THESE ARE SOME OF THE

STORIES THAT INSPIRE

US MILE AFTER MILE

JIM DOCKSEY

FINANCIAL ADVISOR

CHIPPEWA FALLS, WI

We Walk Across America to End Alzheimer's because the disease weighs heavy on emotions and finances. With one in 10 Americans age 65 and older living with Alzheimer's, it's hard to find anyone who has not been exposed to the devastation it can leave it in its wake.

For 47 years, Financial Advisor Jim Docksey of Chippewa Falls, WI, has begrudgingly known Alzheimer's first-hand. "Three women important to me have either had or are suffering with Alzheimer's – my grandmother, my former BOA and now my mother-in-law," he says.

He describes the disease as "the seven-second cycle." Seven seconds of memory – just enough time for a simple question and answer before the cycle starts again. The repeated questions, the forgotten answers, the repeated questions . . . It's draining.

Jim was 11 when, during a family visit to his paternal grandparents, he first experienced Alzheimer's. Grandpa was in good health and the primary caregiver for Grandma whose Alzheimer's disallowed her from recognizing him or his parents. "Though at one point as we were packing to leave, I heard Grandma say, 'John (Jim's dad), what are you doing here?' That was it. A moment of clarity, and it left just as fast as it came," Jim says.

He recalls sitting for Grandma while his parents took Grandpa golfing – the first reprieve from his caregiving duties in years. Jim recalls worrying that Grandma might wander away, a monumental concern for an 11-year-old. And he remembers Grandpa's guilt years later when he finally moved her into a long-term care facility.

In addition to the three women close to him, Jim has watched the disease impact clients, colleagues and friends. He's helped a client locate a wandering wife and watched a local business close because of early onset Alzheimer's . Like many others, "I can name a dozen of these stories," he says.

Far too many people are impacted by this dreadful disease, and the numbers are growing. Every 65 seconds, another American is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association ®. Our Walk Across America to End Alzheimer's can bring awareness to the communities we serve about the disease, its impact, research being done to combat the disease and services available to those affected.

KATHRYN "KAT" COLVIN

FINANCIAL ADVISOR

LAKEWOOD, NY

For the past few years, Financial Advisor Kat Colvin of Lakewood, NY, has held twice-monthly women's events in her branch office. One client in particular made sure to attend and participate every time – until August 2017, when her Alzheimer's disease took over.

When, six months later, Kat dropped by the client's home with a bouquet of roses, she was greeted by the woman's adult son and was saddened to find his mother at the mercy of her disease. "She did not know my name or who I was," Kat says. The client did, however, recognize Edward Jones, because it matched the name on the monthly statement she receives. "I got in the car and cried," Kat says. "As a financial advisor, I had developed a close relationship with her." Kat now works with the client’s son to keep her financial strategies on track.

Kat has other clients living with Alzheimer's or dementia and is now watching her own 75-year-old mother's cognition fail. "I got a call recently that (my mom) had put her cell phone in the washing machine and had no recollection of it," Kat says. "She lives on her own and is very aware that she is starting to go down the slippery slope of not knowing things."

GAVIN MAWHORR

FINANCIAL ADVISOR

ZANESVILLE, OH

Gavin first witnessed the effects of Alzheimer's disease from a caregiver's perspective as his mother-in-law cared for her own mother. "(My mother-in-law) didn't have a family life with her daughters – one of them being my wife, Joanna – for about two years, when her mother's disease required her full attention," he says.

Alzheimers’ true financial toll showed itself when the disease necessitated a memory care facility. "We were looking at (paying) $7,000 to $8,000 a month," Gavin says.

"Alzheimer's is a lot more extensive and progressive than people think," he continues. "People think you simply lose your memory. I have a client who has been living with the disease for eight years. Her body will eventually forget how to swallow and how to digest food. It's a debilitating disease, and the effects are significant."

JACKIE GOSTOMSKI

SR. BOA

LEBANON, PA

Sr. BOA Jackie Gostomski's father-in-law, Gus, is living with Alzheimer's disease – and so is his entire family. It's been one long fight.

After his wife died, Gus moved the six hour-distance from Erie, PA, to an apartment in Lebanon to be closer to his only child (Jackie's husband) and his young family. "Within a few short months, we went from thinking everything would be great with him closer to nonstop doctor appointments and ER visits because he said something was wrong," Jackie recalls. The struggle was just beginning.

"For a year, we fought for someone to hear us and realize there was a problem," Jackie says. "(Gus) went from driving to not being able to use the microwave or write a check. But at doctor visits, he'd pass memory tests because he knew the date, where he lives, all of it." Eventually, Gus took a more comprehensive, two-hour exam and failed the problem-solving portion miserably. "Finally," Jackie says, sighing, "a doctor agreed there was a problem."

The Gostomskis fought to get Gus the right treatment until they found a physician who managed his medications to help him be his best possible self. They fought with the ER doctor who wanted to release Gus to his apartment to live independently. They fought fatigue as they relentlessly ran to Gus’ aid even as they raised two small children and held two full-time careers. They fought desperation when Gus absent-mindedly took seven days' worth of pills in one middle-of-the-night episode. 

After they had found the right assisted living facility for Gus’ personality and needs, they found themselves in a new fight, one with their emotions. They had to make the decision that their young girls wouldn't have a relationship with their grandfather. "(Gus) went through a period of anger and took it out on us at our visits," Jackie says. "Twice, my 4-year-old left in tears, and we knew we couldn't do this to her anymore. It's hard enough for adults. You can't put a child through that."

The couple fought to learn what they could every step of the way because information from medical providers was lacking. "No one told us what happens next – the behavior issues, the medical issues directly caused by Alzheimer's," Jackie says. The Gotomskis relied heavily on the Alzheimer's website (alz.org) and support line,* as well as the assisted living facility’s staff. 

"Living with Alzheimer's is hard on so many levels," Jackie says. "It's not just about forgetting. It's about your brain deteriorating and everything your brain controls. (Gus’) falls turned out to be the disease attacking the part of his brain that controls that. This is not the person we have known all these years; he's somebody else. We've basically lost him already, even though he is still alive. It's hard coming to terms with that."

"Given what we've gone through, if I can learn and help someone else, that's the most important thing," Jackie says. She's now guiding another relative through her own journey with Alzheimer's in the family. And Jackie quickly volunteered to serve as team captain for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer's. In fact, the entire family is walking. "I love the ability to give back even with something as small as walking," Jackie says.

* The Alzheimer's Association® has a dedicated support line for Edward Jones: 1-844-440-6600

WILLIAM PALMER III

FINANCIAL ADVISOR

RENO, NV

For William, Alzheimer's and dementia are a family affair. His paternal grandfather William, now deceased, had dementia, and his maternal grandmother Selma and grandfather Heinz are living with dementia and Alzheimer's, respectively. Today, there are 60 family members, including William, who provide care for Selma and Heinz. They each take turns helping out for a few days.

Given the toll it has taken on his family, William is adamant about the fight against Alzheimer's. “Drinking contaminated water used to kill people in the United States. Getting polio or smallpox could be a death sentence. Alzheimer’s disease and cancer are our new threats. We fought these other diseases. Now we fight Alzheimer’s and cancer,” he says.

William isn't just talking the talk; he's walking the walk. For the Walk to End Alzheimer's®, Williams serves as Mission Chair for the Reno Walk, is an Edward Jones region coordinator for northern Nevada, forms a robust team of his own and helps set up on the day of the Walk (a 4:00 a.m. commitment). “I get to see the entire marina full of people in purple. It fills me with awe,” says William. “By noon I’m exhausted and I never regret it.”

In addition, he also chairs northern Nevada's Longest Day® and actively contributes to education efforts for his clients, his community and his congressman. “I want to help our clients live the lives they want to live. The partnership between Edward Jones and the Alzheimer's Association has put more of a focus in my heart on quality of life for our clients.”