Caregiving under normal circumstances is not easy. Caregiving during a pandemic is a different story altogether. Mother’s Day this year has a new feeling to Wake County resident April Thornton who is caring for her mother Linda Ann at home through this trying time.
Linda Ann made a career as an Administrative Assistant for the N.C. Board of Tax Appeals. She has always been rather reserved and appreciated individual activities like knitting and puzzles. April began noticing a change in her mom’s habits and behaviors a few years ago, but attempted to respect her independence.
“She would go to the store and forget what she had at home. We would find 10-12 bottles of Sierra Mist every time we’d visit. Knowing what happened to my dad [with Alzheimer’s disease], this made me scared. I wasn’t prepared for this. How would this impact her financially? Personally? How would this change my life?”
April and her mom toured several Assisted Living facilities in the Wake County area. None seemed like the right fit. None seemed like home. So April went for “her only option.” Her mom moved in with her in June 2019.
April has two lifelines for caregiving. First, Linda Ann attends a day center where she can socialize and keep her mind active with engaging activities. April’s mom absolutely looks forward to these days. Second, April’s company offers employee support networks, so she can connect with other caregivers. Her caregiver network connected her to her local Walk to End Alzheimer’s last Fall.
“If I can help somebody with my experience then I will! We are all at different stages of this journey. It helps that there is a network [at my work] to be open and honest in a safe place.”
During this pandemic, caregiving has gotten much more difficult. April sees how much her mom gets out of her day program and attempts to replicate these activities at home. On top of this, she still has high schoolers at home.
“I feel like they aren’t getting the attention they deserve because I’m being pulled once again by my mom. The dynamics have truly shifted. I go to them for stress relief.”
Despite these challenges, April is committed to advocating for her mom and her kids. April volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Association as a Congressional Team Member, working with district staff of Congressman David Price (NC 4th District).
“What is most important is current caregiver support. We need this now. This cannot wait. We can’t wait on science.”
April fights for more adult day centers, noting that her county has very limited options, and none that are open now. Team members also advocate for Congressional support of the services the Alzheimer’s Association provides through this pandemic– from online caregiver support groups to virtual education.
April also gives presentations about her current challenges to other caregivers in her support network. She helps them identify triggers for her mother to start wandering, and tricks she has learned to keep her safe.
April advises, “If you don’t have the support like I do, utilize the Alzheimer’s Association. Look to advice with different agencies to direct your path. Start thinking, ‘Where do I start? What should I be considering at this point?’ Of course, you don’t know what you don’t know. Be aware that this can happen. [This disease] is not based off ethnicity, status, how much money you make. I don’t feel like there are misconceptions about this disease. People hear the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ and they know what is going on.”
This Mother’s day, April’s life with Linda Ann will look different. They are navigating pandemic challenges together, and learning as they go. April looks forward to sharing her experiences with her elected officials in whatever capacity “new normal” looks like so that other families might not have to go through the same challenges in the future.
Become an advocate…
Alzheimer’s Congressional Team (ACT) members are volunteers committed to advocacy who help to raise their elected officials’ awareness of and support for the Alzheimer’s Association’s public policy goals. Each ACT member’s efforts are crucial to the public policy success of the Association and no experience is necessary. ACT members work with their team leaders (“Ambassadors”) and Alzheimer’s Association staff on advocacy assignments to advance the Association’s state and federal legislative priorities and build relationships with a designated member of Congress and staff.