Nevada City woman finds comfort in raising funds for Walk
This blog was originally written in December 2022 and has been updated to reflect recent changes.
We asked Walk participants to share with us why they raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®. In her own words, Crystal Payne shares her story of her mother who had younger-onset dementia. Crystal found that by raising funds to help others, she was also helping to heal her own broken heart.
Not normal aging
At the age of 55, my mom, Barbara Ann, was exhibiting some frustrations with work. She just seemed so mad at the world. Things we’re moving so quickly for her. She felt like she couldn’t keep up because the environment favored a younger population. She wanted so badly to retire and to enjoy life like she always had with her family and friends.
She loved to be at the beach and to feel the sunshine on her face, listening to music, and dancing with those of us she loved the most. She had already started to withdraw from some social situations and was missing some social cues. Her emotions even fell flat. It was all just so strange and completely out of character for her.
Noticing the signs
In 2011 my mom was able to retire early. To celebrate the occasion, my sister, Aunt, and I took her on a Caribbean cruise. We made so many sweet memories on this trip of a lifetime, but it was clear something was wrong with my mom.
Everything about her was changing from her personality, daily behaviors, and even her diet. At the time, I was scared and frustrated because we just had no idea what was happening, especially when her short-term memories began fading.
A note from the Alzheimer’s Association®
Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of dementia. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information.
While this is not a complete list, Barbara Ann was showing some of the early warning signs of dementia:
- Difficulty following a conversation
- Losing things or putting things in unusual places
- Withdrawing from social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
If you notice one or more signs in yourself or another person, it can be difficult to know what to do. It’s natural to feel uncertain or nervous about discussing these changes with others. However, these are significant health concerns that should be evaluated by a doctor, and it’s important to take action to figure out what’s going on. See all 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s at alz.org/10signs.
Caring for Mom
It was gut wrenching to watch my beautiful Mom lose herself and her independence so slowly. All she ever really wanted was for us to know she loved us and now all I really wanted was for her to know I loved her. We tried so hard to protect her independence for as long as possible, but it finally got to the point where it was no longer safe for her to live alone.
For years it felt like one crisis after the next. Sadly, after an incident in 2020 she was taken to the emergency room. Eventually she was transferred to a rehab center closer to my sister, who became my mom’s number one caretaker. This was already a hard time for all of us, but COVID-19 made it even harder to connect with her, in so many ways.
My mom ended up in assisted living and got moved around a few times based on the situation. With every change, Mama looked and acted less and less like the woman I remembered. I felt so helpless and wanted so badly to make a difference somehow, but I couldn’t even be with her or my sister since they lived in Texas [and I lived in California].
Starting a Walk team
I knew that I couldn’t save my mom, but the thought of saving someone else from the heartaches that come along with losing someone you love slowly to Alzheimer’s, or any other dementias, was plenty motivation to start walking, raising funds and raising awareness with Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
I learned about Walk to End Alzheimer’s most likely in one of my desperate late night, “What’s wrong with Mom?” Google searches. I started team Cali Love [now Cali Love Live Aloha] and with my husband’s support, we raised over $3,000 for the Chico Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
The first year we couldn’t walk in person due to the pandemic. Instead, we walked, waving our flags, on our local Tribute Trail in Nevada City. In our second year, we did the same thing, and walked the same trail on Walk day. We even got our son Chaim and our dog Piper to join us. [In 2022] they helped us become Elite Grand Champions, [someone who raises over $2,500], for the second year in a row!
I do most of my fundraising through social media. Additionally, I mailed out some handwritten letters and donation forms to people on my Christmas card list last year and the response was beautiful.
In December of 2021, a few days after her 73rd birthday, my mother passed away. Because of this, I’m finding that talking about my mom comes with many tears. Understandably, this made fundraising a little tricky for 2022.
Making a difference
I think participating in Walk to End to End Alzheimer’s is one of the best things we can do to make a difference in the lives of others. It has truly made a difference in mine. The love and support I have received through participating is humbling. I wholeheartedly believe that we rise up by lifting others up.
My favorite part about Walk day is that it feels like a day of celebration for all this love I have in my heart for my Mama. I also do it for my love for all of you and my hope for a world without Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Love wins!
Healing my heart
I’m in total awe of the kind and generous people in my orbit. Raising funds and awareness to end Alzheimer’s has brought so much healing to my own heart on some of my darkest days. I will forever miss the love from my mom. I am ever so grateful for the time I had with her and for all the things she taught me. I would definitely not be who I am without her. I am stronger, kinder, and braver all because of her.
This whole experience has taught me so much. It’s given me the courage to enjoy this life and to go after my own dreams because all we have is now. Mama always said, “Be happy!” In 2023, you’ll find me and my team Cali Love walking to end Alzheimer’s in Kapaa, HI on a new trail with sunshine on my face, music in my ears, and a little dance in my step just like Mama would have wanted.
In 2023 Crystal and her family moved to Hawaii where they are continuing to participate in Walk. This year, they raised more than $1,400 for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Kauai.
For more information on the 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s visit alz.org/10signs.
Fundraising and incentives for Walk to End Alzheimer’s continues through December 31, 2023. You can support Crystal’s team, Cali Love Live Aloha, or make a donation to the team or Walk of your choice at alz.org/walk.