Living with Alzheimer’s during a pandemic

It has been challenging for many of us to stay upbeat during these difficult times. Danville resident Pam Montana, who is living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, shared what the experience has been like for her.

Written by Pam Montana

Originally when we got the word regarding the coronavirus and the severity of it, I was determined to be a shining light! I wanted to help others get through this and to post photos and stories of what my days were like. Every morning I posted on Facebook and added beautiful photos of my walks around our neighborhood. I asked people to call me if they needed support and I shared my daily routine to encourage people to keep going!  

Pam, participating in research
Pam, participating in research

I took selfies and shared my 65th birthday via Zoom, and on my actual birthday I shared the video celebration of me dancing with my daughter in our driveway: mask on of course, and unfortunately no touching. 😐

That was In April. As May approached, I started slowing down. I stopped posting my walk photos. I stopped my daily posts on Facebook. I continued to journal every morning, some days writing for several hours. I continued to stay active. I walked most days, did my yoga class, my bible plans, meditated, worked on a puzzle and knitted while listening to audiobooks. I felt connected and supported but as time went on, the phone calls, Zoom sessions and texts started to slow down.

I started to slow down too. There were days I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone or walk in the hot sun. I wasn’t depressed, I was just annoyed with the lack of contact. The lack of touching and having lunch together. The lack of hugging and face time – real face time, not the app on my phone! The lack of connection!

Pam and Bob, connecting with family via video
Pam and Bob, connecting via video

In June, I started going out to lunch once a week with my husband, Bob. That was a real treat. We sat outside (of course) and had some fabulous meals at local restaurants near our house. Those dates were nice and such a good change for us. Bob is working a lot (virtually) and he needs breaks away from all of his meetings too.

By the time July rolled around I had slowed down some of my daily activities. I couldn’t pull myself out of the house to walk when the weather was 90 degrees. On those days I knitted for hours, hung out with Rusty, my caregiver kitty, and listened to books. During this “shelter in place” I’ve listened to 13 books!! It has been a great distraction and I can listen when I’m walking, doing my puzzle or knitting.

Pam and Rusty
Pam and pal Rusty

I’ve continued my morning ritual of journaling in bed with my espresso followed by prayer and meditation outside on our back patio. I love all of the birds that come to feed on our feeders. They are all so pretty. 

Just recently I started feeling sad and was really missing my friends. I realized that I was the one doing most of the reaching out! That upset me. I’m the one with Alzheimer’s. I’m the one that’s trying to make sense of this pandemic. I was a little hurt that they were too busy to make time for me. I guess I was feeling sorry for myself, which is not like me at all!

I talked to one of my friends last week on the phone and I actually started crying! They were the first tears in a long time but I’m glad that I got my feelings out.

Since that time I’ve made a daily list with reminders of people I haven’t talked to in a while. I added reminders and dates on my phone so I could keep track of who to call and when I had called them last.

Pam, decked out in purple
Pam, masked up and ready to go

I wrote a blog about my sadness and feelings on July 23. All of the support calls and texts since then have really helped. And getting my feelings out on paper always helps me too. I’ve had walk dates and a FaceTime call with my dear Intel buddy over the past few days. Just those small gestures have really helped my spirits. 

Today I’m feeling good. No plans but I know it will be a good day and I know I can pick up the phone, go through my list of friends and connect any time I need them.

Thanks to all of my friends and family, and for the Alzheimer’s Association for our weekly support groups and advocacy activities. I can’t imagine getting through these tough times without you. 🥰

Danville resident Pam Montana was diagnosed in 2016 with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease. After retiring from her job, Pam has focused on participating in Alzheimer’s research, advocating for funding and raising awareness of the Alzheimer’s epidemic, especially as it affects women. Pam and her husband Bob Linscheid currently serve on the Governor’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness. Pam writes about their efforts in her blog “My Journey with Alzheimer’s.” Learn more about resources for those living with Alzheimer’s and related disorders.