Above: Dee Anne and her mother, Rose
Dee Anne De Angelo is an Air Force veteran raising two teenagers in Wenatchee, WA. In addition to raising her kids, Dee Anne is the founder of a group that supports women veterans, and was the sole caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease who recently passed away. This is her Alzheimer’s advocacy story.
Dee Anne’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 15 years ago. When Dee Anne’s mother, Rose, started showing signs of the disease about five years after her father was diagnosed, Dee Anne began a list of symptoms she was noticing in her mother. Rose found the symptoms list and quickly made excuses for everything Dee Anne had written down; she was angry that Dee Anne had started the list in the first place.
When Dee Anne and her family suggested Rose get tested for memory loss, Rose refused, knowing the implications of taking the test. “She had a script she would say when I talked to her: ‘I went grocery shopping, went to the pool…how are you? How are the kids? Okay, I gotta go!’” said Dee Anne. Rose would hide her symptoms by not talking too long or saying too much on the phone.
Eventually, Rose’s financial situation became a problem so Dee Anne and her family began to take her finances over for her. “She slowly let us help her,” Dee Anne said. Dee Anne feels that when her father passed away Rose finally felt like she could let others take care of her. She didn’t want her kids to worry about two parents living with Alzheimer’s at the same time.
After Dee Anne’s father passed, Dee Anne and her family moved to Wenatchee so that Rose and her dog could live with them. Dee Anne is now Rose’s sole caregiver. She receives three hours of respite care a week, something she says she is truly thankful for.
“My mother is slowly declining. She can’t walk much, doesn’t like to eat and doesn’t talk much besides ‘her script,’” said Dee Anne, “My goal is to have my mom pass in my home surrounded by loved ones. Luckily I have good kids and they are still learning about compassion and giving from my mom. It makes me sad they don’t have a lot of fond memories of her. It will be my job to remind them after she passes. It’s a tough experience for all of us.” [editors note: interview happened before Dee Anne’s mother passed]
Dee Anne is experienced in advocacy, as she has spent time advocating for women veterans. She uses her previous experience to now advocate for people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. She looks for changes that she can advocate for in the Wenatchee Valley to make it easier for people with dementia and their families.
“This disease sucks and it tears families apart,” she said, “I hope to show that it can bring them together also.”
What’s your connection to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia? Join us for Advocacy Day in Olympia, WA on Feb. 18, 2020 and share your story with Washington State legislators, encouraging them to fund better care and support programs and priority recommendations from the Alzheimer’s State Plan. Your voice matters. Learn more here!