You may remember my friend, Amy Jacobs. After losing her father to Alzheimer’s, she and her mom started The Fidget Shoppe, a small business that specializes in texture blankets for Alzheimer’s patients. As I have gotten to know Amy this year, she’s been helping me understand not only Alzheimer’s and dementia but also the value of embracing the people and memories we love and finding ways to preserve them the best we can for ourselves and future generations.
So in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, here’s Amy’s advice for each of us.
What is something you wish you had done?
I really wish we had taken more pictures along the way. I didn’t realize until looking back later, but I don’t have really great pictures with my dad, especially from the early diagnosis stage when he still looked the same. I wish I had more of those pictures because that’s the dad I remember, the dad I grew up with.
Is there anything you talked about doing that you wish you had gotten around to?
My family talked about going and doing a trip down memory lane (to the places he lived and traveled to), but life got in the way, and we never ended up doing it.
Is there anything you didn’t think of in the moment but would now encourage others to do?
I wish I had interviewed him about his favorite childhood memories and about my own childhood, to hear it in his voice and see it through his eyes.
If you have the opportunity to do that, I think it’s a great thing to do because you don’t know the time you have left with a person, and it means a lot later.
What is something you did that you’re grateful for now?
My mom actually did one thing that I am really thankful for. My dad was pretty far progressed, but he always sang. He had a beautiful bass voice and loved singing gospel and quartet music. This was at the point that you could say the simplest hymn, like Amazing Grace, and he wouldn’t know it. But if you started singing or playing the music, he would sing along unconsciously.
So she got together some musicians and had someone set up to record him.
He started singing along, and we had a microphone just under him so we could record and keep it. That’s probably one of the most special things we have, and I am so glad she thought to do that because music was a big part of his life. To have that little bit to remember him with is huge.
What final thoughts or advice do you have for others?
What are the things that are a big part of your loved one’s personality? If there are those things that you love them for, can you find a way to preserve that in some way? Whether it’s through an event or going to a place that is a really big deal to them and having pictures taken in that place.
Things like that are what you really miss afterwards and are really thankful that you have.
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, to learn more about symptoms to look out for and ways to help and support your loved ones, check out the Alzheimer’s Association and the 10 Early Detection Signs.