Saturday, August 29, 2009

SPOTLIGHT: Rachael Bachleda

Each week we will be picking three (3) members to spotlight to tell their alzheimer's story and why they are running in this year's New York City marathon. Check in each day or week for new updates on who will be spotlighted and get to know your teammates...(each person is picked at random)

SPOTLIGHT: Rachael Bachleda

My mother, Mary Lou Thompson, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago at the age of 61. I had seen signs for at least four years prior to her diagnosis and at first my family dismissed my concerns and told me not to worry. After awhile my mother was also noticing these alarming symptoms and she became terrified by what they might mean. You never want to think of your own parents as being scared, but she was; it was a painful to see it.

Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, I knew that ignoring the problem would not make it go away and that if there were clinical trials available, then we had to get her involved with them as soon as possible. In 2007, we all went to the Memory Disorders Clinic at Columbia University, where she was ultimately diagnosed. It was very difficult to finally face the problem but it also served as a reminder of what being a loving family is all about.

It has been most painful to watch my mom’s personality change. My mom was a voracious reader, finishing several books a week alongside her daily newspaper dose. She loved to spend time talking about current events with her many friends. Today, she has trouble reading and conversing in a group setting. She is loosing touch with her friends because she is embarrassed by the diagnosis.

In the last two years, while her condition has continued to deteriorate, our ability to deal with Alzheimer’s as a family has greatly improved. One of the reasons for this is the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. My sister and I have attended the educational meetings and met with the social workers that specialize in helping early onset patients and their families. We learned strategies to cope with the changes while gaining a better understanding of what is physically happening to her brain. I also joined a wonderful support group for daughters of Alzheimer’s patients. It is nice to be able to meet and spend time with people who understand exactly what I am going through.

One of the many terrible things about Alzheimer’s is its impact on the caregiver. Watching my mom’s disease progress at such a young age has been hard on the entire family but seeing the impact on my dad’s life is especially challenging. My dad, a very healthy and active 62 year old, had recently retired in order for them to begin the exciting “Golden Years” that lay in front of them. Instead, he spends these times as the main caregiver, watching after various responsibilities for my mom. She needs help with many daily activities. I know that he would not have it any other way. I hope that when it comes time for me to take care of my husband in our golden years I can do as good of a job as my dad does for my mom. I am running in honor of both of them.

Running has helped me get through the last several years. I feel that the constant, rhythmic motion of my feet hitting the pavement helps to clear my mind, relieve my emotions, focus my thoughts and motivate me to continue being the most supportive and helpful daughter that I can be . I feel that caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is very similar to running a marathon in that it requires a deep level of commitment and discipline, it will be very painful at times and it is a long process that you plug away at both day in, and day out. I am honored to be running my first marathon in the city I love on behalf of my mom and dad and the millions of patients and caregivers who run their own Alzheimer’s Marathon everyday.

3 comments:

  1. Rachel, I had a lump in my throat reading this article and also the e mail from your Dad which i got only today. I wish you had shared this earlier. Friends can only help. There's no need to keep it within the immediate family only.
    I understand there is no known cure today however, I do know of a process in yoga that goes a long way in reducing stress and improve the healing process in our bodies.Its called "Yoga Nidra". Will send you a book and CD on the subject in a few days. I felt like jumping on a plane to come and meet Mary Lou but I definitely want to connect ASAP in HK or NY. Please, please keep us informed. Love, Suresh Rajpal

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  2. Val and I were devastated to read Doug's message today, but can not begin to know how it feels to have your Mom afflicted. Suresh said as we only wish we would have known earlier to provide any support we could. You can not fight these things with blindfolds, so we are here for you as a family for any support you need. We are thankful for your strength as a family, and Doug's loving care for Mary Lou. She is in the best hands! Love, Val and John

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  3. I'm so proud of you, Rach and wish you the best of luck in the Marathon and this journey with your Mom and your family. Love to you! -Autumn

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