‘My great-grandma Jane was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was 16 years old. She became someone we did not know.’
Jodi Berns-Lennon, inspired by memories of her Grandma Jane, shared the bittersweet realities of the cruel disease that changed her at the National Alzheimer’s Longest Day celebration at Windsor Manor Tuesday.
“My great-grandma Jane was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was 16 years old,” she told the people who attended the outdoor event.
“She became someone we did not know. As her memory faded, she had behaviors that were absolutely out of character for her. As a family, our hearts broke as we observed her behaviors and were frequently told about her unruly behavior.
“I would take her frozen yogurt twice a week. She did not recognize me the last two years of her life. I was her sister Bert. I quickly learned the concept of joining the journey and would go along on the path she was on that day.”
Berns-Lennon, an R.N. and executive director of the assisted living and memory care facility located at 1401 Wall St., on the south edge of Webster City, took that memory and used the resulting empathy to create a career that served people who would eventually suffer like her Grandma Jane.
“The girls at the nursing home would tell me funny stories and sometimes how much of a challenge she was. I would leave in tears. I was so sad that those girls would never know the best things about Grandma. How loving, kind and caring she was. How good of a baker she was,” Berns-Lennon said.
“I knew in my heart she was not trying to give them a hard time; she was going through a hard time.
“I decided then, all those years ago, that was going to be my mantra. This is a devastating disease for all who are impacted. The individuals with it, the families, the caregivers and the medical community.”
With the sun heating the parking lot where she spoke, Windsor residents and some of their families waited for the main event.
“Today we are here honoring our past, present and future residents that have been affected with this disease. We are releasing butterflies as a symbol of hope for those affected by Alzheimer’s and brain diseases,” she said.
“When you have Alzheimer’s, it’s like you are in a cocoon.
And with that, 27 butterflies were released into the air.