My name is Jimmy Kloppmann and I walk for my mom.
My mother, Carol, was officially diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in the fall of 2013. Earlier that year, I moved away from home and out to the Seattle area. After the diagnosis I remember looking into the disease and trying to see what I could do to help, and even wondering whether I had made the right choice leaving home.
I stumbled upon the Walk to End Alzheimer’s page, but I had missed it by a few weeks that year. A year went by and I vaguely remembered the time of year of the Walk and fortunately, a week beforehand, I was able to sign up and rope in my brother and a few friends to join me.
I was overwhelmed by the community of people and volunteers that were able to put the event on. Everyone was welcoming and joyful when I was still trying to digest the emotions of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The Walk has been a staple on my calendar ever since that day.
When my mom was diagnosed all those years ago, my dad Steve, my brother Joel and I all knew it would be a difficult and sad several years ahead. However, we also knew that we had several years of laughs, memories and great times to look forward to. For me, the most difficult part of caring for my mom is knowing that her memory and cognitive ability will decline, yet never really being ready for it when it comes.
Mom is now in a full-time care facility in Rockford, Illinois. I go back to visit a few times a year when we aren’t facing a global pandemic. We knew that her mind and body would deteriorate, but you can never really be prepared for the reality of it. When she lost the ability to really speak coherently and fluidly, I wasn’t ready. When she began struggling to walk on her own, I wasn’t ready. When she stopped recognizing me and other people she’s known her entire life, I wasn’t ready.
As sad and bleak as the situation can feel at times, I believe it’s always a reminder of the love that exists. I recognize that the sadness and grief are because of the immense love that she gave to me and everyone around her. Our family is still able to take joy in the tiny moments that show her personality. We’ve seen mom bobbing her head to a song that she knows. She can still devour a root beer float in what seems like a matter of seconds. There are still bright moments that offer hope.
I think the hope is what is so attractive about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s: a community pulling together to honor those that suffer and acknowledge the caregivers, while also raising money to fight this terrible disease. You realize how many others are along for the fight and that this is a communal goal, not an individual one. A purple mass of people walking for the cure drives home the message that we are not alone in this.
The Walk helps shed the light on the people behind the scenes that do not get enough recognition. My dad is the strongest person I know for being alongside my mom in her fight every single day the last seven years. I’m not sure how he was able to stay sane, calm and not completely emotionally drained while working full time and taking care of her as much as he could. The great staff and people at the community where she lives and at other memory care providers do tremendous jobs in extremely tough conditions. I’m always thankful at the positivity and compassion shown by the caregivers.
I walk for the caregivers, I walk for the cure and I walk for my Mom.
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