TOLEDO — The family of Cathy and Matthew Sims has seen more of what Alzheimer’s and other dementias do to a family than most.
Cathy’s mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s eight years ago and now lives in a memory care home. Matthew’s mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia following a stroke 15 years ago and his father was diagnosed with dementia five years ago. Their son-in-law Kevin Duke’s grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s a year ago.
“Alzheimer’s disease touches everyone in the family,” said Cathy Sims. “Alzheimer’s has struck our family monetarily, mentally, physically. It is hard to describe if you’ve never been through it. It’s a disease that branches out through the entire family.”
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. In Ohio, there are 220,000 individuals living with the disease and 442,000 unpaid caregivers.
More than six million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s, a progressive, fatal brain disease that kills nerve cells and tissues in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think, plan, speak or walk. Yet the disease impacts many more beyond those diagnosed.
“Locally, the Alzheimer’s Association provides care and support services, as well as education programs, absolutely free of charge,” said Julia Pechlivanos, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio Chapter. “We have early-stage groups for individuals recently diagnosed, as well as support groups for caregivers, plus care consultations. Dementia touches the entire family as well as friends, and the Alzheimer’s Association is here to help everyone impacted.”
Cathy Sims said, “My mother would call me and say ‘Cathy, come and get me, there is a strange man in the house.’ I would try to explain to her that man is your husband, and Mom would reply, ‘but I don’t know him,’” she said. She added that her husband experiences similar events with his mother.
Matthew Sims said, “I would get my mother on the phone and she would ask me a series of say five questions. Then just like a rewind loop, it would just come back around. The same five questions, the same five questions.” He said he feels fortunate that his four siblings who live close to his parents have been able to care for his parents in their home.
“It’s not doom and gloom,” Matthew Sims said. “It’s just the reality that we are in. So why not get involved with the Alzheimer’s Association to help fight this disease and improve the future for all of us.”
Caregivers should reach out to the local Alzheimer’s Association for help, Cathy Sims said. “They need to know they aren’t in this alone and there are support groups for help. This disease can feel like such a lonely journey for the caregiver and it shouldn’t have to be that way. People just need to be made aware that help is out there and there is no shame in reaching out for support.”
The Alzheimer’s Association offers free in-person and virtual support groups, virtual and in-person education programs, family care consultations and a 24/7 Helpline, at 800.272.3900, staffed by trained clinicians to offer confidential support and information to people living with dementia, caregivers, families and the public. Visit https://www.alz.org/nwohio to locate programs and services offered.
The Sims family are all dedicated to raising funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. Cathy, Matthew, their daughter Ansley Sims Duke and her husband Kevin Duke, all participated in this year’s Toledo Walk to End Alzheimer’s, raising more than $10,200 to help fund programs, services and research.
“We all are advocates for the Association and speak with our state and federal legislators to speak up for those suffering from Alzheimer’s who can no longer speak for themselves,” Cathy Sims said. “We need more research. We’ve got to find a way to halt this disease and to cure it eventually. That’s my prayer through the work I do with the Alzheimer’s Association.”
About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, fatal brain disease that kills nerve cells and tissues in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think, plan, speak, walk. In the United States, more than 6 million people have the disease. Individuals who have questions about living with Alzheimer’s can call the Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org.