By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Sept 28, 2017 | 12:00 p.m.
CARSON – Alzheimer’s Disease can rob those of the memories that make up the mosaic of a full-life, taking away recollections of moments shared between friends, family, and loved ones.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and more than five million Americans are living with the debilitating disease, meaning it’s likely you may know someone or have a friend who knows someone living with Alzheimer’s.
For a Carson family, those statistics became a real part of their lives as the matriarch of their family was afflicted with the disease in the golden years of her life and now, they are walking in her memory and to raise awareness to efforts to help find a cure for this disease.
On Saturday, friends and family will join members of the community as part of a local Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the Harvell/Parham Ball Field and Recreation Park at 17205 Shady Lane in Carson, inviting everyone to join their team, named “Shades of Memories of Dinwiddie, Virginia.”
For Mildred Harvell-Woodhouse, Saturday’s event is centered around the memory of her dear mother, Nola Shands Harvell, a woman who was a pillar of the Carson community during her decades in the area.
“My mom was the go-to person in Carson,” she shared, saying her mother, “was ‘vital statistics’ for everyone, from those at church to our family, and the community. If there was a question about a birth, death, age, event, or when someone was baptized, she knew the answer and everyone relied on her.”
Harvell, the oldest of ten children and mother of four, is remembered by Woodhouse and her family as a woman who walked her 93-year-old path here on Earth with pride, known for her strut and style in her fashionable stilettos.
Following the death of her husband when she was 45, Woodhouse said her mother conquered many barriers to maintain the farm they lived on and ensured that her four children were educated.
“My mom reminded me Job,” invoking the image of Job, the prophet who was tested by God in the Holy Bible, “as she suffered the loss of a husband and three children.”
As she spoke, Woodhouse revealed when her mother began to lose her memory, around the age of 85 years old, and she lived with dementia until the age of 93.
For many, when the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia set in, those who spent their lives being the caregiver of their children and loved ones become themselves the ones in need of care from their loved ones. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with the disease and other forms of dementia, with these caregivers providing an estimated 18.2 billion hours of care valued at over $230 billion.
That national statistic was more than a collection of facts and figures for Woodhouse and her family as her mother’s memory slipped away over time and they became her caregiver.
“My mom became my toddler,” she said. “As toddlers get into stuff, so did she. It was a tough journey but the help of family and friends made the voyage much easier.”
“My mother left me with good memories and big laughs,” Woodhouse shared. “I had to figure out ways to laugh rather than cry at some of the things that ‘loss of memory’ can cause you to do and say. Great memories are what helps me as I think of her daily. We played ball inside the house, ate strawberry ice cream cones, which were her favorite, and we laughed a lot together.”
As she became aware of more family and friends who are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia while understanding her own personal journey caring for someone with the disease, Woodhouse said it was important for her to take action.
“I am simply compelled to do all I can to help raise awareness and funds,” she remarked. “I’m stepping out with swag in memory of my mom and my family and the community are excited to do this as we prepare to kick off our first community effort to combat the disease that is affecting so many of our loved ones.”
Saturday, September 30’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the Harvell/Parham Ball Field will run from noon until 5 p.m., with the 2.5-mile walk scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Along with the walk, food, vendors, and other activities are expected to be on hand, with attendees being asked to wear purple in honor of Alzheimer’s awareness.
For more information about the event and about joining the “Shades of Memories of Dinwiddie, Virginia,” contact Mildred Harvell Woodhouse at 301-661-4605.