In the Fall of 2010, my family and I received the worst news we had ever had—my 57-year-old mom had dementia. It’s been four years since we received that initial diagnosis, and the reality and complexity of the disease is only getting more and more difficult to comprehend.
I’ve spent the last year watching my mom’s motor skills and memory decline and it truly breaks my heart. I can’t imagine my life without her, and I don’t want another daughter to go through this with their own mom. That hope—that there will be a day when no one watches their mother go through this—is why I am participating in The Longest Day, a sunrise-to-sunset event to fight Alzheimer’s, for the second time.
Last year, when I first heard about this event, I struggled with my decision to participate because very few people in my life knew about my mom’s diagnosis. I was worried about letting the whole world in on our not-so-secret secret. Thankfully, I got over those fears and together with my team, the Cape Cod Alzstars, went on to raise more than $45,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. This year it wasn’t even a question of whether or not I would participate. So far this year we’ve raised more than $35,000 and we’re on track to beat last year’s total!
My Dad, My Hero
The Longest Day isn’t just about raising money to end this disease, it’s about spreading awareness, spending time with our loved ones who are living with Alzheimer’s, and supporting our caregivers—the true unsung heroes.
My dad is the strongest person I know. I am so proud of him every day. As my mother’s caregiver, there is no vacation from Alzheimer’s, from the first shower in the morning to “sundowning” in the evening. Caregivers spend every ounce of their attention and energy on keeping those with Alzheimer’s safe, content and engaged. Our family is also very grateful for the caring and compassionate people who spend time with my mom throughout the week; they are extensions of our family now.
How I Became an Advocate
It’s interesting—while it took me a long time to accept my mom’s illness, and overcome my reluctance to shine a light on our personal struggles—after I participated in The Longest Day last year, I was inspired to become more involved with the Alzheimer’s Association and do whatever I can to help. The experience made me look at my life differently, and now my focus is on giving back and making a difference in everyday life. If anyone reading this is looking for a way to get involved, the alz.org website is a really helpful tool, providing so much information about the disease and many suggestions on how anyone can make a difference.
On The Longest Day, my team will be putting on a fishing tournament. We live by the marina, and fishing has always been a favorite family activity. We will be rising early to catch striped bass and tuna. After spending the day near the water, family and friends will gather to enjoy a BBQ (from Nauset Farms!), and a silent auction and raffle with some really great items. We have experienced so much support from family, friends and local businesses. Feeling such a sense of community as we have dealt with this disease has been amazing. It was so great to see everyone come together last year, and I’m sure our day this year will be even better!
I encourage every one of you to join in on The Longest Day and help us put an end to Alzheimer’s!
About the Author: Molly Waugh, 27, is participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event on June 21, 2014, to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.