Pine Mountain, Georgia resident Linda Mason Barber is not a stranger to Alzheimer’s. For the past 20 years, she has watched her mother, Roberta Dzwonkowski, slip away from this devastating disease. Roberta was diagnosed at the age of 69.
” She started out with simply forgetting how to use common things in her home, like her coffee pot, and is at the point today where she needs assistance with just about everything. She can no longer communicate in any understandable fashion and just this past couple of weeks, I had to be move her to a nursing home because her condition deteriorated to the point of her needing to be watched and cared for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”.
Linda and her family tried to allow her to live independently at first. She was moved to an assisted living facility to try to help her maintain a little independence, but as the disease started to take it’s toll, Linda’s mother was moved to a memory care unit.
“The cost of this care led to mom quickly running out of money and with the move to the memory unit, it became apparent we were not going to be able to sustain this for long. I have had to continue to work to pay for mom’s care and had to even start pulling money from my retirement fund”.
According the Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures, 20% of care contributors reported spending money from their own retirement savings to help pay for dementia-related expenses.
“The economic impact of caring for mom was putting a strain on the family. We eventually moved mom to a Personal Care home in January of this past year. She struggled to acclimate and then recently became very ill. She dropped another notch in terms of her cognition and we realized it was time to move her to a nursing home as her care needs have now progressed to the point that, for safety and economic reasons, we have no other option. This has been heartbreaking to say the least”.
For the past seven years, Linda and her family have participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in LaGrange, Georgia as a way of bringing awareness to this prevalent and devastating disease.
“The number of Americans who are afflicted by Alzheimer’s is astounding. Research related to the disease has been ongoing for some time but there has been little progress in terms of finding a cure for the disease or even effective measures for keeping the disease at bay. Research in this area must be supported if we ever hope to make headway in helping people who are at risk for or have developed Alzheimer’s”.
Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. This inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease.
“The most devastating factor in all of this is knowing what a vibrant, energetic woman my mother used to be. She had no problem walking 5 miles a day and now cannot walk 100 feet without assistance. She was the primary caretaker in our family and now is the one who needs as much assistance as each of us can provide. My only hope is that she is comfortable and is past the fear I used to see in her eyes when she realized she was losing her memory. I pray every day that progress will be made in discovering the true cause and cure for this horrible disease so that others do not have to go through what my mother and my family have in watching her slowly fade away’.
To learn more about how you can start a Walk to End Alzheimer’s team in your community, visit georgiawalk.org.