Amy Baidoo-Essien lives in Puyallup, Washington. She is an administrative assistant, graphic designer and more — but according to Amy, “My most important job is being a mom to my three amazing girls and wife to my wonderful husband.” Amy is also the team captain for Team Shelia, named after mother, who died from Alzheimer’s on May 25, 2018.
“At first, my mom would forget where she placed things and would ask us kids to help her find the missing item. My mom did a fantastic job at compensating for her short-term memory loss (at least that is what her doctor diagnosed her with at the early age of 55) by writing things on sticky notes and keeping a journal,” said Amy. “We knew there was a bigger problem when she forgetting how to play her favorite card game and asked what a run and set were.”
Amy described her mother Shelia as a kind and loving person who enjoyed teaching Bible class. “She was very observant and had much more insight into people as she quietly watched from afar, but was never afraid to approach people and carry on a conversation.” As the illness progressed, Shelia would continue to reach out to people in the community or would want to cheer them up if they were having a bad day. “We would try to stop her, but sometimes she was so quick with her mission to serve others, we didn’t have time to stop her before she reached the individual,” said Amy.
One time Shelia stopped a man in the store and said “I will not move until I see you smile.” The man obliged and started to force a smile on his face. His wife came over to see what was happening.
“My mom said to his wife, ‘he looked like he was having a bad day, so I wanted to see him smile which will make him feel better.’ They all started laughing and the man thanked my mom for making him recognize his feelings were very much apparent to anyone who saw him. We have many stories like this that show how she was focused on others, spreading kindness all the time, one smile at a time,” Amy said.
After Shelia’s diagnosis, “every day was a new adventure,” Amy said. “Every routine event is a new experience. What works today may not work this afternoon or tomorrow.” Despite her declining health, “My mom was always so happy, laughed all the time and would flash the biggest smile at everyone,” said Amy.
Amy’s father was Shelia’s full-time caregiver. Though caregiving is tough, Amy suggests “Even though cognitive understanding declines, emotional understanding remains. Communicate love and patience in your interactions and care activities all the time, despite your own fatigue and frustration.”
Last year, nearly 50 people joined Team Shelia in the Pierce County Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The team is made up of family, church family and friends. Together, they support Amy’s Walk team and honor Shelia who was a loving mother, grandmother, wife, sister and friend.
Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. This inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease! Find your Walk and start your team at alzwa.org/walk.