My Experience in the Walk to End Alzheimer's by a Mama's Girl

On Sunday, Sept. 23, I dressed myself in purple in an effort to represent those who have suffered and are currently experiencing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s, held in Cambridge, was a 3.5 mile walk in which donors, caretakers and families affected by the disease gathered together. The mass of purple paraded through Cambridge and Charlestown with pinwheel flowers signed with the names of those being remembered. If you looked closely at my pinwheel, you would see the name Carmen Martinez, my late grandmother. Mama was a walker; up until the last weeks of her life, she walked up and down her home street alongside one of her children or many grandchildren. This was a walk that I sadly did without her.

I recall visiting Florida every summer with my parents for the entire month of June. For the majority of the time, my mother and I would stay at Mama’s house to take care of her. She never called me by my name, but at first sight she always looked at me with kind eyes and a smile on her face when saying “la nena de Mama,” in English “mama’s girl.” Every afternoon, she would begin knocking at the front door and start singing a church song, which indicated her desire to go to service. Because of the stage of her condition, we were unable to take her to service as she would get anxious and be unable to sit still. In replacement of mass, we took her on walks in the direction of the church, praying and speaking with her on our short journeys. I remember walking with her, holding her soft, wrinkled, manicured hands, so elegantly dressed with her signature rings. Despite these fond memories, it is needless to say that it is no easy task witnessing someone you love in complete confusion. At times, they are no longer aware of where they are or who the people surrounding them are, even if said person is their closest relative. There were moments when she would lash out as me, as she could not recall, “la nena de Mama.” Although Alzheimer’s can take an individual’s memories, it cannot take away or lessen the love between the person affected by the disease and the caretaker or family. Throughout my family’s experience, we all continued to love Mama endlessly on every step of our walks and as we sat by her bed on the last days of her life. Eight years later I do not have my Mama by side during this walk, but I do it in her honor, as I will always be “la nena de Mama.”

Alzheimer’s is currently the 6th leading cause of death among Americans seventy five and older. Donations to this cause are appreciated by all of those affected by the disease as there is no effective or sufficient treatment and support. Most importantly, educate yourselves and spread awareness on a disease that many are unaware of. If you know of anyone taking care of loved one with Alzheimer’s, offer emotional support them. Lastly, look out for Boston’s next Walk to End Alzheimer's in 2019.