Family in Search of Rainbow in the Midst of Dementia ‘Storm’

“Change is the only constant in our lives, and we are learning to adapt daily,” shares daughter Reena and wife Varsha Isharani of Greensboro, North Carolina.  Their father/husband, Jay, was diagnosed with dementia in 2017.  “While we may make the weekly schedule each Sunday night, we know that any day could turn out to be very different.”  

Jay moved to the United States from Mumbai, India in 1966.  He received his masters degree in chemical engineering from Lowell Technological Institute in Massachusetts.  Soon thereafter he took a job with Ciba Geigy Chemicals in Ardsley, New York. Jay returned to Mumbai in 1970 to marry Varsha, and then they both returned to New York. In 1973, Jay and Varsha moved to Greensboro and have lived there ever since.  

According to Reena and Varsha, Jay was a chemical engineer by degree but he shifted more towards the managerial side of the business during his career. “He was a textile guy – very methodical and precise in his thought processes.  There was no gray area for him,” shares Reena. Jay enjoyed a long and successful career with Ciba Geigy/Ciba and Huntsman and retired as the vice president of sales of North America for the company in 2007.  “Jay was always a big believer in helping the underdog or those less fortunate in his workplace,” offers Reena.  “In particular, he gave recently divorced women and/or single mothers the opportunity to work on his team. He wanted them to have a fair chance and a fair salary.” Upon retiring, Jay continued to work in an independent consultative role until his diagnosis. 

Jay once appreciated traveling, playing golf, investing, discussing politics and reading.  Each Sunday, the family would gather and walk through the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park together.  Former co-worker and friend Marty Spottl, along with his wife Regula, accompanied the Isharani family regularly when they took historical architectural tours. “Jay still remembers Marty, so he typically comes and visits Jay and helps him once a week,” adds Reena.  

“This disease has unfortunately taken all of these hobbies away from him,” shares Varsha. “It is very unforgiving and very sad and emotional for our family.”  They noticed the most significant changes in Jay’s behavior when on vacation together in Spain in 2018. “Dad was uninterested in our nightly dinners and would prefer to be back at the hotel instead of hanging out with us,” offers Reena.  “We also noticed him passing the house while driving and covering it up stating he was going to look at someone’s house,” added Varsha.   “Initially, we went through denial, anger and still confused at times [in dealing with Jay’s condition.]  We have learned to take it hour by hour and day by day.”

Jay now attends the Well-Spring Solutions Memory Care Center (an adult day care service) in Greensboro and enjoys it.     He also likes walking, going out for ice cream, live music, and short car rides.  “We are going to buy some drums for him as he frequently drums on the table,” adds Varsha jokingly.  When Reena or Varsha asks Jay if he wants to try a new activity, i.e. Rock Steady Boxing (a non-contact boxing based fitness curriculum), he will say no.  They took him anyway and Jay enjoyed it. “We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t ask Jay if he wants to try something new. We just get in the car and go,” asserts Varsha.  Jay has always appreciated his walks along the beach, most recently Atlantic Beach in April 2021.  While he has become afraid of the water (he cannot remember how to swim), Jay traditionally secured an oceanfront room at North Myrtle Beach for family vacations where he sat on the balcony and watched the waves for hours. According to the Isharanis, Jay was extremely expressive prior to dementia in that he could talk two to three hours on any subject.  Currently, he may say twenty to thirty sentences in an entire day.  “He has changed 360 degrees with the advancing of the disease,” adds Reena. “This has been very sad to see and hard to process many days.” 

The Irsharani family became involved with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Guilford County in 2018, their team better known as the Dancing Rainbows because of two of his favorite things.  “Jay has always liked bright colors,” comments Reena.  “We made a fairy garden for him that includes the Alzheimer’s promise garden flowers along the side of the house.  He was mesmerized by their spinning movement and would visit them through the window each morning to see if they were moving.” Dancing is another favorite activity for Jay.  Jay and Varsha have participated in personal training sessions in the park, and Jay often paused to dance during his breaks.

The Dancing Rainbows are walking again this year on October 16, and the team includes Jay as well as additional family and friends.  Reena notes that her college roommate’s father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her family has also joined their team.  Their primary fundraising efforts have been email and social media based due to the pandemic. But granddaughter Sophie, who is a fourth grader, has been an instrumental team fundraiser through her lemonade stand service. Reena and Varsha agree that one of their favorite parts of participating in the walk is hearing all the stories of the individuals and families affected.  “The stories that were shared on the stage in 2018 were particularly heart wrenching for us since Jay had been recently diagnosed.”  They believe their participation in the walk is important however in that they want to bring more awareness of Alzheimer’s and all forms of dementia. “This is one of the worst things to endure,” shares Reena. “Not only for the person living with the disease but also the family.  We wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Many of his memories are gone. It’s difficult for Jay’s friends, too, in that they constantly ask, ‘Do you remember this?  Do you remember that?’  Sadly, Jay doesn’t remember.”  

Reena and Varsha believe that the Alzheimer’s Association has helped them in many ways through their 24 hour Helpline and connecting them with local resources and support groups.  “The education, research and support that the Association provides are all very important to us.  We are praying for a cure daily and hope they can find one soon.”

“Teach them that rainbows appear after a storm to remind them that light begins and ends with all colors.”

Frederic M. Perrin

LIKE REENA AND VARSHA, 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

Add Your Flower to the Fight to End Alzheimer’s.

2 thoughts on “Family in Search of Rainbow in the Midst of Dementia ‘Storm’

  1. Varsha,

    I thank you and Reena for sharing your journey with Jay and dementia. I would love to join you in the walk if I can get Garland a sitter! It is hard getting sitter’s with Covid getting worse. A new young girl came this morning from Authorcare and helped with bath and shaving. I could not do this caregiving alone without Well Spring Memory and Authorcare.

    Love you,

    Nancy

    Like

  2. Very touching story, Reena and Varsha. I wish we can join you for the walk and we lived closer to you. Wish you all the best.

    Like

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