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WRITE TEAM: Remembering Helen

Back in the 70s a group of young moms went to Helen's South Side home for a weekly Bible study. Helen was a fun person who exuded joy and extended warm hospitality week by week.

At our Bible studies, each of us prayed for a particular missionary. I remember Helen praying, "Lord, on my refrigerator in the kitchen there is a name of a missionary. I want to pray for that person!"

Helen was confident God knew exactly whose name was on her refrigerator. And of course, He did.

We chuckled.

Helen lived alone. She told us her husband was in a local care facility and she went daily to visit him. She said sometimes he didn't realize she was his wife. Rather, he thought she was a "nice lady" who came to visit.

Helen's husband had dementia. He had once held an important position in a downtown office. Before it was necessary for him to move to the care facility, Helen said, he would rise each day and put on a white shirt and tie and business attire in preparation for going to work. They would get in the car and drive a short distance before her husband would forget about going to work and they would return home.

She didn't say, "Oh, you don't go to work any more!" or remind him of his forgetfulness. She just went along with it.

Helen didn't often discuss her problems or stresses, but she didn't hide them either. We were aware that she was dealing with some hard things in her life. Still, she maintained her confidence in God and never lost her sense of humor.

Sometimes Helen expressed concern that her house was "falling down around her," but we never noticed and simply enjoyed her hospitality.

I lost track of Helen as years went by. Our study group moved to other locations. But I never forgot her.

In recent years, as my husband has faced similar health issues as Helen's husband did, I think of Helen and I thank God that He placed her in my life many years ago.

I remember her gracious attitude and Christian witness.

Like Helen, I find my greatest strength in the presence of the living Christ who plans my days and walks through them with me.

I believe, if we are paying attention, God slips special people into our lives in preparation for what lies ahead.

As I look back, I am thankful for Helen!

According to the Alzheimer's Facts and Figures Report, Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer's dementia in 2019, including an estimated 5.6 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals under age 65, who have younger-onset Alzheimer's.

The incidence of Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias has increased by 145% from 2007 to 2017. One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer's dementia. It is estimated that one-third of those 85 and over are afflicted. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

I attend a monthly support group at OSF where about a dozen of us share our stories, tips on caregiving, available social services and other new information.

We meet the third Tuesday of each month at 1:30 p.m. in the meeting room adjoining the OSF cafeteria. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.

CAROLE LEDBETTER is a lifelong Ottawan who finds every day an adventure. She can be reached at tsloup@shawmedia.com.

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