In 2011, Jana Walker's mother, Ann, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. While Ann still remembers her family, the diagnosis has caused her to lose her short-term memory. A few years ago, Jana's daughter Anna participated in a walk to raise money for an Alzheimer's cure. Her participation encouraged the whole family to get involved.
DESTIN — Ann Rogers can remember important things like the name of family members and events from the past, but her short-term memory is gone.
Ann was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011 at the age of 74. At the time, she didn’t think anything was wrong but her family could tell something was off.
“I would notice that she wasn’t remembering things or we would have to go over the same things on the phone,” said her daughter, Jana Walker, who lives in Destin. "She would get angry when we would mention it or would think something was going on. She just attributed it to getting older.”
Ann’s husband, Jim, took her to the doctor where she underwent several tests before receiving the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Ann did not handle the diagnosis well, according to her daughter. When the diagnosis came, Ann claimed that the neurologists were crazy and nothing was wrong. She even threw away the medicine given to her by the doctor.
Eventually, the family quit mentioning the diagnosis and found ways to get Ann to take the medication without noticing.
“I was heartbroken,” Walker said of her mother’s diagnosis. “People don’t realize how hard it is to lose a person but then you actually don’t. The outside facade of the person is still the same but they’re not the same person.”
Since the diagnosis, Walker said her mother has changed drastically.
Ann went from being an active participant in the community who was always cooking or participating in church events to living in a memory care facility where she spends most of the day watching game shows, something she never did prior to her diagnosis.
“She has improved and put on weight since she has been there," Walker said. “She’s in great health other than her mind.”
Although she knows her mother is doing well in the facility, living far away from her parents is difficult for Walker. Her parents live in Oklahoma.
Since Ann’s diagnosis, the family has found a way to help fight the disease. Walker’s daughter, Anna Davis, participated in a “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” three years ago, which inspired Walker and her husband to do the same.
“She was 23 the first year she did it and she put it on her Facebook page and raised over $2,000 dollars,” Walker said. “We thought if she can do it, we should do it too.”
The following year, the family was able to raise about $16,000 for the walk in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Last year, between the Destin and Tulsa walks, they were able to raise $30,000.
This year, Walker, her husband and her father will all participate in the Emerald Coast Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Their goal is to raise $10,000 to help find a cure for the disease.
“I think people need to be concerned about finding a cure,” Walker said, “It’s a disease where it affects not just the person, but the effect on the family is hard. If everyone tries to do their part, we will hopefully find a cure.”
To donate to Walker’s group, visit the Miles for Mimi page.