Shares story of caring for her mother for National Family Caregivers Month in November
I’d like to begin by reminding all of you that November is National Family Caregivers Month. It’s a time to recognize the incredible dedication and sacrifices of those who care for their loved ones, particularly those grappling with dementia, in any of its forms. I come to you not just as a speaker but as someone who has experienced the profound impact of dementia firsthand, a journey that started when my mother asked for my help back in 2014.
My mom’s story is one that many of you might find familiar. She was a vibrant woman who, as she approached her 68th birthday, began exhibiting signs of something amiss. Her social withdrawal, erratic medication intake, and a fainting episode that led her to the hospital in Walnut Creek were all red flags. It wasn’t until 2019 that a diagnosis was finally confirmed – vascular dementia. A young, dismissive doctor delivered the news, but our suspicions had been growing for years. The truth was that my mom had been prescribed what I’ve come to call “the dementia cocktail” in 2012, when she was just 61. It consisted of Aricept and Memantine, but her decline was slow, leading to moments of despair. By 2019, she had reached a point where she couldn’t care for herself, yet medical professionals seemed hesitant to make the diagnosis, leaving me feeling isolated in my role as her advocate.
However, my journey took an unexpected turn on my 40th birthday. That day, my mom embarked on a 36-hour odyssey across the Bay Area, signifying her fading independence. She drove across the Bay Bridge twice and even crossed the Golden Gate Bridge once. She was found disoriented and alone, wandering along Alemany Boulevard in Daly City at 3 am, having left her car in front of someone’s house, a silent testament to her deteriorating condition.
My 40th birthday celebration was anything but joyful; it marked the beginning of a deeply personal battle to protect and care for the woman who had once cared for me. My mom’s story is a vivid reminder of the complex and urgent challenge that dementia presents. It’s a disease that not only affects individuals but also places tremendous emotional and physical strain on their caregivers.
In addition to November being National Caregiver Month, let us also acknowledge the importance of the National Alzheimer’s Plan. This initiative has played a vital role in advancing research and support for individuals and families dealing with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. However, we cannot afford to let this plan expire. We must ensure its continued existence and strength.
I call upon our new Senator Laphonza Butler and Senator Alex Padilla to take a stand in this critical moment. I urge them to cosponsor the bipartisan NAPA (National Alzheimer’s Project Act) Reauthorization Act (S. 133) to renew and bolster the National Alzheimer’s Plan, ensuring that the needs of those affected by dementia are met, and research into this disease continues to progress.
In closing, if you or someone you know needs information or assistance in caring for a loved one with dementia, please reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association at 800.272.3900. Together, we can provide the support and resources needed for those battling this heart-wrenching disease. Thank you for your attention and let us work collectively to make a difference.
Latrice Phillips Brown