Thursday, August 27, 2009

SPOTLIGHT: Sharon Clott

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: Sharon Clott

I'm running on Team Run 2 Remember in honor of my grandmother, in memory of my great aunt, and for the millions of people affected by this disease and their caregivers. I joined the Alzheimer's Association Junior Committee in March 2008. In June 2009, I became the Community Service Chair for the committee, which means I coordinate volunteer trips to visit Alzheimer's patients in New York. I originally joined because I was looking for a support group. My Great Aunt Jen passed away from Alzheimer's Disease in January 2008, and her sister, my grandmother Bubby Rose, was beginning to show signs of memory loss, so I knew Alzheimer's was imminent.

By that summer, she didn't recognize me anymore.

My grandmother used to be a caterer for the Beth Judah congregation in Ventnor, New Jersey. She was an amazing cook, and I would look forward to her cookies and macaroni and cheese every time I saw her. She doesn't cook anymore. Now, she barely eats. I look at her and wonder if she even recognizes the aroma of matzoh ball soup—her recipe, only made by my mother. When I see her, she tells me that "you're fine" and that I look like a nice girl. She tells me that I wear too many bracelets and that my hair is messy and looks awful, but I take her (ruthless) honesty as a compliment. At least she's paying attention to me. And at least I'm a nice girl.

My grandfather is her caregiver. They're high school sweethearts, married since 1942, right before my grandfather went to fight in World War II. He takes her camping in their motor home, traveling from New Jersey to Florida—two octogenarians just trotting along, one with Alzheimer's, one being the caregiver. He doesn't go anywhere without her anymore, now that she has the disease. At 88-years-old, he's had to learn how to cook, clean, use a washing machine, and learn every basic household duty for the first time. When he called my mom to ask her how to cook an egg and heat something up in the microwave, it really hit home how much a caregiver's life is affected as much as the person diagnosed.

I think about how their situation is similar to what happened with my Aunt Jen. The first sign Aunt Jen had Alzheimer's was when she took a drive and forgot how to get home. Then she couldn't put words together and it was hard for her to express anything that she was feeling or seeing. But she was a lovely woman, even throughout the disease. I would tell her about what I was doing in New York and she would listen and smile. Even though I knew I she had lost herself, I never felt that I truly lost her.

That's why I'm running—for my Aunt Jen and my Bubby Rose. For my Poppy Hy, my grandmother's caregiver, and Aunt Naomi, who acted as my aunt's caregiver and sister. And I'm running to put an end to lost memories. Because there are just too many beautiful people in this world to forget.

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