Why I Walk: Kelci’s Story

Hi Everyone, I’d like to share another story with you about Kelci who walks in our Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Walnut Creek. She has a great story – and a great reason to Walk!

Kelci

Papa, me and Grandma at my High School graduation in 2005

Before our family meeting with UC Davis staff regarding the diagnosis, I will admit that my attitude towards my Grandma’s predicament was a negative one. I blamed her for her fading memory – the soap operas she had watched for decades, her lack of motivation to participate in community activities or to even go and walk the dog. Arguments were a regular occurrence as I refused to believe that what was happening was out of her control. For my Papa and me, her behavior was illogical and the doings of an old lady that had nothing better to do then make trouble. It was a terrible, dark and embarrassing time for me as I now know what the real cause behind her actions were. As I reflect on those first few years, I start to realize that my harsh attitude was due to my denial of what was really causing the drastic change in my Grandma.

Upon receiving an official diagnosis and information on where to turn for caregiver support, I started to realize that – while my Grandma never admitted it – she was experiencing a terrifying time in her life, when familiar things were suddenly foreign. I made a conscious effort to be calmer in her presence, to not scoff when she asked the same thing multiple times in a single conversation and to try and spend more time with her doing the things that she loved. I noticed a gradual change as her day-to-day mood improved. She still has rough days during which she is unable to process her frustrated emotions, but when she has a truly good day, I feel like I am finally able to give back to her in a small way that is immeasurable compared to all the support she has given me through the years. Over the past year, my relationship with my Grandma has slowly improved as I’ve realized that I am no longer a child and need to be there for her more.

While I tried to be positive for her sake, the stress of living with someone with Alzheimer’s was wearing me down. I was constantly having to hide my keys and wallet for fear that they would be misplaced, would have to double check the kitchen each time she left to make sure that she didn’t leave the stove on all day – all the while trying to be a “normal” young adult who was juggling work, school and a relationship.

The real change came when I started a new job that allowed me to move out of my grandparents’ house in May, 2013. My new job gave me consistent hours, and combined with moving into my own apartment allowed me to help care for my Grandma without being overwhelmed. Sundays are “our” days when we do things together, including taking her to get her nails done, going to a new restaurant that she thinks looks nice or even just taking her with me as I do my grocery shopping so that she can get out of the house (and give my Papa a break). If she needs me during another time of the week, I try to work it into my schedule while still retaining a balance so that I do not become overwhelmed again. It also helps that my larger family has also stepped in to help care for her since I moved out.

The support groups that I started attending after her diagnosis introduced me to resources I have used to not only improve my own life as a caregiver but that of my Grandma’s. When the opportunity presented itself for me to be an active participant of the Alzheimer’s Association I jumped at the chance. It was a simple Alzheimer’s Association newsletter via email that prominently featured the information session about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s that caught my attention. The meeting itself was inspirational and motivated me to become more active in supporting the Alzheimer’s Association’s cause, it allowed me to reflect on the positive impact that the organization has had on my family and me. Prepping for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s has encouraged me to share my family’s story to bring attention to the cause and in addition to raising funds, has brought my extended family and portions of our community together as we rally to my Grandma’s side and show our support for her.

Me, my grandparents and the whole family earlier this year.

Me, my grandparents and the whole family earlier this year.

The amount of support that has poured in since creating our Joyful Noise team for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s has been reassuring as well as encouraging. Family and friends are now taking more initiative to include my Grandma in their day-to-day lives and it has given me hope that instead of being alone as her disease progresses, she’ll be surrounded by love.

— Kelci

Donate to Kelci’s Walk team: Joyful Noise

 

Or register for Walk today: Walk to End Alzheimer’s