“I’m proud to be the daughter of a dad who in spite of what he had to face in the military — fighting the fires with the jets [during the Korean War] — he’s a hero to me,” proclaims Tammy Wiles of King, North Carolina. James Henry Creasy, aka Papa Creasy, is now 90 years old, completely deaf and living in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. “Dad actually became hearing impaired during the war,” added Tammy. “We believe his hearing loss resulted in him becoming cognitively impaired initially. As time progressed not only did his hearing deteriorate altogether, his behavior transitioned [in exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s].”
Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia can be challenging for anyone. For veterans, and their caregivers, already dealing with unique issues related to their service, navigating the journey may be even more difficult. The Alzheimer’s Association in North Carolina recently held a series on dementia, veterans, and caregiving. Watch the on-demand videos on this series.
Born and raised in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, James and his wife Hulda aka Mima have been married for over 65 years. Prior to developing Alzheimer’s, James was always a happy and jovial person according to Tammy. That spirit has mostly continued as the disease has progressed, but trips outside of home cause confusion and anxiety, a common behavior among those living with dementia. So James’ trips now are few and far between to minimize the impact on him. “We used to take dad to church every Sunday,” adds Tammy. “He would be confused initially, but the minute we arrived on the church grounds, he would know exactly where he was and longer be confused. I believe that is an amazing feat!” Woodland Baptist Church was like a second home to James. “He was at the church at least three days a week, and it was something that just grounded him,” shares Tammy. “Now he can’t even go on Sunday and it’s something that’s very hard for us to see.”
Currently James still recognizes Hulda, and is very attached to her. “When mom goes to the doctor, we leave a note for dad that says, ‘Mima has left to go to the doctor. She loves you. Dad always asks, ‘Did she write that? Does she love me?’ We all think that is so sweet.”
James and Hulda live in their home in King, North Carolina and Tammy and her husband moved in and built a wing on the home so that we could assist with his care. “The VA provides dad with physical therapy, nursing, equipment and anything else that he may need which is so great!” Tammy’s family pays for assistance in cleaning their home, so they have a good support team in place. “My mom and I work together to make sure he gets the care he needs.”
While Tammy has not directly utilized the care and support services that the Alzheimer’s Association offers, she has benefited from the educational tools that are available online such as the 10 warning signs to look for when an individual may be developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Tammy’s niece, Lauren Holder, recently joined the staff of the Alzheimer’s Association in North Carolina. “Lauren has been instrumental in making us aware of the resources that the organization has to offer.” Additionally the family takes James to the geriatric clinic at the North Carolina Baptist Hospital which has also been very helpful in navigating his care.
Research and looking for cures are what Tammy believes to be among the most beneficial initiatives that the Alzheimer’s Association is leading. “[A] huge help for our family is education,” affirms Tammy. “Knowing what [signs] to look for and how to manage someone living with the disease has also been extremely beneficial to us in caring for my dad. Tammy admits that her initial understanding of Alzheimer’s was so limited and doesn’t know what they would have done without the resources. “We were totally in the dark when my dad first received his diagnosis, and I think most people are. Many people think there’s just something wrong with their brain and they need to go into a [nursing] home. Well, putting my dad into a home has never been an option for us, but keeping him at home has been our option. Getting the education and understanding how to care for him at home has been invaluable.”
There is no one-size-fits all formula when it comes to Alzheimer’s care. Needs change at different stages of the disease and each family’s situation is unique. Deciding on care can be a tough decision. See the Association’s resources on navigating care options.
“Lauren approached us earlier in the year about having our family form a Walk team to represent my dad, and we felt compelled to do it and encourage some community businesses to get involved and support Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Mount Airy.” From that their team, Lauren’s Love Bugs, was created are in the process of sharing walk informational packets within the community. “Our time is somewhat limited due to the amount of care that we are providing for my dad, but we’re making the time where we can. Our goal is to raise the general awareness about Alzheimer’s, as well as the walk itself.” Tammy emphasizes that they don’t want their team restricted to immediate family, and have extended an invitation to their church family and other people that they know. “I’ve let our pastor know about the upcoming walk so that he can encourage each of the Sunday School classes to get involved.” In addition to James’ involvement, Hulda, who is originally from Cuba, was the founder of the Spanish Church within Woodland Baptist Church. The Creasy family has been involved with the now 1,000 member church since 1974; therefore, they are optimistic about garnering a sizable participation in this year’s Walk taking place on September 10 at Riverside Park, and they have set their fundraising at $1,000.
“My favorite part of Walk day is seeing the people cross the finish line,” asserts Tammy. “I believe it’s representative of overcoming a challenge — the challenges that go along with those living with Alzheimer’s disease and what my father faces every day.” Tammy believes that the walks are also an effective awareness tool for the number of individuals who live with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. “These people belong to a family that cares for them. They are not just faces. They are important to someone. We plan to bring dad to the walk this year, even if it’s just for a bit. The car ride is short and he has one restaurant, The Copper Pot, that he still recognizes. We’re hoping that he still does and will plan to eat there on that day.”
LIKE TAMMY & HER FAMILY, 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. Your health and safety are our top priorities. We will continue to closely monitor CDC, state and local guidelines to ensure Walk events adhere to the latest recommendations.
|Unifour (formerly Hickory)||10/29/2022|