Today, on The Longest Day, my husband and I will wake up early to hike Mount Evans in Colorado with our team of friends, the Mile High Memory Club. It’s our third year participating in The Longest Day, a sunrise-to-sunset event that symbolizes the challenging journey of those living with the disease and their caregivers. This will be our second year hiking a Colorado 14’er (elevation: 14,265’) to honor someone we love very much who is living with Alzheimer’s – my mother.
Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, but she has been silently suffering for much longer than that. If you have ever known anyone with Alzheimer’s, then you know what a cruel disease this is. Once diagnosed, the person knows their fate, and my mom has already seen firsthand what this disease does. Her mother – my grandmother – also had Alzheimer’s. Because of this, for years prior to her diagnosis, my mother knew what was happening to her and knew what was coming. It was, no doubt, terrifying for her. Over time, she was going to lose the one thing she had spent her whole life creating – her memories.
The reality of what is happening to my mom – and therefore, to our family – has been unfolding for quite some time. Over the years, my mom spent much of her time trying to hide her disease. Unfortunately, there is no way for her to hide it anymore. The disease is progressing and it is heartbreaking to watch. My father is her primary caregiver and is doing an amazing job. Although I know he is exhausted, his patience never waivers.
Dad is there for mom today on The Longest Day and will be there for her always. They celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, but sadly, each day my dad loses another piece of the woman he has loved for all of these years – and I lose another piece of my mom. I am taking action today in order to make sure other families don’t have to watch their loved ones disappear in front of them.
We hike in honor of my mom and the 47 million people living with Alzheimer’s worldwide. We also hike for all of the families and caregivers supporting their loved ones. The more awareness we can bring to this disease – and the more funds we can raise for the Alzheimer’s Association – the closer we will come to putting an end to it.
It is a privilege to be a part of The Longest Day. While I cannot turn back time and change what is happening to my mother, I can have a small part in fighting this disease and hopefully living to see a day without Alzheimer’s.
About the Author: Sarah Springer is participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event on June 20, 2016, to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Visit her personal page here.