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Kellie Graham, a former Grant County resident, understands that life can change in an instant.
She noticed that her mother, Ola Haven, had started to forget things. Graham chalked it up to the aging process and wasn’t surprised when two years ago her mother was diagnosed with dementia.
“I could deal with that because she still knew me and she still knew my kids,” Graham said.
But a car ride to the emergency room for her mother changed all their lives.
“Her electrolytes were low and her doctor told us to bring her to the ER,” Graham said. “She got car sick and by the time we got to the hospital, she couldn’t walk or talk and she had no idea who we were.”
Days and then weeks passed and her mother remained unable to get out of bed, communicate with her family and was unable to care for herself.
“We thought she had a stroke, but then they told us that she had Alzheimer’s,” Graham said.
Since that diagnosis, her mother has been moved to a nursing home for 24-hour care, which brought her to Grant Manor in Williamstown.
“That’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, leaving her in a strange place with strange people, but they’re so sweet and kind,” Graham said.
Graham, having worked in the health care industry for a number of years, currently as the manager of informatics and an Ambulatory Certified Epic Trainer for St. Elizabeth Health Care, was familiar with Alzheimer’s and its impact to families.
Every 68 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that affects nearly 55,000 people in Greater Cincinnai.
Graham’s voice cracked and tears filled her eyes.
“It depends on the day if she knows me, but she always knows dad because he visits a lot,” Graham said.
But Alzheimer’s wasn’t finished with Graham’s family. Her dad has also been diagnosed with dementia and the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.
That’s why she’s become passionate about working to fund Alzheimer’s research in the hopes of developing a cure and making a difference.
That passion pushed her to ask St. Elizabeth to sponsor a team in the Alzheimer’s Associaton Walk To End Alzheimer’s event for Grant, Pendleton and Bracken counties planned for Oct. 12 at Grant County Park.
Graham participated in the walk for the first time last year, but this year wanted to do more.
Her team, called the “Unforgettables” consists of friends, family, co-workers and her four children, will be participating in the “Forget Me Not” or opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. and will spend time walking to raise money.
Her mission is to “raise money and awareness.”
Graham hopes the park will be filled with people walking with a purpose.
She’d like to bring her mom out to the event, weather permitting.
“You just never know in this life. It seems like there was a light switch that got turned off and then my mom was just gone. I know I can’t do anything for my parents now but I don’t want my children to have to go through this because it’s a struggle,’ she said.
For more information about the walk go to www.alz.org/cincinnati or call Layne Haas at 800-272-3900.