SAN ANTONIO – Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the united states, and every 65 seconds someone in the country develops the disease. November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, which helps honor who those have the disease or take care of loved ones who do.
There are more than 40 million caregivers across the country who support their loved ones, and countless families here in San Antonio.
“Her name? Joan. And we people would call her ‘Joanie.’ And she passed about a week before her eighty third birthdays. So she was 82,” Ginny Funk, director of program for the Alzheimer’s Association in San Antonio, said.
Joan passed away this past April, after a long fight with dementia, but even before Ginny’s mom was diagnosed or showed signs of the disease, Ginny knew a lot about dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“I didn’t get into this because I had any personal connection. I worked in nursing homes and at an assisted living that cared for people with all kinds of different cognitive and memory decline,” Funk said.
Ginny soon realized it was much more difficult to practice what she preached, after a scary incident one afternoon.
“We came home. I walked into her house and her stove was lit. It was on how. How it was OK. I don’t know, because we were gone for at least two hours,” Funk said. And that day led to the startling realization.
“I had a whole different perspective. I also learned that guilt. Well, I’ll say guilt and being in denial. Are there very understandable,” Funk said. “Being in denial and denying things is very easy. And it’s really understandable. It’s just so easy to go, oh, gosh, that’s just you know, that’s just mom being mom.”
Through the years Ginny and her family had to take the necessary steps to make sure her mom stayed safe but as the years went by the disease got worse.
“She had what a lot of individuals have right in the end stages where their brain isn’t able to tell them how to how to swallow and how to drink. And we have to have that in order to live. So that’s how things really towards the very end started to progress,” Funk said.
Ginny wants her story to help bring light to the disease and guide other families who are going through it.
If you have any questions you can head to alz.org. You can find resources like the signs of Alzheimer’s, support groups, information on the stages of the disease, how you can help out and the latest in the research field.