My name is Don Sweet. I live in Yakima with my wife Cindy. We have been married for five years now. I work as a Job Developer at a nonprofit organization that trains and employs adults with disabilities. I am the Walk Chair for the Yakima Walk to End Alzheimer’s and the captain of Team Cha Cha (more to come on the name later).
My mother is currently living with my wife and me. Mom was diagnosed a couple of years ago and is now starting to show more advancement in her memory loss. She will be 84 years old this coming December. My mom was a really active person and would never stop or slow down. She always would have a project of some sort going on. Up until 2012, she lived in the five-bedroom, three-bathroom home that I grew up in and even kept up a one-acre yard with lots of flower beds.
In 2012, we built another wing onto our house, doubling the size, and moved Mom into her “apartment” complete with her own kitchen. Since our house is white and because of the way it looks, Mom’s apartment is known as the “East Room” and Cindy and I live in the “West Wing.”
The timing worked out, as my mom suffered a stroke shortly after moving in, and I believe that is what started her downhill slide. Living with my wife and my mother can sometimes feel like having two wives. I get twice the “honey-do” list. Mom’s list has to do with the yard since she can no longer do it, and Cindy’s list has to do with everything else.
So far, being a care provider for my mother mostly has been trying to keep her out of trouble. Mom loves to bake and she has caught herself on fire before or will turn on a burner and forget about it. All of her cooking appliances are now wired so I can disable them by flipping a switch. We added that when we built Mom’s apartment for a little added peace of mind.
COVID-19 has impacted us by not allowing Mom to go out. She worked while I was growing up as a sales clerk for a variety store. So we would go to our local variety store to shop because she was very familiar with it. Now we don’t do that. She also loves to go out and eat, and now we can’t do that either.
Now we keep her busy doing projects such as making face masks for people and painting her “yard toys” like signs, gnomes and little statues for flower beds. She and Cindy will work on them all week long, and then on weekends I’ll clear coat them and help Mom place them in the yard for display. Mom is also working on embroidering pillowcases for Christmas.
My Walk to End Alzheimer’s team is formally called the Yakima Specialties, but you will also see us called Team Cha Cha. When I first signed up the team about a year ago, I named it Yakima Specialties and then went about signing up my coworkers. A couple of months earlier, my fur-daughter Cha Cha and I had supported one of my coworkers by participating in a relay event that she was in. Cha Cha led the way as we all walked around the track. She loves to walk. My co-workers fell in love with Cha Cha and asked me to incorporate her into the name. So, that’s how Team Cha Cha started. My wife made Team Cha Cha buttons and a Walk t-shirt for Cha Cha that we can put buttons on.
Why I participate in the Walk is simple: I personally believe that everyone owes something to society. The Bible says that you should give 10 percent to the church. Since I don’t attend a church, I decided that I should give 10 percent of my income or time to charity. So, each payday I donate at least 10 percent to various organizations that are important to me, such as the Alzheimer’s Association.
The world may look a little different right now, but one thing hasn’t changed: our commitment to ending Alzheimer’s. This year, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is everywhere — on every street, trail and treadmill. We’re moving forward to end Alzheimer’s. Join the fight at alzwa.org/walk