ROGERSVILLE, Mo. — June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a time dedicated to the over five million Americans living with the disease and the caregivers working tirelessly to help.
Tammy Cook is a Rogersville mother of two, who cannot turn down a homeless pet, and more importantly has learned that little memories are what make up the big picture.
“My mom was pretty much a single parent. My parents divorced when I was 13, and she taught me to be an independent person because she was,” said Cook regarding her mother Wanda Hedgpeth.
Wanda is remembered for her sense of humor, passion for airplanes and love for her grandchildren.
“She was just going to a regular doctor’s appointment, and they did some tests,” explained Cook. Wanda had always been a bit forgetful, but when Tammy noticed her mother misplacing her car keys– she knew something was wrong.
“She was diagnosed probably seven years ago,” said Cook. “With Alzheimer’s, part of their brain is dying, and as their brain dies they have less and less memory.”
Wanda slowly started losing her memory, but now and then would remember something and hold onto it.
As the disease got worse, Wanda’s husband and caregiver, Wayne, spent more time at home and less time on his own.
“He just said he couldn’t take it anymore, so that’s when we knew that it was so much worse at home than what we realized,” said Cook.
Eventually Wanda could no longer live at home, and needed to move to a full-time care facility. It was around this time that Wayne took his own life.
“It knocked me to my knees. He gave me away at my wedding, and was there for the birth of my kids,” said Cook reflecting on memories with her stepfather.
Wanda lost her battle with Alzheimer’s shortly after.
Now Cook devotes her time to spreading awareness for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.
“It is shown that if [caregivers] don’t take care of themselves, they don’t you know how to step away from the situation, and they will get sick,” said Cook. “Their health tends to fail, and it’s so important for them to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their loved one.”
Cook will honor her parents and spread Alzheimer’s awareness with “Making Martinis for Memories” at 6 p.m. on June 13 at the Macadoodles location on Independence St.