Above: Family photo of me, my grandpa Gary, my brother Sidney and my mother Diana
My name is Rebecca Hodges. I’m 19 years old and I’m from the Vancouver, Wash. area. I live half-time in Seattle and am a junior at Seattle Pacific University. I’m currently a research assistant and I also work in leadership at my university as a Wesleyan Small Group Leader and also as the Vice President of Finance and Administration for first years.
I’m studying clinical psychology with a minor in economics and plan to specialize in neurodegenerative diseases or in mental illnesses and disorders. I have always been passionate and have taken on roles of activism throughout my life, always advocating for those around me to create change.
I got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association early in 2021 after watching my uncle’s Alzheimer’s grow worse, and realizing just how much Alzheimer’s and dementia have affected people around me. I now serve as an ACTor for Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
My connection to dementia
My uncle has Alzheimer’s and my grandpa had dementia. I have watched both of them go through their diagnosis and live with dementia. My uncle, Loren Fischer, was a pastor and lived his life dedicated to the Lord: always being able to preach, sing hymns and repeat Bible verses. He now lives in a memory care community, can’t repeat Bible verses and forgets who people are. However, he still manages to sing hymns every once in a while.
My grandpa, Gary Fischer, also suffered from dementia. Daily tasks became bouts of confusion and repetitive calls with his wife, asking her what he needed or what he was doing.
Some of my favorite memories growing up are with my grandpa and uncle. They include my grandpa and I singing together in the car on a road trip and sharing a bowl of peanut M&M’s with my uncle. I love my uncle and grandpa and they have taught me so much about patience and how to be with someone who’s affected by a degenerative disease.
My relationship only grew stronger with Loren and Gary after their diagnoses. I watched them change as dementia took parts of their lives away little by little. Although my uncle Loren cannot recognize me anymore, I will always cherish the memories, family traditions and how he brought us all together in love and harmony through the Lord’s eyes.
My grandpa Gary passed away the day before my birthday in 2016. The stories of him growing up will forever stay within our family and those who had close relationships with him.
Why I am an advocate
I became an advocate for various reasons. Unfortunately, I was too little to fully understand what was happening to my grandpa and was never able to cherish what would be our last few memories together. This is part of why I advocate for more resources for families who are going through similar situations.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more passionate about a cause than Alzheimer’s. It has affected my life and changed things like family traditions and holidays. I am also gaining experience being an ambassador and strongly advocating for the lives and families who are in similar situations. In addition to this, when I was taking various statistics and sociology courses, I realized my privilege and wanted to spend my free time educating myself and advocating for people around me who can’t advocate for themselves.
Please join us for Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Day on Feb. 9 in Washington State. Together, we will press legislators to fund better care and support and make updates to the existing Alzheimer’s State Plan. All meetings are to be held online or by phone using the Zoom platform. Learn more at alzwa.org/advocacyday.