BY MARIE GLAPIAK, VOLUNTEER FOR THE ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION
Honey Crum of Mooresville describes her mother Dyan as an absolutely amazing woman. “She was very creative. She was the costume maker for our church productions for years and a certified wedding planner…The absolute matriarch of our family,” Honey shares. In addition to being very busy outside of her main career, Dyan worked in the local school system for more than 20 years as a high school administrator, always willing to help colleagues and community members. About eight years ago, Dyan’s family started noticing a series of small moments that worried them. She would start saying things that were uncharacteristic for her. She lost familiarity with her favorite foods. She gradually became quiet, which was a real change from her earlier personality. Honey recalls, “We started glancing at each other at public outings, we were suspicious. We were nervous because we thought it could be something bad.”
Dyan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago. While some families would take an understandable moment to pause and mourn this unknown new future, Honey and her family dove right in to finding solutions that worked for them. Honey contacted the Alzheimer’s Association on the day her mom was diagnosed to discuss care planning, disease information, and how to give back to families like hers. Honey’s father, a football coach and educator, worked in the same school as Dyan. During the diagnostic process, the couple decided to retire early on the same day, walking out hand in hand to start their care partner journey together. Honey’s parents moved to a house three miles away from her so she could assist with her mom’s care. “We now live closer than we ever have before,” exclaims Honey, finding a silver lining.
Through the family’s caregiving journey, there have been calls to the Association’s free 24/7 helpline (800-272-3900). Honey appreciates this service, giving the family a sense of community saying, “Knowing that you have an advocate. That someone is in your corner. And there is a place you can call at any time.”
But most of all, there has been a real sense of hope for the future through participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Iredell County. They missed the event the first year of her diagnosis, so the family walked together for the first time in 2020, amid the pandemic. Somehow, through the adversity of caregiving in the middle of an isolating epidemic, Honey’s Walk team, Team Di, managed to be the top fundraising team. The family donned their purple hats and Walk t-shirts and walked around Dyan’s neighborhood since there was no large group gathering for the Walk that year. Even on the drizzly day, they met two neighbors who offered donations on the spot.
When the Walk returned to an in-person gathering in 2021, Team Di was there in full force, including Dyan, and once again gained fundraising accolades. When Honey reaches out to friends and family to raise money for her team, she focuses on the Association’s research efforts. “It’s just about knowing that efforts are being directed towards research,” explains Honey. “It’s encouraging and hopeful knowing that someone could be spared [in the future]. Groundbreaking research is a victory for all of us. To find that first survivor… everyone will feel a sense of joy.”
Since the last Walk, Dyan’s health has declined. So once again as a family, they came together to decide what the best care for her looked like. Following the lead of Honey’s father, the family continues to act as the support system he needs as Dyan’s primary caregiver.
And now, this year in addition to leading her Walk team again, she has also taken on the role of Walk Chair for the Iredell Walk taking place on September 24 at its new location, Bellingham Park in Mooresville. She feels she’s honoring her mom on an even greater level. Honey goes on to add, “It’s been really helpful for me to be a part of the Alzheimer’s Association as a volunteer because I’ve met people within the community that are not only giving me connections that could potentially be a part of mom’s long-term health care, but also knowing there’s other people that are facing this has been healing to me.”
To Honey, “The Walk is about that sense of belonging. It’s like you’re holding hands with everyone and lifting your hands together in unity. We see you; we love you, and we are trying to get you more help.”
LKN Magazine is a proud media partner of Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Iredell County taking place on September 24, to get involved visit alz.org/walk. For those wishing to learn more about the local care and support resources of the Alzheimer’s Association, visit alz.org/northcarolina or call 800-272-3900.