The Alzheimer's Association Greater New Jersey Chapter is spotlighting people who make a difference in the fight to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia, by participating in the upcoming 2020 Walk To End Alzheimer’s (WTEA) — the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Today we say thank you to Judy Salem for her commitment to the Monmouth-Ocean Walk to End Alzheimer’s taking place everywhere this year on October 3. Judy’s extraordinary passion and dedication to helping all those affected by the disease has inspired and motivated others to get involved contributing to the event’s success. The funds raised by her effort, and others, helps propel the Association’s mission forward — accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support.
Judy Salem, of Toms River, a Monmouth-Ocean Walk Planning Committee member, has participated in the Walk To End Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. She walks to honor her father who passed away from Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), and hopes that sharing her story will inspire and motivate others to join the fight to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. Judy recounts, “We lost my dad, Edward Scher, to LBD in 2010. He was diagnosed in 2005, but started showing cognitive decline a few years earlier. My dad was a Holocaust survivor who suffered the horrors of war — five years in Concentration Camps and the loss of his immediate family and most of his extended family. He came to the United States five years after World War II and met my mom, married and raised our family that includes my two older brothers and me. My dad had no more than an eighth grade education, but became a self-made man. He was a builder and entrepreneur. He was active in our community and temple, always donating to worthy causes and the betterment of our community. My dad prided himself on his intellect, reading voraciously and always keeping abreast of the news. We lost our mom in 1997, and yet dad soldiered on, took care of himself and continued to work and ride his bike around town up until about 2004. We noticed a slight decline in his mental state, and he began to notice it as well. He spoke about sitting up in bed in the morning, being confused and not knowing where he was. He also became confused easily and lost interest in reading. His eyes were becoming empty as time went on.
After his diagnosis, we cried together. I told him that I would always be with him through his illness. Medications, doctor’s appointments, more medication and nursing visits were to become our norm. I added a room to my house, so I would be able to take care of him. The months afterwards were filled with pain, tears and some laughter until I could no longer take care of him. We were able to find an assisted living community not far from our home where he could live. My dad had the financial means, so we were able to provide a round-the-clock caretaker. Over the next three years, Felix became my father’s best friend. He cared for him as his own father, as my father descended into oblivion.
We visited him, cared for him and prayed for god to be kind and take him without suffering over those next three years. Little did I know that those years were meant for his family. You see my family, my husband’s family, my brothers — everyone, knew my dad as the kind, caring, sweet man he was. He was my daddy, a friend, and 'Poppy' to everyone who met him. We all needed that time to let him go, the “Long Goodbye” as Nancy Reagan called it.
Our team is named Poppy’s Strength to honor his legacy, and I walk to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia in the hope that generations to come won’t have to.”
More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only disease among the top 10 causes that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed. Additionally, more than 16 million family and friends provide care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the U.S. In New Jersey alone, there are more than 190,000 people living with the disease and 448,000 caregivers.
Register your team today. Sign up as a Team Captain or register to walk as an individual. Learn more at alz.org/njwalk. To donate, text 2ENDALZ to 51555.