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Alzheimer's brainhealth management lifestyle research riskfactors

Karen Chester

“Love is my only advice. I couldn’t do this without love.”

Karen Chester is a full-time caregiver to her mother, Nancy, who was diagnosed two years ago.

My mother Nancy is 79 years old. She was diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s two years ago, but my best guess is that it really started six or seven years ago. I was living in a small apartment with my daughter and her two girls when I realized how much trouble my mom was having. I moved in with her into a small home near Albion, Indiana. We went to the general practitioner and from there to a neurologist and finally got a diagnosis after tons of tests. She’s sensitive to medication, so she can’t tolerate any of the main five medications that help slow the symptoms.   

After the diagnosis, life as I knew it was no more. I wasn’t ready for clothes backwards and inside out, two socks on one foot, forgetting the names of items or throwing the silverware away. But the hardest thing has been looking in my mom’s eyes, knowing she doesn’t know who I am. As a caregiver I have been put to the test on all levels; my physical health, my mental health and my faith. Watching my mom decline is by far the saddest journey ever, and most days my emotions are all over the place. I’m still learning how to navigate this journey. Getting guidance from the Purple Sherpa support group has been the most grounding thing for me. Someone is always there to listen and give me advice based on their experiences.

Love is my only advice. I couldn’t do this without love. I’m having to learn patience and deeper compassion. But also never let your guard down. Things change by the day—no two are the same. I have found that being nice and steady in my approach is the best answer. And, where the silverware is concerned, I went for plastic cutlery instead!

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