Alzheimer’s and dementia takes a major toll on families as they watch their loved ones slowly slip away. For many of us, this is or was our reality for a period of time. But for Dublin, Georgia resident, Pace Tyson, this has been his reality since he was 14 years old and has continued throughout his life.
“My Dad was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. He was 53 years old.” A year later, his brother, Wendell who was only 57 years old was diagnosed as well.
Because of his father’s fast disease progression, his father forgot how to do his job in which he loved. He was also showing signs of sadness and irritability. Pace’s mother made sure he received the care he needed and helped him retire by selling his business.
A few years after Pace’s father passed away in 2011, Pace and his family noticed changes with their mother. She was repeating herself, lost interest in day to day activities including personal hygiene and was no longer able to handle the finances. After a visit to her primary doctor, he determined she had a form of dementia. In 2017, a specialist officially diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease.
“In a million years, I never dreamed that both of my parents or my Uncle would get diagnosed with such a terrible disease. I was personally in denial because I had already dealt with this with my Dad and my Uncle”.
Growing up in Georgia, Pace’s father was a well respected CPA and his mother was a contractor for the federal government. They traveled, attended church and attended many of their children’s school activities. The summers were spent at the families pool.
“My parents were happy, loving, and driven people. Life really changed for my Mom and I after my Dad was diagnosed. I went from my Dad taking care of me to slowly learning how to take care of my Dad as he progressively got worse. My mother struggled with helping me have a normal teenage life while caring full time for my father”.
Many families are faced with visiting their loved ones through windows, FaceTime and other virtual ways to just see their face and get some sort of assurance they are safe during this difficult time. It’s been over 7 weeks since Pace and his sisters have physically seen their mother. Pace gives most of his comfort to his wife as he has broken down because he is missing his mother.
“Shamrock Nursing Home has been so helpful in letting us FaceTime with my Mom. To see her smile through the phone has meant the world to my sisters Holly and Heather. Holly, Heather and our Aunt Christi have been super thoughtful about my Mom’s well-being at Shamrock. They are always thinking of ideas like hanging pictures or refilling her bird feeder outside her window to make her stay even more fun”.
As Mother’s Day approaches, many families are planning events around the COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing practices. “We plan to get a banner to hang outside her window to wish her “Happy Mother’s Day!”. We still want to practice social distancing to keep her safe so we will not physically be with her, unfortunately.
Pace and his sisters are grateful for their friends, family and church during this difficult time. They have been overwhelmed with support, love and guidance during this second Alzheimer’s journey. Pace also gives credit to the support of the Alzheimer’s Association through his local support group and alz.org/georgia for all the resources including understanding legal situations, stages of the disease as well as online training.
“The support group here in Dublin has been a wonderful tool to just talk and understand more about the disease. Mott Smith (Alzheimer’s Association Program Director, Central Georgia Service Area) has been so amazing to me over the years and I always learn so much from her whenever we get together”.
When asked, what do you want people to know about Alzheimer’s disease, he said,
“If you have a loved one dealing with Alzheimer’s, take each day like a new adventure. Some days are tougher than others. Celebrate small victories like when they remember something that they may have forgotten before or when their mood is happy. You are not alone in dealing with this disease. Please utilize the resources of the Alzheimer’s Association and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every day with your loved one is a blessing. Every day we wake up is a blessing. Everyday we get to wake up and spend another day with our loved ones is an even bigger blessing. Cherish your time with your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, because you don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”.
For more information about Alzheimer’s Association care and support services in your area including virtual support groups, education programs and early stage social groups, please visit alz.org/georgia or call 1-800-272-3900.
For information on how to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s during COVID-19, please visit COVID-19 Caregiving Tips.