This Valentine's Day, I can’t help but think of my parents and the love they had for each other. They truly adored each other and were the quintessential picture of love – at least in my eyes they were.

Even when Alzheimer’s took over my dad and dementia my mom, you could see the love they had for each other in their eyes, even behind the blank stares. Their love was deep.

I often question if there was more I could have done for them before they passed away.

Even though I researched the heck out of their damned diseases, maybe there could’ve been more to do and more to know.

I am fortunate, I guess, that neither of my parents suffered long. Although don’t get me wrong, it was definitely long enough. I know there are some families whose loved ones suffer for many years. I can’t even fathom it.

With my parents, I shared their Alzheimer and dementia journey through social media. I shared their love story, including the good, the bad and the oh-so-ugly times when the disease took control of them.

Celestine "Red" and Leona Schneider, pictured in their July 22, 1968, wedding picture, were married for nearly 49 years. They passed away in 2017 less than four months apart. He suffered from Alzheimer's and she dementia. (Contributed)
Celestine "Red" and Leona Schneider, pictured in their July 22, 1968, wedding picture, were married for nearly 49 years. They passed away in 2017 less than four months apart. He suffered from Alzheimer's and she dementia. (Contributed)

During that time, I knew there were resources out there, but I didn’t take advantage like I should have. I also know there could have been more. People who have the unfortunate circumstance of going through the ups and downs of Alzheimer’s and dementia with their loved ones now have more options, thanks to the Douglas County Library Director Dawn Dailey.

Dailey, who has a personal connection to the disease like me, was hired in the fall of 2018. Since she began, one of her focus areas has been dementia and I couldn’t be happier about that.

I applaud her for all of her efforts, including the Memory Loss Resource Center she created at the library in March 2019. She configured two kits to help both caregivers, which would have been great for me, and those suffering with memory loss, like my parents.

This spring – March through May – Dailey is doing even more. Here are just a few of the events she has planned. You can check out the Echo Press community calendar or the library’s website for a full list of activities.

The library is doing a community read starting March 2 with the book, Still Alice, which is about a woman who suffers early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The book is available to check out at the library and I am thinking I should finally read it. There will be a couple of opportunities for book discussion coming in May – for both adults and teens.

On March 17, Dailey is hosting a roundtable discussion on community needs regarding dementia and the possibility of becoming a dementia-friendly city. I am honored that she asked me to be a part of this discussion and can’t wait for this event.

Rona Karasik, a professor at St. Cloud State University, is speaking on March 31. Her topic is “Where are my keys?: Senior moments versus dementia” And on April 27, Robyn Birkeland and Katie Lowagie from the University of Minnesota, will present information about dementia and what it is. If you have a loved one who is just starting down this path, I highly recommend you check out both events.

On April 29, the movie, “Still Alice,” will be showing at Grand Arbor. I am definitely planning on being there for this. And I am planning on bringing a box of tissues with me.

When I knew there was something starting with my dad, the documentary “I’ll Be Me,” about legendary country music star Glen Campbell, had just come out. I watched it and cried. It was one of the best things I could have watched at that time. It gave me a glimpse into what life could be like for my dad. And it made me realize there were things that my dad had done that were directly related to Alzheimer’s but I didn’t realize it at the time. I can’t stress how awesome this movie is.

It will be shown at the library this coming May and I am begging anyone who is just beginning this journey to watch it. It will open your eyes.

Several other events are planned and even though my parents are no longer here, I plan on attending some of them.

Worldwide, about 50 million people have dementia. And one in about 10 people 65 years of age or older has Alzheimer’s. Every year, there are nearly 10 million new cases of dementia. This is alarming.

With those stats, I feel it is critical for people to know as much as they can and our library is offering so many ways we can do that.

This Valentine’s Day, think about your loved ones. Or think about my parents or those you know who have been through this journey. Think about attending some of these events. I guarantee you’ll learn something and will hopefully be prepared if needed. Although I hope like heck, you’ll never have to be.

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.