High-spirited. Athletic. Funny. Sweet. This is my beautiful wife, Teri.
But just over 4 years ago, Teri began losing a series of jobs for which she was well qualified due to increasing memory and cognitive issues. March 2008, the sobering and confusing answer to her memory challenges was a diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
We were stunned. She was only 52.
How could she have Alzheimer’s at 52? Up until that moment, Alzheimer’s was nothing more than a punch line to any number of silly jokes made at the expense of somebody forgetting something.
Teri is a wonderful person. She loves to laugh and be among friends. She is active and has still goes for runs and likes to kick the soccer ball around, but is challenged and confused by simple tasks. She has increasing difficulty finding and forming words and conversation has become labored and difficult for her. Teri is still Teri, but our lives changed pretty dramatically. And it continues to change though rarely ever for the better.
We found a doctor and a clinic that pointed us to theAlzheimer’s Association. They have been an incredible resource for us on this journey, especially through support groups, in which Teri and I and both sons participate. My support group has been a wealth of information, concern and care from remarkable people. Teri’s support group seem like they are always having a good time. When I come to pick her up when it is over, they are always laughing. My two sons belong to a newly-formed support group for Adult Children of a Parent with Younger-Onset. They’ve only had a handful of meetings so far but they are hugely engaged and take a great deal from it.
The Alzheimer’s Association has been a SAFE haven to both Teri and me, and now our sons, and at no cost. We wanted to give back something and the last two years we’ve participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Surprisingly, I was the largest individual fundraiser both years. Or maybe not that surprising; after all, Teri and I and our sons Lennon and Rio are very fortunate to be surrounded by many wonderful, caring and generous people.
As we get older, I can only imagine that other people in our lives will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We can make a difference by keeping the quest for a cure at the forefront. Currently, there are 110,000 Washingtonians, age 65 and older, with Alzheimer’s or related dementia, plus an additional, estimated 5,500 to 11,000 like Teri with younger-onset dementia. These numbers are expected to more than triple by 2050 if we don’t find a cure or treatment to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Another way of giving back is by sharing our story. Consider joining me at the upcoming Alzheimer’s Association Reason to Hope Community Breakfast on Wednesday, March 7, from 7:30AM to 8:30AM at the Hyatt at Olive 8 in Seattle! I’ll be sharing our family’s journey.
It’d mean the world to both Teri and me if you could attend. Please join our family, friends, supporters and others by joining us at the Reason to Hope Community Breakfast (and perhaps we’ll see you at Walk too!) There is no charge to attend. However, guests will be asked to help address the growing needs of our community by making a contribution at the conclusion of the Breakfast.
Join us! Please contact Annie Rehn, at 206.363.5500, ext.252. or at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to sit at Kevan’s table!
Kevan Atteberry is an artist, illustrator, animator and all around fun guy. He and wife Teri have two grown sons, Lennon and Rio. Everyone in the family is engaging in outreach and building awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.