Caregiver Shares Story to Raise Alzheimer's Disease Awareness
It's Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.
Throughout November, the Alzheimer's Association is encouraging people to recognize caregivers who serve on the frontline, helping out those who suffer from dementia.
In 2014, Lauren Richards received devastating news.
Her 64-year-old mother Ellen Brzezicki had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
'It changed my whole life,” said Richards. “When they first told me that she has Alzheimer's, I had no idea that there wasn't a treatment or a cure and I feel like a lot of people don't know that either."
Over the past seven years, Richards has served as her mother's caregiver, all while raising her three children.
"As I've watched it progress, a lot of things are happening to her that I had no idea could happen to a human," said Richards. “It was a weird dynamic to try to balance toddlers, preschoolers, and then my mom with dementia.”
In 2018, Richards father and longtime Cathedral Prep baseball coach Stanley Brzezicki passed away.
A year later, Richards made the difficult decision to put her mother in a nursing home.
"It's so misunderstood,” said Richards. “People always ask me, does she forget your name? That is the least of our problems. The worst is that she forgets her personality, who she was, what she stood for, all those sorts of things are so heartbreaking to watch."
Richards is not alone.
"Alzheimer's affects six million people and it's projected to increase,” said Alzheimer’s Association Director Sara Giammarise. “Not only is it six million who have the disease, there are 11 million unpaid caregivers that are taking care of these people."
The Alzheimer's Association offers resources to families dealing with the disease.
"In addition to caregiving resources and support groups and education, the Alzheimer's Association does research programs, and of course, the walk to end Alzheimer’s.”
Richards hopes her story will help raise awareness.
"I think it's important that people start to educate themselves on what Alzheimer's really involves,” said Richards. “We all need to work together to make a break through possible, so that less of us have to go through this."