Seattle’s Joe Tafoya talks about his personal experiences with Alzheimer’s. His mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Welcome to the program everyone, and we have the privilege today of having Mr Joe Tafoya, former Seahawks defensive end looks yes, go Hawks. Joe, thank you so much for being on the program today as we talk about Alzheimer’s, and is my pleasure, Suz, and thank you for having me. You know, it is a big step. Joe, you are a pillar in this community. You are one of the most giving, most heart-centered people I know and I have had the privilege of working with you in various projects that we’ve done. But what strikes me, and I guess this is really an amazing thing, is is that you’re also dealing with your mom who has early onset Alzheimer’s, and you know, I am so grateful that you’re coming here to talk about this issue because there’s a lot of families here in greater Puget Sound that might know of somebody that is dealing with a parent who has Alzheimer’s or who has somebody and their family that’s dealing with Alzheimer’s Dementia, and your words of wisdom and insights today are just so helpful. So thank you for being here. Thank you. Yeah, so go ahead, so go ahead and your mom has Alzheimer’s, and could you just give me an overview? What is that like to have somebody that has all climbers? Well, last year we moved my mom into my house and I’ve got two young kids. I live on a farm of seventeen horses and dogs and rabbits and chickens. It wasn’t the perfect environment to have someone who can trip and get lost and pick things up randomly and put things away and not fully understand where she is. When she moved over, the first couple of days I remember being fun to have my mom in town and being able to spend time with her, and then reality slowly starts to set in, where I’m going to be a primary caregiver and there was so much that I didn’t know about what I was dealing with, just trying to take it head on, as I do everything else. Really wasn’t going to work this time right. So there there were times when she would come out of the room very confused. Where am I? Who Are you? Didn’t know who my kids were. She thought she saw people in the house from time to time and she would, you know, have these violent outbursts. They have conversations with conversations with random people. She was always asking about my sister and her mom. Where am I? Who are the people? And so slowly, over time, with a lot of attention and care and love and wonderful relationships, especially with my wife and my kids and friends in the community and family abroad. They, a lot of them, were my life support, sure, because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. You know, this is does know what they’re doing? This isn’t the read option offense. I’m figuring that out, no problem. Yeah, and you know what? It’s interesting because it doesn’t matter if your parent has Alzheimer’s or dementia or Parkinson’s or, you know, heart disease or copd or any of these things. Most of us, I would say ninety nine percent of us, that are thrust into a caregiving role, isn’t because they studied in college saying, you know what, I’m going to be a family caregiver someday and that’s going to be my chosen profession and I’m going to learn all of these things. It’s like most of us are thrust into that role just because it’s a crisis, and so obviously you got thrust into the role with you know, starting to see warning signs, yes, but you probably never realize your life all of a sudden turning out. It’s like, guess what, everything’s on my shoulders. No, very it was scary and there were moments where I was just pure, purely terrified, not just of what I was dealing with, but sometimes of my mom. I had no idea what she was capable of. Totally fair and and you know you scared. You laugh, you cry, you get upset or confused, you go through this huge range of emotions. But if you can’t, if you can’t figure out who you can talk to and if you can’t figure out what you should be doing, there are so many networks out there, there’s so many people, advocates that will step up and help. All you have to do is ask. That was the hardest part for me was actually asking for help, and when I finally did, it was like this giant weight lifted off my shoulders, because then you see this community of people who you’ve invested so much of your own self and time and everything into coming back and giving back to you. And you know, we laugh now that there were some moments that happened to my house very, very early on. where I would okay, mom, we’re going to go to the store, can you go get ready, and she come out wearing one sock and that’s it. And then there were times when, you know, I turn the music up and she’d start bobbing her head like a teenager and then doing all these move you know, I remember you posted a video on Facebook once of your mom rocking and roll into something and it was so sweet. That’s what it is. This is what you’re dealing with. You know, you’re not supposed to have to brush your mom’s teeth and dresser, but that’s that’s what you’re doing with at this age. So understanding that there’s a progression of Alzheimer’s and you know for the fact that you still can take care of her in a you know, in your home environment is amazing because a lot of times, you know, families do not have the resources to do that. You know, where they can provide care in their home, and so there’s different options, but the same token is, I’m sure, with having a parent that has been kind of the pillar of your life. You know she I know she was very involved in you, you know, developing your athletic career and supporting you and you know, in getting and realizing your NFL dreams, everything like that. It’s kind of hard, probably, to look at that person in there, not there anymore, not probably. It’s very hard and it’s it hurts when you look at her and there are small moments of recidity that person who you know and you love, but the rest of the time you’re dealing with this person you just you don’t know who it is. She doesn’t know who I am either, but the love and the care that she gave me and my family, as you know, growing up. I will always remember that and someone needs to step up. Someone needs to step up, so in this case it was me. Now my mom has since gone back to live with my sister because my sister wanted to take her shot at it and things may or may not work out. If she doesn’t work out, she’s going to come back here. We’re still trying to figure it out, but I understand that in a lot of scenarios that’s not the case. Family isn’t always on the same page. You’re dealing with medical issues, you’re dealing with financial issues, you’re dealing with personal issue, who’s emotional, and not every family’s on the same page. So, so far, that has been the most apparent thing to me in talking to this community. If you have someone who’s on the same page as you and your family, you guys stick together and work it out right. If not, it is not uncommon. Everyone goes through this who’s dealing with Alzheimer’s dementia. Someone needs to step up and care for this person, and if they’re part of this weird family dynamic that nobody gets along, it’s actually not that weird. It’s pretty normal. Right. Great, I know. So we’re talking with former defense events Seattle Seahawk Joe Tafoya, also yes go Hawks, and about his mom’s challenge engine journey with Alzheimer’s, and I think your challenge and journey and taking care of her is really paramount to to this discussion and, as a result, what kind of advice do you have for those of us that are out there dealing with a loved one that has Alzheimer’s? To mention, my advice is to ask for help, because that was my biggest that was my biggest moment in all of this when I finally came to the conclusion that this is way bigger than I thought. This is much more than I can handle and I opened up about it, and when you open up, you’re making yourself very vulnerable and you come to this moment where you press send on a facebook post and you think anything can happen, and what you find is that there are so many more people dealing with this than you actually believe, and there are so many people in your media network right that are dealing with this. And when you ask for help and you reach out and you start the conversation there, you will be surprised at what you get back. And it’s such an uplifting thing because, you know, I’m used to being part of a team and now a part of a fan base that stands together and we, as fans and friends and family, we were community, municate with each other and we are able to come together under this thing that’s bigger than ourselves. And now I can get the help that I need right now, right and and getting that help is it’s okay. Not only is it okay to ask for help, and I think that’s the most important thing, but the other side of it is, I’m sure, is there’s this area of where do you go? You know, again, this is the world that we live in. A lot of these things in the society is shoved under the rug and I know when I was a caregiver for my mom, I didn’t know where to go. Luckily, we have answers for elders, which is we have our care line and you know about that. But there’s other resources as well. The Alzheimer’s Association has been wonderful. There are angels that are in that community. Honestly, if you if you open yourself up, they come to you and and you’ll find that you don’t know where to start. You have no idea what information to take in and it’s like drinking from a fire hose because there’s so much information coming your direction. And once you figure it out that there are good people, you migrate towards the ones you can get along with and Kate with in our close and proximity to you and and honestly, just opening the doors as my advice right. So, all you twelves out there, I want you to listen because I think all of us as a fan base, can do something in our communities to help not only your own family members, but also those families in our communities that are struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia. So if I’m just somebody that would like to help, what kinds of things could I do? Is just a general well, you could find Suzanne and it answers for all, answers for elders, and you can get involved in that community where we do twelve days of goodness and you’re visiting elderly facilities, going and just showing up and being part of it and watching the joy on their faces. A lot of times people get left behind. The elderly get left behind and they don’t have anyone in their immediate network that will come and visit them. And just something as simple as that there’s hope. Reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association, ask to get involved there, but honestly, just support someone who’s going through it. Send them a message. It did wonders for me. Thank you. Thanks for being here, Joe. All right, my pleasure.
Suzanne Newman, host of the Answers for Elders radio show and podcast, proclaims often, “Caring for my mom was the hardest thing I ever have done, but it was also my greatest privilege.” Following a career of over 25 years in sales, media, and marketing management, Suzanne embarked on a 6-year-journey caring for her mother. Her trials and tribulations as a family caregiver inspired an impassioned life mission outside of the corporate world to revolutionize the journey that so many other American families also find themselves on. Answers for Elders provides education, help, and support to families, caregivers, and seniors across the country who are experiencing their own unique journey within the complicated world of Eldercare. Each week, Suzanne is joined by vetted professional experts in over 65 categories including health & wellness, life changes, living options, money, law, and more. Suzanne lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Keith, and their two doodle dogs, Whidbey and Skagit.