BY MADISON ROBERTS
When Lanie Pope was growing up, her mom was the center of her world.
“She had a laugh you could hear down the street,” Lanie says. “She could carry on a conversation with a wall and was very down to earth. Really, she was just pure joy.”
Lanie, chief meteorologist for WXII 12 news and Winston-Salem resident, continues, “She was a dancer, not a professional or even someone who took ballet or tap, but if the music was on, she was dancing and singing around the house.”
However, when her mom was 56, Lanie started to notice differences in her mom’s spirit. At first, Lanie considered that her mom might be facing depression, but when she started digging deeper into what was going on, she realized it was much more than that.
“My mom had always kept a clean house,” Lanie says. “If you dropped a sock, it was up before you even knew you dropped it. But when I was in college, I went back to visit and it was not the home I remembered growing up in.”
Then, Lanie began helping out with her mom’s antique store and learned that she was behind on bills, and she hadn’t paid her mortgage.
“She was in her fifties, so Alzheimer’s never even crossed my mind,” Lanie says. However, that was the diagnosis her mom had been given.
Lanie began looking for answers and tips on how to handle the caregiving journey and specific information about younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which is a form of dementia that affects individuals under the age of 65. The Alzheimer’s Association provided her with the resources she needed, including reliable online information about the disease, education workshops, and support groups.
“This epidemic is crippling our mental health industry,” Lanie says. “But it’s not just the people who are living with the disease who need support. My mother, for the most part during her journey, had no idea what was going on. It’s the caregivers and the family who really need love and support, and the Alzheimer’s Association provides services that help both the patient and the caregiver.”
After her mom passed away in 2009, Lanie decided she wanted to help other families facing the journey she had just taken through her mom’s diagnosis. She served on the board for the Alzheimer’s Association in North Carolina and became the emcee at the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Winston-Salem.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s® raises money for research, and many of the services Lanie found so useful that the Alzheimer’s Association provides, including a 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900).
However, for Lanie, the Walk is more than just a fundraiser: it’s a way for her to honor her mom and lend support to others who have experienced a similar journey.
“I like to say that when I was going through this, I felt like I was treading water, and the water was right at my nose and I was about to drown. The
Walk is my way of pressing pause on my life and remembering what it was like during my caregiving journey and to use my experience to help others emotionally.”
Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Winston-Salem, which attracts thousands each year to raise awareness and funds to fight Alzheimer’s disease, will look different this year. It will still occur on October 3, but instead of hosting a large gathering, participants will walk as individuals or in small groups on sidewalks, tracks, and trails across Forsyth County. But a difference on Walk day won’t stop Lanie from spreading the word and fighting to end this disease.
“Honestly, this year, I am hopeful because the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be an opportunity for families to bond even more on a different level and pay tribute to their loved ones in a safe environment,” she says. “This is a way for people to celebrate in their communities and perhaps get more people involved. I am excited about that.”
To join Lanie, sign up as a walker, team captain, or sponsor of Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Winston-Salem at act.alz.org/WinstonSalem or by calling 800-272-3900.