Lynne Russell was 51 and raising her three sons, one 14-year-old and two 19-year-olds, when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her grandma, Helen, passed away from that disease the same year. Lynne has since retired from her teaching career and lives close to her sons in Seattle in an assisted living community.
Lynne and her parents, Jim and Karen, are captains for the Lynne & Grammy Helen Russell Family Walk to End Alzheimer’s team. This year will be their fourth year participating in the Walk with family and friends.
Lynne has fond memories of her grandmother Helen from when she was growing up, even when Helen had Alzheimer’s disease.
“My Grammy Helen would take us to school and pick us up. One time she left me standing outside my school for an hour, and she was blowing through stop lights. She shouldn’t have been driving. But that was okay for me and my brother and sister. We didn’t tell Mom and Dad. I didn’t have anyone else to talk to. I was in a new school and Mom and Dad were busy. I could visit her any time in her little apartment behind our house. We played cards – go fish. She just wanted to be with us,” said Lynne.
As an adult, Lynne began recognizing her own memory problems while she was in the classroom teaching.
“I knew something was really wrong when I was at the blackboard for my special education students and I couldn’t write down the date, even though I knew what it was. I took my friend and co-worker with me to see the neurologist so she could support me after my tests. When the doctor asked if I was ready to quit teaching, I looked at my Dad and said, ‘Yes, it’s time.’ I was having so many problems, I had to give it up. It was a huge relief.”
Life after her diagnosis was hard, she said. Lynne worried about her sons and where she was going to live. Her sons moved in with her ex-husband and Lynne’s parents helped her to find an assisted living community just blocks away from her home in Seattle. “I love being there with many new friends,” said Lynne, “I call them ‘my people’ because they’re often lonely without someone to talk with. So I talk with them, which is what I did when I was teaching and working in human resources.”
Her father Jim says that Lynne, “inspires us with the love she shares with her three sons and family.” He knows that she shared a special bond with her grandmother Helen. “Grammy Helen shared her love after Alzheimer’s arrived, and her love dwells within our children. Lynne told me she is not afraid of Alzheimer’s because Grammy Helen was so happy.”
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 alz.org/walk.