A Young Volunteer Shares His Story
According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2016 Facts & Figures, out of the 5.4 million Americans who have the disease 200,000 are with young onset Alzheimer’s. While the numbers are quite staggering, putting a face behind them truly shows the devastating impact Alzheimer’s disease has on families.
34-year-old Chris Reynolds moved to San Francisco from Nashville, Tennessee in 2011. He is this year’s Co-Chair for the San Francisco Walk to End Alzheimer’s and is also chairing the sponsorship sub-committee. Chris’s mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s nine years ago at the age of 53.
What have you learned from your experience with Alzheimer’s disease?
Well I’ve learned how terrible this disease is, for one. I’ve seen how it’s so much more than just memory loss. I’ve learned how tough and loyal my father is, and I think anyone who understands what he does day in, day out for my mother would be amazed at his resolve, patience and positivity. I’ve seen how strong my brother is and been touched by how much he does for my mom and, more importantly, to help my dad.
Do you have any advice for others who are in a similar situation?
My advice would be to start getting as many videos as possible once you learn a loved one has Alzheimer’s. Get them to tell stories and film as much as you can. That’s one of the things we didn’t do that I regret every day. I’d also say don’t tell yourself you have time to do things with your parent or grandparent that may be dealing with the disease. Do what you can to spend as much time with them as possible. They’ll be gone before you know it.
What made you volunteer at the Alzheimer’s Association?
My sister and her fiancÃ© were volunteering for the DC Walk and I was inspired by what they were doing.
Do you think that young people have a good understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and its impact?
I do not. People who deal with this disease in some form usually do, but people who do not seem to think it’s an old person disease or it’s this cute form of memory loss. People I speak to who have no exposure to the disease are shocked when they hear that my mom, who just turned 62, can’t speak to me, much less remember who I am. They don’t understand that she needs 24/7 care or will soon no longer be able to walk.
How can younger generations get involved in the fight to end the disease?
They can help us raise money! They can walk or volunteer to be on the committee. I think the walk is the most important event for people to get involved with, because it’s such a great way to spread awareness about the disease and raises a ton of money.
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I thought that Alzhiemers was a disease for older people my grandma had it at 94 years old she loves my aunt her only daughter. I remember hearing about things she did but never knew that is what alzhiemers is. My mom who is now 55 was diagnosed with Early OnSet Alzhiemers at the age of 51/52. I now realize what Alzhiemers is. It is a devastating disease. My mom who has always been full of life always happy loves people cherishes her grandchildren now is mad all the time does not like her granchildren much calls names and even curses and swears. At 55 now my mom lives with me my husband and our 5 children. She has been devoted to my father since she was 15 years old that’s 40 years. My father has had numerous affairs moved my mom in with me he is divorcing her I think is cheating her out of everything she has worked for all her life as well. This disease has torn my family apart my father recently told my sister he hates her and her kids who are still little kids he has turned into someone we have never known. My mom is list she has to have help using the bathroom showering brushing her teeth dressing undressing she doesn’t like anything anymore. She is list walking in circles she tells and cusses. This disease is so much more than just forgetting memories. It is painful watch someone disappear inside there own mind while there body still looks so young and healthy it rates people apart famlies apart. This disease I pray finds a cute it is heartbreaking. I love you mom so much and will cherish every moment I have with you.