Lizz Lewis and her mother Margaret

For many people Mother’s Day is a joyous time of year, it’s a moment to celebrate the motherly figures in our lives and show appreciation for the women that raised us. However, for me, Mother’s Day now has a different meaning and serves as a time of reflection. 

I’m a daughter of Alzheimer’s. The disease has impacted generations of my family members including my mother, grandmother, and great-grandfather, who were all diagnosed during their lifetimes. As a child I saw first-hand the impact this disease had on not only my elders that were diagnosed, but on my family as a whole. 

When my mother Margaret started forgetting names, getting lost in familiar places, and losing personal items, I took notice. I sought the help of a neurologist, and they confirmed my worst fear. Alzheimer’s was back to claim another amazing woman’s dignity. At only 65 years old, my mother Margaret had begun the rapid decline that I knew all too well and had seen take place in family members before. 

Alzheimer’s is the worst kind of thief because it is so greedy. It keeps coming back for more and more of your loved ones until they are a shell of who they used to be. After my mom’s diagnosis, I stepped in as her primary caregiver, and knew the cycle of Alzheimer’s had to end with me in my family. 

Today, more than six million people live with Alzheimer’s in the United States, and two-thirds of those affected are women. And while there is no clear answer as to why women are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease at higher rates, progress to one day answer this question is being made. The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement is currently funding promising gender-based research studies and educating families about brain health, prevention methods, and lifestyle changes to end the devastating impacts of the disease. 

If your loved one is exhibiting personality changes, please have them diagnosed and consider joining a research study. As a mother of two, knowing this disease is in my genes gives me the motivation I need to make lifestyle choices to be the healthiest version of myself. Below are prevention methods I engage in to keep my brain resilient. These are truly life-changing habits that can help improve your longevity, and prevent cognitive disease for the long-run

  1. Stick to a healthy diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grain, legumes, and fish. Consume meat and dairy in moderation.
  2. Keep your body moving. Engage in low-to-moderate physical activity at least 3 times a week. 
  3. Prioritize sleep. Sleep allows time for your brain to rejuvenate itself and remove harmful toxins like Alzheimer’s plaques from your brain. 
  4. Reduce stress. While reducing stress can seem easier said than done, prioritizing self-care can help keep your brain sharp and resilient. 
  5. Get tested! Address any medical conditions or risks with your doctor especially if you have a history of Alzheimer’s or Dementia in your family. If the time is right, inquire about receiving a brain scan for a deeper understanding of your brain’s health.

Absolutely nothing can prepare your heart for the day your mom doesn’t recognize you, but given what I know now, I have every reason to be hopeful for the future.