Sep 012016

image001Family, fitness and faith are all at the center of my being. I was a caregiver for 13 years for two of the most important men in my life – my fathers. Like many caregivers, I experienced the joy and heartbreak of caring for my parents. It was a journey that sometimes made me laugh and sometimes made me cry.

When my father was diagnosed with dementia after suffering from two strokes, I was concerned about his quality of life, so I moved him into my home and hired nurse assistants to help me take care of him. Eventually, God sent me an angel named Lenell Wyatt who moved into my home and took care of my Papa as if he was her Papa.



It was a blessing to have Dad at home with me. We had a beautiful relationship. Every morning it was like waking up to sunshine.

There were many ways dementia changed my Dad, but I made sure he was always physically, mentally and spiritually stimulated. To help him develop a new norm, I took measures to focus on his wellness daily. We kept busy with senior church programs, bingo and movie nights, field trips, aquatics, art classes and tennis. We also had date nights once a week. Papa loved to go salsa dancing…well, he stood in one place snapping his fingers while the pretty girls danced around him. Every single day was full of these sunny moments.

I believe everyone can live their best life, and this includes people with dementia and Alzheimer’s – and their caregivers.

With more than 25 years in the fitness business, I have seen firsthand how having a purpose, the right mindset and setting goals can help create change. To continue the legacy of my father, I’m educating, inspiring and empowering people about dementia, whether it’s about caregiving, the emotions that come along with the disease or the financial impact it has on families. I would like to support families who have loved ones living with this disease and keep the lines of communication open so that other people don’t feel alone in their fight.

That is why I am walking in Walk to End Alzheimer’s this year.

My Dad passed away last June. I put my head on his belly, and saw him take his last breath. He was surrounded by those that he loved, and he was ushered into glory with the lead singer from the praise and worship team singing “Amazing Grace” and “Precious Lord.” It was the greatest honor to take care of him and he lived his best life.

For my Papa and millions of others like him, I continue to work to make sure my story is heard.

I know my passion and purpose is to connect with families and friends at Walk to motivate and reach their souls! Our shared goal is a world without Alzheimer’s. Let’s put strategies in place to make that happen. Let’s walk.


image004About the Author: Donna Richardson is an international lifestyle and fitness expert, author and talk show host. She has starred in award-winning videos for Nike, ESPN and Beachbody, the best-selling “Buns of Steel” and now her own “Old School Dance Party Workout.” She has served on the Women’s Sports Foundation Board, the LPGA Foundation Board, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Board and as an Advisory Board Member for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. She is an Ambassador for the “Let’s Move” initiative, has taught at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls and is the founder of Grow Green Get Fit, a nutritional, physical and environmental curriculum for school-aged children taught at YMCAs across the country.  Donna is the only member to serve on both President Obama’s and President Bush’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN). She was inducted into the Fitness Hall of Fame and named “One of the Most Inspirational Women in America” by Essence Magazine. Join her at the Walk in Dallas, Texas.

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  18 Responses to “Waking Up to Sunshine”

  1. I needed to read this today! Thank you for being a voice for children helping their parents through cognitive decline. I won’t go into my personal details – it’s just too hard right now. But thank you again.

    • Sharon,

      I know it’s hard. My brother and I were a caregiver to my father. He passed away May of this year, so I am taking things one day at a time. Going to my local support group really helped me while being a caregiver to my dad. They were my angels, and I knew I was not alone. I walked this month in honor of not only my dad, but for the millions of caregivers.

      Just to let you know that you are not alone.

  2. I lost my wife Betty on Jan 18th 2016 after a 10 year battle with Alzheimers so I share in your grief

    We were married on Sept 8th 1956 and had almost 60 years together

    I was in the Air force for 20 years so our family got to travel all over the world

    I was retired so I was able to kept Betty at home with the help of Family and friends.

    I miss her everyday and like you have faith in God that we,ll be together again.

    Thank you for sharing your story.


    • Mr. Avery

      Thank you for sharing your story and my deepest condolences to you and I know how hard it is my Dad has Alz I will keep you all in my prayers.


  3. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I too try to be a voice. My grandmother lost her battle June 29,2012 and that’s why I walk.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story. My mother Agr 93 was diagnosed two years ago and she continues to walk do you want to half miles every day around her assisted living property in San Antonio Texas. I do believe that it is her daily exercise that keeps her from getting too much worse rapidly .

    I will continue to follow your blog and thank you so much for your inspiration.

  5. Your are truly blessed. May God continue to bless your life.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story, I am sorry for your loss. My Mom is in the latter stage of Alzheimer's and she resides full time at a Nursing home with 24/7 care. She still knows who I am but has trouble talking, I can still make her laugh. I can tell she wants to talk to me but can't find the words. We have some what of system of signing so she can tell me if she is in pain or needs something.

    My Mom and I have always been close and I feel guilty that I can't help her as much as I'd like to, there are so many emotions in play all the time that it can be draining for everyone. I have mobility issues from MS and can no longer drive so it makes it hard to do the things for her as often as I want, Im lucky to have a kind, helpful husband and we visit her every weekend.

    We are walking (im rolling in my scooter) in our first Alzheimer's walk soon, it makes me feel good to help bring awareness and raise funds for Alzheimer's care and research, hoping one day that there will be a cure. I appreciate all the great work you are doing.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2001 and passed away in 2013. I miss her every day. She was my best friend, and now, I think of her as my guardian angel. She was my rock and foundation. l was blessed and honored that she allowed me and my son to walk with her through her journey. I was there holding her hand and talking to her when she took her final breath. I will always cherish our final moments together. I truly believe she is in a better place; free from the pain and the confines of this disease. May she rest in peace.

  8. My husband of 25 yrs was stricken with Alzheimer's when he was 68. I work and took care of him at home for 5 yrs. The last 2 yrs I had to move him into a faciltiy. He is in a wheel chair, cannot really talk, and sees very little but he is cute as ever. I go everyday to feed him lunch and stay with him for a few hours. I wash his hair , shave him and brush his teeth everyday. I want to keep him like he always did himself. I make him stand up and hold on to a half wall so he can walk back and forth . I try a few times a week to run over after dinner and wheel him around and have him walk again. I try to wear him out so he will sleep peacefully.
    This has been a very educating journey. But I love him more now than I ever loved him. He still has the cutest smilie and expressions. I will always treasure these moments with him even though he never will know.

    • Elaine, I am doing the same thing for my husband that is at a facility very close to home; therefore I run over there quite often to do extra grooming. I am loving him more and more each day. My husband is only 59 but I get joy when he smiles and still tells me how pretty I am with my now graying hair. I treasurer these previous moments. I don’t want to say goodbye. Elaine my name is Daphne , let’s pray for strength to handle what we are going through.

  9. Well I’m so sorry for those of you who has lost a loved one can’t imagine your hurt…although I am going through Alzheimer’s with my momma right now everyday is a new something with her hard to deal with it when she’s wakes up and asked where is she…swallow hard and start to explain all over again today and everyday…don’t get me wrote g I don’t mind but we run out of ideas on how to explain to her why n where’s ..but I’ll be here with her until she don’t need me no more……I love you mom..

    • Stay strong Cindy <3

      • Oh we are…..if I could ask…how do you all handle question after question of the same right now my mom is on where her kids are and a baby we no that’s where her mind is about us but we could sure use some suggestions on what to tell her to tell her the same thing everyday I feel she thinks were lying…..anything would be so helpful…..thank you

        • I know just what you mean, My Mom used to do the same thing, not so much now. I remember just giving the same answer right back or some times I would change the wording, It sometimes felt like the movie Groundhog Day, I don't think your Mom thinks your lying, she's just not retaining what your told her before, at least that's how is was with my Mom.

          I can't say my answers were ALWAYS truthful, sometimes I had to tell a little white lie but only as not to upset her or hurt her feeling or agitate her, I know its not much help for you but its what seemed to work for me. My Mom doesn't talk too much anymore, on good day a little, but its usually nothing that makes sense.

          • Thank you….little white lies are sometimes needed makes her and me feel better but lots and lots of questions especially from her past way back that’s hard but we get through it and keep going my dad takes the blunt of it us kids are in and out all day long especially me I’m sure I will be staying with them in the near future but that’s fine with me….the tables are turned our turn to take care of her….love them

  10. Thanks so much for sharing your story, when most people think of dementia or Alzheimer’s the person must be old but in my case, my husband was diagnosed with dementia in his mid fifties. We have some wonderful times together even through his sickness. Our family try to stay busy and active, his sickness doesn’t handicap our lifestyle, we stay focused on JESUS.

  11. I see so many loving son's, daughters, husbands and wives, sister's brothers caring for a loved one dealing with this terrible disease. Im amazed at how strong the human spirit is and the energy we draw on to allow us to do all we can to care for our loved one's. My respect and heart goes out to each and every one of you. Im glad to be here, but sorry for the reason.
    Keeping ALL in my Prayers.


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