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Alzheimer's Awareness Month is a chance to remember caregivers

Sisters Chrystal Tabb-Mack and Janice Tabb have been caring for their parents for around a decade. // WSBT 22

"I got this impression that mom and daddy were going to be the same way forever. And they're not,” said Chrystal Tabb-Mack, who has been caring for her parents.

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness month -- a chance to think about a debilitating disease and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

But that disease doesn't just affect people who are diagnosed with it. There are millions of people taking care of people with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Many of those caregivers are family members. Taking care of a loved one dealing with these diseases can be heartbreaking and challenging. But the Tabb sisters say, taking care of their parents has always been worth it.

"My mother was standing up playing the piano for the choir. The choir was singing 'Back to the depths we must go.' Daddy said the Lord told him 'That's your wife,'" said Chrystal.

Simon and Estella Tabb met at an appreciation service for a retiring pastor.

"66 years. They met that week and, what? Three months later, they were married,” said Janice Tabb.

Simon and Estella spend the next decades raising a family. Chrystal and Janice say their parents were well educated.

"They believed in education,” said Chrystal.

“And they instilled that in us. They instilled that in us because of the times and the way blacks were viewed," said Janice.

Janice says her dad wanted the world for his girls.

"He was very forward thinking. He said women are very capable and you all are capable. You're not second class citizens," said Janice.

The Tabb sisters say Simon used to be able to recite entire passages of scripture. But then, in their late seventies, Simon and Estella started to forget.

"He'll rub his head and you can tell that that troubles him, it bothers him, that he can't really -- It's like, you knew you knew it, but where'd it go?" said Chrystal.

Those changes in their parents are just as hard on the daughters.

"As they regress backward, you've got to learn how to deal with them as they regress backwards," said Janice.

"Sometimes you're like, 'OK, this is not mommy and daddy, this is not them,'" said Chrystal.

It's been hard work, but these sisters say it has been an honor to return the care their parents gave to them.

"To encourage Janice and I to be strong women like we are, this girl is something else! But to be the strong women that we are I mean it's a blessing, it really is!" said Chrystal.

Chrystal and Janice say one of the hardest parts of caring for their parents was getting involved in their private business.

It can be hard to do, but the Tabb sisters say you have to be an advocate.

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