for him to become involved at the Association, including the Redmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“It was actually the first walk season that I was around the Alzheimer’s Association and at the very last minute, I decided to create and sponsor a team and attend the Redmond Walk. My wife and I walked and it seems intimidating, but it’s a really rewarding experience and very simple to create a team.”
Bob’s commitment to ending Alzheimer’s didn’t stop at the Walk. He’s currently serving on two committees to help create a world without Alzheimer’s disease.
“I got involved as a member of the King County Regional Advisory Council and also became a member of the association’s Fund Development Committee. A common phrase in the practice of healthcare is “See one, do one, teach one”, so I had seen one, and as far as fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association this year, I’m going to do one. Hopefully I can continue to grow.”
On top of his role in the Walk and the committees, Bob utilizes his presentation skills for the Speaker’s Bureau, where he’s able to educate and provide resources to many who are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.
“Every time I make a presentation, be it a small audience or a large audience, there’s always someone who’s highly concerned about himself, a family member, a friend or has a relationship with the disease,” said Bob. “Every presentation, I have a meaningful conversation with at least one person, sometimes more… they share their story [and I] try to help them with some of my own personal experience, get them materials and hooked into the website and the helpline. I’ll emphasize support groups and the extensive amount of information that’s available through the Alzheimer’s Association, but then also help them understand that 50% of [the Association’s] revenues and donations are dedicated to research.”
Bob has kept himself busy creating awareness on Alzheimer’s disease. Whether it being the Chair of the Redmond Walk Committee, or speaking to a group about the disease, Bob’s work is paving the way to a cure, all starting with a decision to get involved.
“Everyone in the Alzheimer’s Association is extremely appreciative of what I’m doing, the energy that I’ve put into it,” said Bob. “The contribution that the Alzheimer’s Association is making to me is equally significant if not more, as far as character building and morale building. The contribution to my soul from speaking for the Alzheimer’s Association, and the good feeling that gets created in me when I go out and talk to people about the disease, is always very gratifying.”
Join Bob and the thousands across Washington and Northern Idaho for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Register at alz.org/walk.