Kathy Garner remembers her mom as the type of person you always wanted on your team for games like Trivial Pursuit or to help you with a clue for a crossword puzzle.
“She was very smart and intelligent,” Kathy says. “She knew a lot.”
In addition to her infinite wisdom, Kathy says her mom was also always lending a helping hand to those in her community.
“She enjoyed helping others,” Kathy, a Union County resident, says. “She always found a way to serve, usually through her church.”
A Christian faith was instilled in Kathy from a young age, and she says her faith is what has gotten her through some of the toughest times in her life, including her caregiving journey while her mother was living with dementia.
“Faith comes first in my life,” Kathy says. “God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are always my sense of truth to determine what I need to be doing, professionally or personally.”
Kathy says one of her closest friends, a Christian counselor, helped her from the beginning of her mom’s diagnosis through the end, and along the way, Kathy says God sent her signs that he was in control.
For years, Kathy said she called her mom a “Carolina Wren” bird because they are known for their “chattering” nature, but as her dementia progressed, Kathy says her mom became less and less talkative.
In 2019, Kathy’s mom fell, and she was transitioned into hospice care. At that point, her mom was unable to remember much, but she found joy in classical music, so Kathy brought a radio into her room.
During one of her final days, Kathy says she was sitting there with her mother, and a bird starting singing one of the classical songs outside of her window.
“I looked outside and it was a Carolina Wren, singing one of the classical songs I had played on her radio,” Kathy says. “I believe that was God speaking to me.”
Throughout her journey, Kathy not only relied on faith, but she also relied on information, turning to the Alzheimer’s Association’s online resources, support groups and 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) to help her navigate the stages of her mom’s diagnosis.
“Initially, I thought my family and my mother’s experience with dementia was extremely unique,” Kathy says. “I felt alone in that, and I built my own team of support. But what I found through one support group I attended was that each story was very individual.”
She continues: “I think everybody with this disease — whether you are a caregiver or living with dementia — has an extremely unique experience.”
Because of this experience, Kathy wanted to find a way to help people who were feeling the same way that she had been throughout her mom’s journey with the disease. Because faith is so important in her life, she wanted to find a way to have that lead her volunteer role with the organization.
So she became the first Faith Outreach Representative for the Alzheimer’s Association in NC: a community engager that raises awareness of Alzheimer’s Association programs, provides basic disease information and links consumers to Alzheimer’s Association services.
As a Faith Outreach Representative, Kathy serves as a liaison between the Alzheimer’s Association and her faith community, sharing information about Alzheimer’s disease, free resources offered through the Association, and the many ways to join our cause at local community and education events.
“It’s humbling to have someone put their faith and trust in you and share their story,” Kathy says. “You are able to see their fear and their love. It’s like a seesaw. You can’t help but be moved by that.”
Become a Faith Outreach Representative
Like Kathy, you, too can become a Faith Outreach Representative and spread awareness of Alzheimer’s disease in your own faith community. For more information on this or other care and support volunteer opportunities, visit our Care & Support Volunteer page.