The P.E.O. Record September-October 2022 (public)

SPECIAL | feature

How Loving Kindness Can Lift Up Those Living with the Disease by Mary Margaret Lehmann, AI, Minneapolis, Minnesota

I am a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and a P.E.O. sister. I have been a speech therapist, a reading consultant and an adjunct professor; I am now a full-time caregiver for my husband, Ken, who is living with Alzheimer’s. Ken was, and still is, my everything. Upon graduating from college, he quickly rose to become an executive of a large home furnishings company. He won recognition and honors for his design work in the corporate world. He played basketball with a semi-pro team in the San Francisco Bay area and was an amazing artist. Our friends referred to him as a renaissance man. He is a sweet and thoughtful husband, father and grandfather.

In the ensuing days, months and years, I became more aware of declines in Ken’s problem solving, reasoning and judgement, particularly when it came to paying our bills and taxes. Ultimately our financial challenges resulted in bankruptcy and we lost our home. Our amazing daughter in Minnesota insisted we move in with her family. They helped us find an apartment and we began our new life in Minnesota. Once again we looked for a doctor who could diagnose what was causing the changes in Ken, which everyone in the family was now observing. During a tearful call with a friend from California, she suggested I call the Alzheimer’s Association helpline. Ken didn’t have issues with memory

Alzheimer’s disease is one of several causes of dementia, a brain dysfunction that makes it difficult for a person to complete daily tasks without help. For many people, it starts with

Mary Margaret and Ken Lehmann navigate

Ken’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis together

changes in memory, others have changes in language, mood or thinking skills. The cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown. My husband, Ken, is living with Alzheimer’s disease. I became aware of changes in his thinking skills and personality at age 58. He is now 85 and is still living at home. I have been aware of changes in several of our P.E.O. sisters through the years as many of us are aging. Some no longer attend meetings; others still come regularly. It has been difficult for me to decide if I or we, as a chapter, should acknowledge these signs or ignore them. I want my sisters to learn more about the disease in order to help all our sisters continue to feel welcome, cherished, validated and loved, no matter if they choose to come to our meetings or not. I have invited a care consultant from the Minnesota-North Dakota chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to come to a meeting in September to help us learn about Alzheimer’s and to help us continue being loving sisters, under all circumstances, always.

“We are walking beside you on your journey. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”

I began noticing changes in Ken several years prior to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In 1995, when he was 58, we were driving in San Francisco, a city where he had gone to school and had lived for years. Upon exiting the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Ken said, “I have no idea where we are.” As I noticed more changes in his behaviors and personality, I reported them to his doctor, who said Ken was having a mid-life crisis and I was overreacting. Ken and I sought marriage counseling and my heart still aches as I recall Ken saying, “I just do not know who I am anymore.” He was terribly upset but I was determined to continue to be present, walk beside him and love him.

but I was desperate for answers so I called the number, which I now refer to as my LIFELINE! I connected with an amazing, warm care consultant from the Minnesota-North Dakota Alzheimer’s Association, who immediately became my best friend. She referred me to a clinic in Saint Paul with an outstanding neurological team who, after testing, diagnosed my love with early-stage Alzheimer’s. Ken and I were devastated, depressed and in despair. We learned losing problem- solving, reason and judgment ARE warning signs of Alzheimer’s. Our care consultant facilitated family meetings with our son and daughter


THE P.E.O. RECORD | September–October 2022

Women helping women reach for the stars

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