By Carrie Bloomfield
There’s no way I was ever going to give up on my mother. Alzheimer’s disease may have taken hold of her, but I was going to fight it tooth and nail until the very end.
My mom, Eva, started showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease more than seven years before it eventually took her from us in 2015. We thought her “forgetfulness” was just typical aging; one of those things you try to brush off. But after she fell and broke her shoulder, then her hip, there was no denying something was wrong. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging – it’s a progressive type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Currently, there’s no cure, treatment or prevention.
When mom fell, it really escalated her dementia. It’s all the confusion of one minute being in your familiar surroundings, then being in a hospital, then being in rehab – I guess it’s hard to hide after that. Just four months prior to her fall, she traveled by herself to visit my brother in California, and returned just fine.
After her diagnosis and the six years that followed, my family felt such sadness. For me, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in her mind. Even though she was frequently surrounded by her children and grandchildren, she often seemed lonely. But our family really came together – we each took different roles. I was very involved in her care, as our father had passed away in 2001 and I lived across the street from her memory facility. I was fortunate enough to be there almost every day.
People would ask if my mom knew who I was … I really didn’t care. If the person doesn’t recognize you, is their life less valuable? She was my mom.
As months and years went on, mom’s ability to communicate diminished. One of the hardest things for me was when she lost the ability to feed herself and eat solid foods. I had to feed her everything – I felt so sad. I wanted her to still have her independence with this disease and fought hard for her every day to have that. Another painful part of her journey through Alzheimer’s was her eyes. I could always read her eyes, and see how lonely, confused, and scared she was. You could see everything in her eyes.
In the end, she was in hospice for two weeks and my brother and I slept in her room every night. On the day before she died, the most powerful thing happened – she pulled me to her and gave me a “mom” kiss. She had found her way back to me for that last moment. I’ll never forget that.
My grandmother and mom both had the disease, so there’s definitely fear in me about getting it. But I’m so much more aware and educated now. My hope going forward is for people to pay attention to this group of people, 5.5 million Americans to be exact. At times our society can write them off, but we shouldn’t. We talk a lot about a cure, but there’s really a lot to be said about the care, programs and support the Alzheimer’s Association provides to anyone in need. These services help people with this disease live better longer, which is just as important.
I’m fighting for awareness any way I can. That’s why I’m participating on Sept. 9 in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Target Field. This is my fourth walk and my first time on the walk committee. I started participating in the walk when my mom was still alive. I feel honored to fight for this cause and honor my mom. There’s still time to register at alz.org/Walk! Join me for this powerful and motivating event to help end Alzheimer’s for future generations.
Carrie Bloomfield lives in Minnetonka and is at volunteer with the Twin Cities Walk to End Alzheimer’s.