The Snohomish County Walk to End Alzheimer’s, is excited to return in person to Boxcar Park in Everett on Saturday, October 9, 2021, after being virtual last year.   It is a beautiful, appropriate waterfront park venue located at 1200 Millwright Loop West in Everett.  For detailed information see the Walk to End Alzheimer’s website. The event will feature the gorgeous flowers in various colors designating the stages of the participants in the event, and virtual opportunities for those wishing to walk in their own neighborhoods.

An estimated 6.2 Americans have Alzheimer’s or dementia and 44 million people worldwide.  But, what about the caregivers?  The extended reach of this disease is immense.  If you are not personally impacted, surely you know someone who is.  Friends call you to say they have taken the knobs off the stove, taken the keys, or placed their parents, siblings, or relatives in a safe environment.  How do you cope with a growing family, work, and all these responsibilities at once?  It’s daunting and never-ending, but you do it with love and understanding.

I had the privilege to speak with one impacted caregiver, Erika Roden.  Her story is powerful, compelling, and emotional. A mother of two children, Kindergarten, and 3rd grade, she deals with both parents with Alzheimer’s and dementia at the same time.  I could write a book about our 2 ½ hour conversation.

According to Erika, “the guilt and aloneness is the worst”. She is a prolific fundraiser for this cause and hosts a yearly event. One involved an up-and-coming young singer named Jay Allen, who lost his mother to Alzheimer’s and connected with Erika on Facebook.  His song “Blank Stares” touched Erika so personally she reached out on Facebook, and he responded. The song and tribute have garnered over 300 million viewers worldwide. Much planning later, he traveled to Everett and gave a private concert to 100 people during COVID.  Her pictures of him and her mother are priceless.  You can hear this song on YouTube at this link: Jay Allen Blank Stares.

Erika is 37 and has been dealing with this for many years now.  She was pregnant with first daughter when her mother complained about her eyesight. She immediately took her to the eye doctor for new glasses.  Her vision was fine, the back of her brain was blocking her sight.  Now blind, and four years later, they found a perfect place for Mom. Emptying the house and dealing with the guilt accompanying the “why are you doing this to me?” was traumatic.

Fast forward, Dad began losing his car to be found in a grocery store parking lot.  She finally convinced him to move in with her family.  The first year was extremely rough. His dementia affects the frontal lobe of his brain, so he can see.  Thankfully, she has a very supportive husband and children.  A fabulous Mom, Erika doesn’t hide.  When her children see her cry, she holds them and explains.  They love their grandparents and are active participants.  She brings her mom home often because being with the children makes her smile.

Erika says, “you learn to live in the moment”.  While a blatantly honest person, she says you learn to tell little fibs.  With delusions and hallucinations common, it’s tough.  Riding in the car, her mom will start seeing things out the window and “tell them to go away”.  At this point, you simply “yell out the window and tell them to go away and that solves the issue momentarily. Breve lattes, chocolate and smelly flowers also go a long way”.

Thinking it would be a fun outing, she took Dad and family to a recent Aquasox game.  He is an avid baseball and hockey fan.  But the environment was too much.  She grew up a camper with her dad, and they tried this in July as well with the same result.

Her relatives are not close by, and the support has mainly fallen on her shoulders. There is support out there at Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter, based in Lynnwood.  Erika felt so lucky to find this resource and attended a special session including UW physicians to talk about the brain impacts.  There were people with Alzheimer’s and caregivers present.

Help find a cure for this life shattering disease and join us at Boxcar Park in Everett on October 9, 2021.The goal is to raise $130,000 for research and local assistance resources.

Classic Country’s KXA’s Stitch Mitchell will be on hand as MC.  Come meet Stitch and walk to end Alzheimer’s.

Marcee Maylin has a degree in Editorial Journalism from the University of Washington and 30+ years media experience. She is currently the Editor of the Everett Post dedicated to providing current, relevant, and entertaining content for the local community.