This month we highlight family caregiver advocate Linda Sendaula.
Linda Sendaula describes herself as a “professional volunteer”. It is a title she fully embraces. As a professional volunteer, she works in only one area, education for caregivers of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias.
Her choice for volunteer work was not accidental. Like many of you, Alzheimer’s Disease entered her world unexpectedly in 2009 when her husband, Henry, was diagnosed with early-onset. She did not enthusiastically embrace their new reality. She vehemently resisted. She was unwilling to accept the changes to their lives that this diagnosis meant.
She became an Alzheimer’s advocate when her husband challenged her to take care of him as the disease progressed. He trusted her to be the best caregiver and wanted her to not only care for him but to also take care of herself. What a daunting challenge!
Like all of you, she learned caregiving by doing it. She was learning caregiving in San Antonio at a time when resources were limited or none existed. She recalls often feeling lost and having no idea of who to turn to for help. She vowed to do whatever she could to change that.
Since 2012 she has been an advocate for caregivers and their families. She is a volunteer with the local Alzheimer’s Association and Grace Place adult activities center. She also services on several boards and community efforts to assist caregivers including the Dementia Friendly Advisory Council.
Before becoming a full-time caregiver in 2012 she worked in leadership positions in human resources in higher education in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Texas. She believes without any reservation that, although very difficult, this is the most rewarding endeavor she has ever experienced.
Linda shares what it means to be a Dementia Friendly City:
Embarrassment. Stigma. Isolation. Withdrawal. Fear.
That was my husband’s response to the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in 2009.
So much has changed. We felt alone. We did not know who to turn to for help because of the stigma of the disease. This is a disease that families wanted to hide. You did not talk about it.
This is no longer true. As a community, we have moved from darkness to light because of Dementia Friendly. Our community now recognizes that dementia impacts everyone! Not just the patient, not just the caregiver, not just the family! It has become more than an awareness campaign. It is first an educational process that then moves to ways to provide all types of community assistance to those impacted by this disease.
Dementia Friendly incorporates the community in identifying ways to validate the lives impacted by dementia. Tackling dementia requires the voices and efforts of everyone.
Dementia Friendly means we are no longer alone on this long journey.