WICHITA, Kans. (KSNW) – The Alzheimer’s Association helps people with the disease prepare for the future, learn what to expect, and get support. That’s also extended to family members of those with the disease.

Christy Barnett is sharing her story of being a caregiver with the hope of helping others.

“I think you learn patience as you go through the process,” said Barnett.

She’s had plenty of opportunities for growth.

“I had a grandmother who had early onset Alzheimer’s, then my father passed away of Alzheimer’s, and then, my mother is currently dealing with memory issues, Alzheimer’s,” said Barnett.

The disease progressively takes over.

“It was so devastating because you saw somebody who loved to read, loved to talk, and they just pull back,” said Barnett.

She has a renewed perspective.

“We’re on a loop whenever I see her,” said Barnett. “She always asks do I have a boyfriend, am I married, are you still married? I answer, ‘yes, I do have a boyfriend.’ Is it serious? ‘Yeah, I think it’s pretty serious, I did marry him so,’ and so you just have to laugh, and you have to roll with it.”

“It’s happening to the person with Alzheimer’s, but it’s really happening to the caregivers,” said Denise Vann, the program specialist with the Alzheimer’s Association of central and western Kansas.

“The person with the disease, we make sure that we have help if they need long-term care, respite if they need home health,” added Vann. “For the caregiver, we have support groups, we have a 24/7 helpline, we have education classes.”

As memories live on repeat, Barnett harnesses the power of irony brought by Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a serious disease, don’t get me wrong,” said Barnett. “It’s ok to ask for help, and it’s ok to laugh.”

Using laughter as her medicine.

Leaders with the Alzheimer’s Association say this is not a disease just targeting older people.

“People in their 30s and 40s are being diagnosed with the disease,” explained Vann.

The signs are more than just forgetful moments, “consistently forgetting how to do things that we’ve done our entire lives,” said Vann, using the example of tying your shoe.

Anyone with a question or concern about themselves or someone else can call the 24/hour helpline at 800-272-3900

Three ways to support:

  1. Register to Participate in local Walk to End Alzheimer’s
  2. Make a donation
  3. Volunteer