Iredell County Caregiver Finds Connection Through Walk Community

Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or caring for someone with the diagnosis, can often be an isolating experience. This past year and a half of pandemic living has only increased this sense of isolation. Caregivers are looking for ways to connect in new and creative ways. Sometimes that takes the form of virtual support groups. Sometimes that looks like virtual education programs in local communities. For one caregiver in Iredell County, that means throwing themselves into the can-do attitude of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event, focusing on fundraising for a future that is bright and connected and full of support for her family and for her mother.

Honey’s mother Dyan

Honey Crum describes her mother Dyan (pronounced as Diane) an absolutely amazing woman. “She was very creative. She was the costume maker for our church productions for years and a certified wedding planner…The absolute matriarch of our family.” In addition to being very busy outside of her main career, Dyan worked in the local school system for more than 20 years as a  high school administrator, always willing to help colleagues and community members. About seven years ago, Dyan’s family started noticing a “series of small moments” that worried them. She would start saying things that were uncharacteristic for her. She lost familiarity with her favorite foods. She gradually became quiet, which was a real change in her earlier personality. “We started glancing at each other at public outings, we were suspicious. We were nervous because we thought it could be something worse than normal. Could this be more?” shared Honey.

Dyan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago. While some families would take an -understandable- moment to pause and mourn this unknown new future, Honey and her family dove right in to finding solutions that worked for them. Honey contacted the Alzheimer’s Association on the day her mom was diagnosed to discuss care planning, disease information, and how to give back to families like hers. Honey’s father, a football coach and educator, worked in the same school as Dyan. During the diagnostic process, the couple decided to retire early on the same day, “walking out hand in hand” to start their care partner journey together. Honey’s parents actually moved to a house three miles away from Honey so she could assist with her mom’s care early last year as the pandemic was growing. “We now live closer than we ever have before,” exclaims Honey.

Through the family’s caregiving journey, there have been calls to the Association’s 24/7 helpline. Honey appreciates this service, giving the family a sense of community, “knowing that you have an advocate, that someone is in your corner. There is place you can call at any time.” There also have been online connections. But most of all, there has been a real sense of hope for the future through participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s- Iredell County. They unfortunately had to miss their first year event due to work schedules, so the family first walked together in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. Somehow, through the adversity of caregiving in the middle of an isolating epidemic, Honey’s walk team Team Di managed to be the top fundraising team! The family donned their purple hats and walk t-shirts and walked around Dyan’s neighborhood. Even in the drizzle, they met two neighbors who offered donations on the spot. “We got featured on the local news! [I loved] hearing her name and sharing her story. It was such a moment of honoring her,” remembers Honey. Friends from all around the country were watching the family’s news spot and sent supportive text messages. Her dad even teared up taking pictures as a family. This day literally gave the family “a bounce in their step.”

Honey and her family have plans this year to walk on September 25, no matter what that actually looks like this year, as pandemic walk veterans. Even though they started their journey “apart”, Honey still felt that sense of connection that many feel on Walk day. “It just makes you feel like there are other folks out there. It gives you a real sense of belonging, knowing that there are other people with similar stories out there.” They plan to have family Walk t-shirts again, and their walk team will grow with more friends and family. At more than $6,100 raised so far, Team Di has already raised more money than last year, through direct outreach of family and friends.

When Honey reaches out to friends and family to raise money for her team, she focuses on the Association’s research efforts, which seems so natural to hear her speaking about her hopes. “It’s just about knowing that efforts are being directed towards research. It’s encouraging and hopeful knowing that someone could be spared [in the future]. Groundbreaking research is a victory for all of us. To find that first survivor… everyone will feel a sense of joy,” explains Honey. Coming from a journey of isolation which, to be clear, has been hard on the whole family, Honey just sounds so hopeful. Honey shares that the walk has been “a blessing” to her family, even as their hearts break. Here’s to hoping all caregivers find this sense of connection at their walk this fall. Honey can attest- you are not alone. To her, the walk is “about that sense of belonging. It’s like you’re holding hands with everyone and lifting your hands together in unity. We see you, we love you, we are trying to get you more help.”

LIKE HONEY, WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO FIGHT FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Join your local Walk to End Alzheimer’s today.

The Alzheimer’s Association hosts 17 walks across North Carolina. The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Since 1989, the Alzheimer’s Association® mobilized millions of Americans in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®; now the Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to lead the way with Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s.

We’re moving forward with plans to host the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® in person this fall. We are planning every Walk with the health and safety of our constituents, staff and volunteers as our top priorities. All events will implement safety protocols including physical distancing, masks (where required), contactless registration, hand sanitizing stations and more. We will continue to closely monitor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local guidelines to ensure Walk events adhere to recommendations and are safe for attendees, as well as offer options to participate online and in your neighborhood.

2021 NORTH CAROLINA WALK DATES

Alamance County – 9.25.21
Asheville – 10.9.21
Charlotte – 10.23.21
Fayetteville – 10.30.21
Gaston/Cleveland/Lincoln – 10.9.21
Guilford County – 10.16.21
Henderson County – 9.25.21
Hickory – 10.31.21
Iredell County – 9.25.21
Jacksonville – 10.16.21
Moore County – 9.25.21
Mount Airy – 9.18.21
New Bern – 10.23.21
Rowan-Cabarrus – 10.30.21
Triangle – 10.9.21
Wilmington – 11.6.21
Winston-Salem – 11.6.21

Where there’s a Walk, there’s a way.

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