In late 2015, Brian Cook’s father-in-law Gary was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. In 2016, the diagnosis progressed to include posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), an atypical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease where a person will begin to lose their sight along with their memory. Though he has been showing signs of the disease for over four years, it took a while to get a correct diagnosis on what he had.
“Imagine losing your sight and your memory,” Brian said, “a blind person can feel that it is a spoon they are holding. However, being blind and losing memory, you forget what a spoon is.” This experience caused tremendous stress on Brian’s father-in-law as well as his family who was taking care of him. “It was very hard on our family to watch these changes occur as his personality and happiness was replaced by agitation and fear,” he said.
Brian lives in Kennewick with his wife Jenna and their two-year-old son, Jackson. He works as a Senior Mortgage Advisor. Brian currently volunteers as the Mission and Marketing Co-chair for the Tri-Cities Walk to End Alzheimer’s planning committee. He began volunteering in 2018, while his family struggled to help his father-in-law Gary through the late stages of the disease.
Being a volunteer Walk to End Alzheimer’s Mission and Marketing Co-chair gave Brian a voice and platform to advocate for not only his family, but other families in similar situations.
Brian feels as if Alzheimer’s is a “closed door” disease; he witnesses people diagnosed and their families not talking about their experiences and struggles. As a Mission and Marketing Co-chair, his hope is to bring community awareness to the help and resources available for people impacted by the disease who may not know where to turn.
He enjoys telling his story to as many groups as possible, including local news outlets, and sharing the resources the Alzheimer’s Association has to offer. He tries to make sure that communities are aware of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, so that they can raise money for Alzheimer’s Association research grants, as well as care and support programs. Brian likes to emphasize that Alzheimer’s can affect people differently, as well as what families should be looking for if they start to see changes in their loved one. “The best part for me,” he said, “is that I can continue my father-in-law’s memory by sharing his story and hopefully help others seek out the Association and the resources it offers.”
Brian suggests people volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association because he knows that Alzheimer’s and dementia can often make families feel helpless or like there is nothing they can do to make a difference. “But we can,” he said, “you are making a difference so that someday, maybe research can improve the quality of life for families and loved ones affected, or better yet, find the cure for the first survivor.”
The Alzheimer’s Association is always looking for new volunteers to help out with community awareness, fundraising, programs and services, advocacy, communications, administrative support, outreach and projects and events. If you are interested in volunteering with us, please visit alzwa.org/volunteer or contact Katya Strohl at 206.529.3882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to learn more on becoming a Walk to End Alzheimer’s Volunteer, learn more here.