by Abby Lorden
Kandice Robinson of Orange Park, Florida participates in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Jacksonville for her father. She first noticed something was wrong when he began acting differently. “My father was always super organized. Someone outside our family wouldn’t notice, but I started seeing what, for him, was a mess. There were papers everywhere and things weren’t in file folders. I would be sitting there talking to him for a while and his secretary would ask him about missing a meeting. He was always very punctual, but as time went on, the organization did not get better.”
At the time, Kandice was in school studying to be a licensed funeral director and embalmer. “A lot of these different illnesses were getting covered in my classes. I started thinking to myself – I wonder if he should be checked out?” She began noticing other signs as well, like her father misplacing things and not being able to retrace his steps. Shortly after, he was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
It has been close to six years since the diagnosis. As her father has continued to progress in the disease, Kandice has experienced the stress that comes with that. “I am a caregiver at work and for my parents. You know there is no cure, so you have to find ways to deal with that outlook and keep going. You have to practice self-care.”
Mindfulness has been an important self-care tool that has helped Kandice to stay present and appreciate time with her father.
“I consider it a privilege. Just sitting with him and being in his presence is enough. I get to practice just being present and that is something I get to do in my job, too. In some ways, [my job] helped prepare me as a caregiver. It has prepared me to [sit] with my father. It has helped me to be more empathetic and have a greater frame of reference, understand people’s needs, have greater emotional agility and respond with grace.”
Kandice’s experience shows just how important it is to know the warning signs of Alzheimer’s. With as many as 1 in 37 Floridians impacted by the disease, education is critical. If she had one piece of advice, it would be to remain proactive so you are not blindsided.
Anyone can make a difference, whether you are hosting your own fundraiser or simply walking with your community. Find a Walk near you at alz.org/Walk.