Unsung Hero Award
I have been selected to receive an "Unsung Hero Award" that will be honored with many other exceptional individuals on November 30, 2011 by the Alzheimer's Association MA/NH Chapter. I have been asked to speak for about 4 minutes. This is the first time I will need to prepare a speech and not sure even where to begin as my journey with The Alzheimer's Association started 8 years ago and my driving force for helping others with dementia is very hard to explain or describe. Where do I begin?
I participated in my first Memory Walk at Veteran's park in Manchester, NH 8 years ago when NH & VT chapters were merged. It was a joke. No support was offered. We raised very little money and had hardly any walkers. I was then asked to help out the following year.
The next year I ran the walk. We spent a tremendous amount of time organizing the walk and having a lot of pre-event activities and doubled the amount we raised. We had many more walkers and a lot more support. After this event I was then informed VT was severing its relationship with NH and closed their office in Concord, NH. UGH!
I then find out the MA chapter was interested in merging with NH. This year was a re-organizing year that has paid off very well for NH residents. Entering into my world next is the NH office staff that opened an office in Bedford, NH. They have been wonderful. Many benefits to the residents of NH seeking information and help.
At this point our awareness and fundraising began to explode. Keep in mind when I began eight years ago we only raised about $12,000 or so from my memory and now we are close to $175,000. A tremendous increase.
Why do I do this? I must have a connection to the disease right? Not a first! I can now say I do with several relatives now going through their journey. My grandmother had a very short journey but had passed from unrelated issues not related to dementia.
I do this because I see firsthand what families are dealing with. My very first experience was with Russell. I gentleman I met in his 80's who lived at home until late in the disease when he moved in with his daughter. Russell understood he had an issue but was happy. He was what I called a pleasure to help. His daughter was fully committed to give him the best care possible. Unfortunately I saw this tear up the family. The son and other daughter never visited and neither did any grandchildren. No one offered support. Why? It's hard to know why but seeing this made me angry and has given me fuel to fight. How could anyone not want to help Russell?
My next inspiration has come from Romeo. Romeo is a very nice man that I had gotten to know him from taking care of his wife whom suffered a stroke. After a about a year after her passing we were called in to watch over Romeo whom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I still see Romeo and visit occasionally. He always has a big smile for me. We just have a special connection.
Over the years I have educated myself. I see this disease often in the public. Just recently my husband I went out to dinner. We saw an older couple exiting the same time as us. The wife was unsteady so I told the husband I would stay with her until he pulled up the car. While we waited we had a short conversation and I knew she had a cognitive deficit and she confirmed my suspicion when she stated she had an upcoming appointment she with a Doctor. It's amazing to see how much this disease really is spreading. I am meeting families all the time and trying to steer them in the right direction and offer support and education to the best of my ability.
This disease has surrounded me! I see it exploding and taking quality of life from many families. When a client explained to me, "It's those marbles right here causing the problem", how can you not try and help?
When a daughter cries for help because her mother won't listen to her and her safety is at risk, how can you not try and help?
When a prominent former attorney answers the door in his underwear after always being dressed in a suit and tie when you previously met, how can you not try and help?
When a family states we have tried help before but they always throw them out, how can you not try and help?
When a husband cries because he is losing his best friend, how can you not try and help?
We have many improvements to make in the medical community so families are treated and educated correctly. I cringe when I hear stories of families looking for more information but not being given what they truly need. I have a mission and will not stop until we see progress and results.
I am honored to receive this award and feel that everyone should be doing what I am doing so we can make some progress and defeat Alzheimer's disease.
I would like to thank everyone that supports me and my mission and together we WILL make a difference.