Guest blog by Rick Fleetwood
When my mother started repeating things over and over, I began to worry about what was wrong.
She was always an astute businesswoman with impeccable health, but things did not just add up. So, as an only child, I convinced her to make an appointment at one of the best clinics in Memphis. Reluctantly, she went.
After x-rays, blood work, mental exams, etc., the doctor told me my mother had Alzheimer’s – she couldn’t stay home alone anymore, and I would need to look for a place for her immediately. The shock of those words was devastating. How could this happen to someone so strong and independent?
Finally, I had the talk with her. At first, she didn’t even know what Alzheimer’s was. When I said there would come a day that she wouldn’t know who I was, she protested, “No way! I’ll always know and love my baby.” That was like a dagger to my heart – I knew this would be a long road.
In Little Rock, there were few facilities that would take Alzheimer’s patients, and none of which I could subject my mother to. I would not let her stay anywhere that I myself wouldn’t. Finally, I found Briarwood – what a God-sent blessing. Briarwood had clean facilities and loving + caring staff who respected patients’ freedom. After many heartbreaks and setbacks, mother found peace and happiness there.
Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that takes everything away from the individual and is brutal to loved ones. Mother used to say, “You know, I feel like a little girl lost in the woods.” Now I know what she meant: Alzheimer’s made those woods dark and scary.
But I never gave up on her, because I loved my mother, and she loved me. Even in the final stages, I was that nice man who came and visited every day. My mother fought this condition for 12.5 years, and even on the last day I could still see that love in her eyes.
So, to answer the all-important question: you keep the love by having a big heart and lots of compassion. Mother, I still miss you and love you and will always keep the love of you in my heart. May God bless you and give you peace.
Pictured: Rick Fleetwood with his mother, Jean Fleetwood
Rick Fleetwood will be honored as Outstanding Champion of the Year at the March 31 Champions Gala benefitting Alzheimer’s Arkansas. Alzheimer’s Arkansas is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide information + support to Arkansans affected by Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Services include family support groups, community awareness presentations and financial assistance for caregivers.