Journeying Through Alzheimer’s: Charleen’s Story of Resilience and Love

From challenges to joy, Charleen shares her inspiring Alzheimer’s caregiving experience

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is a journey filled with challenges, heartaches, and precious moments.

Education specialist, Janice Downing, had an opportunity to talk with Charleen Shaginaw about her journey of caring for her husband, George, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Charleen, a devoted caregiver, opens up about her experience, offering valuable insights and advice to those treading a similar path. Her story is a testament to the power of resilience, compassion, and the importance of seeking support.

Let’s delve into Charleen’s heartfelt responses that shed light on her remarkable caregiving journey.

Overcoming Challenges

“One of my main challenges was to have to become the sole decision maker in all aspects of our life,” Charleen says she felt a sense of guilt. She describes that the weight of responsibility was immense, yet she found the strength to prioritize seeking help and education about Alzheimer’s. This speaks volumes about her unwavering dedication to George’s well-being.

Lessons Learned and Advice to Share

In the midst of this Alzheimer’s journey, Charleen says she learned a crucial lesson: to not lose herself in the process. “Who I am will be changing as George’s Alzheimer’s progresses,” she said. “In this journey, I also need help from professionals.” Charleen’s advice is a beacon of wisdom for others in similar situations, emphasizing the importance of self-care and seeking help.

Impactful Resources

Charleen shared that Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska in Wasilla has provided a lifeline of support through in-person and Zoom classes, as well as a lending library. Charleen says, “They always welcome us with their support due to their own life experiences with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Changing Perceptions of Dementia

Caring for George on every level—emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically—transformed Charleen’s understanding of dementia. She says her journey of acceptance has fostered a deeper compassion for the disease and its profound impact on individuals and their families.

Being a caregiver to George has been quite the journey, from anger—to this is the man I love. I decided to make more happy moments and memories.

A Touch of Humor Amidst Adversity

Amidst the challenges, Charleen shares a glimpse into the resilience and spirit that continue to shine through, even in the face of Alzheimer’s. She recalls a lighthearted moment at the Department of Motor Vehicles. George’s witty response to whether he wants to be an organ donor, “Not today!”, George told the woman issuing him a State ID.

The Joy in Caregiving

From the initial waves of anger to rediscovering the man she loves, Charleen says her journey with George has been transformative. “I decided to make more happy moments and memories. Knowing that I will have those happy memories brings me joy and comfort.” These happy moments and memories serve to remind her of the enduring love that binds them.

Charleen’s says that her decision to share her story is driven by a desire to pay it forward. By opening up about her Alzheimer’s journey, she hopes to inspire others to be proactive and unafraid to say, “I need help”. Her words serve as a beacon of hope for those who may be navigating this challenging terrain.

Charleen’s journey is a testament to the power of love, resilience, and the importance of seeking support. Her story serves as a source of inspiration for all caregivers on a similar path. In her words, “I need help” becomes a rallying cry for a community of caregivers, reminding them that they are not alone. Together, they forge a path of strength, compassion, and unwavering dedication in the face of Alzheimer’s. Our deepest thanks to Charleen for sharing her touching experience with us.