Editor’s note: This is the eighth and final article in a series written by Methow Valley resident Don Reddington, exploring the issues of living with Alzheimer’s disease. The articles were written in collaboration with Raleigh Bowden, M.D., Katie and Josephine Bristol, and Methow Valley News reporter Laurelle Walsh.
About one year ago Dr. Raleigh Bowden and I began discussing writing a book about what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). I have been educating myself about Alzheimer’s and talking openly with people about the disease since I received my diagnosis in early 2014. I have found that a lot of people are in denial about having the disease, or are trying to hide it.
I decided I want to help people with AD who may be denying it, and the family members of people with AD. I want to be open about what my friend Jerry Bristol, who is at a later stage of the disease, and I are going through and about how people with AD would like to be treated. I am a man on a mission.
With the help of Dr. Raleigh and reporter Laurelle Walsh, I drafted a sample chapter of Living with Alzheimer’s, which Methow Valley News publisher Don Nelson agreed to publish as part of a monthly column that started in January 2015.
Since then we have published seven chapters plus an introduction by Ms. Walsh. We included the experiences of my wife, Ginger, Josephine Bristol, Katie Bristol and Jody Love — all of whom have lived with a person with Alzheimer’s. This will be the final chapter, and I would like to express what this project has meant to me.
This project has made Jerry and me very happy! We have been delighted and surprised at the community response, and that the articles went all over the country because people passed them around to friends and family. I love it when people say, “Don, thank you for what you have been doing!”
Exceeded our goal
We had a goal and we exceeded that goal, went way beyond. By sharing our personal journeys, we have been able to give knowledge to others facing the same challenges. In the process, I really wanted to thank the people who have helped me, put humor into the whole topic and help other families understand what the person with AD is going through.
Jerry and I are determined not to let Alzheimer’s ruin the rest of our lives. We want to live a good life, and we want to tell others with the disease: Continue enjoying your life.
One thing I think I have contributed is getting people with AD to start exercising and continue being active. I can tell you without a doubt that every time I go outdoors to work on our farm I feel better — way different than when I just sit around. When I do just sit around, I feel awful. With exercise, I sleep really well. That’s been really good to realize and to help other people understand.
The hardest thing about the project was the frustration I had around misunderstandings with my project partners. We had different ideas about two of the chapters that Ms. Walsh and Dr. Raleigh thought should be combined and I thought were distinct. Writing the chapters together has not been easy!
As my disease has progressed the later part of the project was simply harder. It took me hours to work on each chapter. And it was harder to bring humor into the later chapters.
I am clearly having more challenges with many sorts of things, especially technical things. It is important to be open about what’s going on with myself. Trying to finish the project before my disease progressed too far was really hard. I learned from my doctor last week that I am beginning the mid stage of Alzheimer’s. Ginger and I will keep on going.
One of the best things is when people I don’t even know stop me and tell me how much they like the series. I ran into somebody I didn’t even know at the kids’ swim meet who said, “I want to thank you.”
The Wenatchee World has been publishing the series as well, and World reporter Don Seabrook came to our home to photograph Ginger and me. This was great! The Alzheimer’s Association of Washington is also publishing several chapters of Living with Alzheimer’s on its blog, alzwa.wordpress.com.
People have come up to me with so much wonderful appreciation and feedback. I have had people call from Wenatchee who read it in the World; we’re even helping people back on the East Coast. I had no idea there would be so many thank yous.
Alzheimer’s disease is big. One out of every nine people will get the damned disease. I hope these chapters can help people before the disease becomes overwhelming for them.
Jerry and I thank you for reading this series. So many people have approached me and Ginger, wanting more information, wanting a book that they can send to family members. Dr. Raleigh and I are committed to turning Living with Alzheimer’s into a book so that it can reach even more people. Stay tuned for updates in the Methow Valley News about the book’s progress in the coming months.
This is not goodbye, but many new hellos!
Our thoughts are with you.
Don Reddington and Jerry Bristol — AD League