By Rachel Turner
Her acquaintances were surprised when a former Vice President at Microsoft took a job as the Onsite Technology Specialist at a memory loss care facility in Seattle. Those closest to her were grateful for Lori Moore’s new job.
Lori’s career change came after a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. “My sister was only 53 when she was diagnosed,” said Carol Archambault, the youngest of Lori’s five siblings. “In my naiveté about the disease, I thought we should be able to stop it because she’s so young.”
Carol soon learned that there is no stopping Alzheimer’s disease–regardless of age. And possibly because of her age, Lori’s decline happened much faster.
Since 2010, Lori had been complaining about memory problems, but after each MRI, the doctors told her she was too young and everything was fine. Finally, on February 13, 2013, a neurologist confirmed the worst—Lori had early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
The day after diagnosis, Carol boarded a plane in Massachusetts to visit Lori and her teenage daughter, Cassie, in Seattle. By the end of the week, Carol was Lori’s power of attorney.
Unbeknownst to Carol, Cassie had been dealing with Lori’s memory loss since 8th grade. “I noticed she was very forgetful–more than other single moms,” said Cassie. “She had a hard time remembering to pick me up.” Cassie began running the house making sure the cabinets were full of food, confirming school pick-ups and drop-offs, making dinner.
After seeing Lori’s Alzheimer’s progress so quickly, Carol knew she had to leave the East Coast and move to Seattle. “I took her to doctors in Florida and Boston. I changed her primary care doctor and her neurologist, and we tried experimental therapies as well,” said Carol. “I was hoping there was something we could do to stabilize her rapid decline.”
Carol moved into Lori’s house and became her primary caregiver while Cassie focused on her senior year of high school. Visits to the neurologist stunned Carol and demonstrated the scope of Lori’s decline.
“I watched her try to answer questions for the neurologist and even attempt to draw a clock,” said Carol. “Lori was a Vice President at Microsoft and a high achiever. At the doctor’s office, she was always nervous about her performance.”
When asked to draw a clock, Lori would sit for a few seconds and repeat the question. Then she would draw a shape–an oval—which she knew wasn’t right, so she would try to correct it. “I was stunned that she couldn’t put the numbers on a clock, or put them in the right place, or couldn’t finish the numbers on a clock–just two months after her initial diagnosis,” said Carol. Lori would go home and practice. It didn’t help.
Soon, Carol began covering all the mirrors, windows and reflective surfaces around the house. Lori forgot herself, so she argued with her reflection and became agitated in her home.
Mornings were the toughest. Lori had always worked hard, and she didn’t understand why she didn’t have a job anymore. After the stairs in Lori’s home became dangerous for her, Carol began researching memory loss care facilities. She met Rob Liebreich at Aegis Living on Madison and told him about Lori’s fast decline and her need to feel useful. After brainstorming, the two created a plan for helping Lori relocate to Aegis.
Rob, the General Manager, offered Lori a job at Aegis as the Onsite Technology Specialist. Because of her background at Microsoft, the title fit perfectly and made sense to Lori. “She signed a contract, and I signed a contract since she thought I was her boss,” said Carol. “It was over in 20 minutes and she was so happy.”
Lori moved into the assisted care facility and began to feel useful again. The caregivers held staff meetings with Lori, taking minutes and making plans for the day’s tasks.
The youngest resident at the facility, Lori is a misfit aesthetically, but she’s thriving in her new role. “There is no roadmap for someone so young with this disease,” said Rob. “It’s a process. We just come alongside the family and figure out what works and what doesn’t.”
A few months later, Carol sat with Lori during one of their daily visits listening to Rod Stewart on her iPhone. Lori stroked her new name badge with the Aegis logo. “Life is good,” said Lori smiling.
If you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or are caring for a loved one, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association offers resources for those affected by Alzheimer’s.
Please contact our 24/7 Helpline: 1-800-272-3900.
Rachel Turner works as the Marketing and Communications Manager at the Alzheimer’s Association Western & Central WA Chapter. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.