Participants in the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk-Walk To End Alzheimer’s event begin their trek Saturday morning at the Chaves County Courthouse. (Mark Wilson Photo)
The Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s Saturday morning focused on memory loss — but not necessarily that of Alzheimer’s patients.
Candy Beeman, who attended the event that took place at the Chaves County Courthouse, spoke to the crowd that had gathered at the lawn. She attended the event with her husband, Ike Beeman.
Beeman shared the story of her mother-in-law, Irene Beeman, who had Alzheimer’s and passed away last year.
In better times, Beeman said her mother-in-law, who lived through the Great Depression, was “green before green was the thing. … Nothing went to waste.”
Once afflicted with Alzheimer’s, Irene would escape the watchful gaze of family members and go out walking. During one instance, Irene Beeman walked in hot weather while wearing nine layers of clothing. During another instance, she climbed a four-foot barbed wire fence.
When the family decided to take Irene to a nursing home, people who did not know her commented on how healthy she looked and questioned the need to place her in a nursing home.
“Alzheimer’s disease is deceitful,” Beeman said. She spoke of how the family had to learn her mother-in-law’s language, as she would often substitute words as well as names.
Being called by a different name was something that distressed Beeman’s children, because it made them feel that their grandmother no longer remembered them. This changed when Irene taught the family something they may not have realized about memory loss.
One day, while meeting with one of her granddaughters, Irene admitted she could not remember her name.
“I can’t put a name to you,” Irene said, “but it doesn’t matter, (because) I know you’re special. I know you’re one of my granddaughters.”
Candy Beeman said that, from that moment on, the family looked at memory loss in a different light. This prompted them to do a little reprioritizing.
“It didn’t matter if she remembered who we were,” Beeman said of her mother-in-law, “but that we remembered who she (was).”
Beeman, who is the director of the Solana Alzheimer’s Care Unit at Mission Arch Care Center, also said it is important that the loved ones of those with Alzheimer’s disease realize there are others going through the same circumstances.
“The journey may seem lonely,” she said, “but we are not alone.”
Event organizers estimate about 200 people met at the Chaves County Courthouse to walk in honor of someone they know or knew that had Alzheimer’s and to raise awareness of the disease.
Attendees were given one of four colors of artificial flowers. Purple symbolized someone who had lost a loved one to the disease. Blue represented someone with Alzheimer’s.
A yellow flower was given to those who support or care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. An orange flower symbolized someone who supports the cause and the vision of a world without Alzheimer’s disease.
Siobhan Mitchell, director of operations at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Albuquerque office, said everyone got a flower for just showing up to the walk. The Tee-shirts, however, were incentives for raising funds to help the cause.
“All the funds we do raise provide support and services to families dealing with Alzheimer’s,” she said.
To find out more about the Alzheimer’s Association’s initiatives in New Mexico, including the annual walk, visit