Three Sisters in Their Twenties Care for Mom with Alzheimer’s

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URBANDALE, Iowa – Daughters typically rely on their mothers for care and advice, but roles reversed for one young woman in her twenties when her mother's memory deteriorated.

Sara Lemke first noticed a change in her mom, Susan Brandt, when the now 25 year-old was in high school. Lemke said, "I didn't really know what was going on. I kind of thought my mom was going crazy."

She and her two sisters, who currently live out of state and are also in their twenties, didn’t know what to do. She said, "She didn't know how old any of us were. She didn't know what grade I was in. So, I really didn't know what to think or what to do."

Soon her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She started going to an adult day center. Now, Brandt lives in a memory care facility. Lemke said, "It's been a really long journey. I eventually became her guardian when I was 22."

She went on to say, "The hardest part is figuring out things you can still do together because you don't have that person in your life. I mean, she was my mom, so having someone to go to when I needed help or guidance. I don't have that anymore."

Sara visits at least three times a week while balancing a full-time job and marriage, but her mom hasn't called Sara by name in more than a year. She said, "It's extremely hard. I don't know how to put it into words how it feels. It's hard. I think what makes me feel better is I'm not going through nearly what she's going through."

That's why she's working to make a difference. Lemke serves as the Alzheimer's Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer's co-chair this year. Last year, central Iowans raised $346,000 for care, support and research in hopes of finding a cure. Lemke said, "That really keeps me going because this is something I might have to deal with, and if I have kids, they're going to have to care take for me."

The Walk to End Alzheimer's is Saturday, September 19th at the west side of the Iowa State Capitol. Registration starts at 8 a.m. A Zumba warm-up is at 9:30 and walk begins at 10 a.m. You can join a team at www.alz.org/walk.

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