The Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s Chapter Presenting Sponsor, Fieldstone Communities. Doug Ellison is a founding partner of Cascadia Senior Living and Fieldstone Communities. For Doug, dementia is not only in his professional life, but his personal life as well. Below, Doug shares his connection to the disease and some of the reasons why Fieldstone Communities is a proud sponsor of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
What is your personal experience with dementia?
My family, like so many families, has been deeply affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. My dad was a family physician in Yakima and he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in his early 60s. Eventually, he developed Lewy Body dementia. We walked the journey with him, and it was incredibly hard on our entire family.
My mom’s sister recently passed from Alzheimer’s and her brother is currently on hospice with Alzheimer’s. And recently, we can tell that mom is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s. She feels it too — she feels herself slipping and she tells me how frustrating it is for her. We all just want to show her kindness and love, and try not to correct her. It takes a lot of patience. It’s a hard walk.
Do you have a favorite memory with your dad you would like to share?
There are so many wonderful memories with my dad. He was a physician, but we also had a small family farm. When I was a kid, he’d take Tuesday and Friday afternoons off and we’d work together on the farm. He made everything such a fun experience — he was the kindest person.
If I had to choose a favorite memory, it would have to be when I was a teenager and we summited Mount Adams together. He loved to hike and to backpack, and I feel so lucky to have had these experiences with him. He was an amazing man.
What would you like to say to other families on this journey with their loved one?
When you’re with your loved one, it can be instinctual to want to correct them or remind them that you told them something already. It could be the third, fifth or fifteenth time they’ve asked the same question and it can be very frustrating. It’s a hard road, but they need you to give back to them with patience and empathy.
If you’re helping your loved one through this and you find yourself feeling frustrated, remind yourself who this person is to you. Every person with this disease was somebody at one time who made an impact, made a difference in other people’s lives. It’s our turn to give back to them with empathy, patience and unconditional love.
Also, don’t do it alone. I would say to anybody who is dealing with a family member with dementia — there is so much support available to you. The Alzheimer’s Association has so many resources to help you through this. You can seek help from companies like ours, join a support group and more. This is not a journey that anyone needs to walk alone.
There are a lot of meaningful ways to get involved with the Alzheimer’s Association. What is it about Walk, especially, that inspires you the most?
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is a movement of millions of people on an annual basis who are just focused on walking and raising awareness and raising money to fight Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Because of our experiences personally and professionally, we are passionate about the Walk, and we want to do everything we can to support it. Our staff and our communities are caring for people with dementia, and they see the devastation of this disease every day. They know how painful it is and they are passionate about finding a cure. That’s why we are the Chapter Presenting Sponsor for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Washington State and North Idaho; and why all of our Fieldstone Memory Care communities get involved with their local Walk.
Honestly, this is very personal for me, and I would love nothing more than to get out of this business completely because we have a cure for this disease.