Alzheimer's caretaker aims to inspire others who are struggling

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By: Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 30, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — In 2014, as many as 5-million Americans were living with Alzheimer's Disease and that number is projected to nearly triple to 14-million by 2060, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC states that it is the most common type of dementia and is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss that could lead to the loss of the ability to carry on a conversation.

It not only affects the person suffering from it, but their families as well. One Tallahassee woman, who knows the struggle first-hand, has created a tool to help support caretakers.

"That's you, that's you, "said Priscilla Jean-Louis while pointing to an old photograph of her 77-year-old mother Vera Johnson.

Johnson was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2016. Since that time, life has changed for the pair.

"Just like anything else, until it slaps you in the face, you don't really look at it in full detail," Jean-Louis told reporter Katie Kaplan.

The diagnosis progressed rapidly. Jean-Louis chose to take over as Johnson's caretaker.

"I can't even tell you how much my life has changed in the last two years, three years," she said.

In short explanation, Jean-Louis moved into her mother's house, so Johnson could stay in a familiar place. She left her position at Florida State University so she could work from home. She said she enjoys every day, despite the ups and downs. She has been forced to add locks to the pantry and refrigerator to prevent her mother from overeating, since she does not usually remember her meals.

"I had to move it because she broke-in one time. Same with the refrigerator," said Jean-Louis, smiling about the tribulation. "I'm not saying it's not difficult, that there's not hard moments, but it's a joy to take care of her."

Jean-Louis is now working to spread that positivity to other caretakers through a Facebook and YouTube page. It is called 'My Favorite Girl and Alzheimer's,' in tribute to her mother. On it she shares what she calls, "momma moments," including the good, the bad and the in-between. Jean-Louis said she wants to encourage and inspire others who might be overwhelmed by their responsibility.

"It's become a passion of mine," she said.

Jean-Luis has also started a clothing line with t-shirts that have inspiring phrases. She hopes to introduce other products, like coffee cups, with uplifting sayings that will add inspiration to a caretaker's day.

"Everything I'm in, it's not just for us. There's other people who will be able to gain strength for things we go through," she said. "That's my mission."

Jean-Louis is on the committee for 'Walk to End Alzheimer's.' There are several upcoming events in the region.

-Thomasville: Oct. 3rd at the historic courthouse
-Tallahassee: Oct. 12th at Cascades Park.
-Valdosta: Nov. 1 at the Lowndes County Courthouse.

The funds raised go toward Alzheimer's research. Jean-Louis hopes to see a cure in her lifetime. You can also connect with Jean-Louis on her website.