BY SALLY KAY, ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION
George Flake was a life-long lover of music. Spending his days as an engineer, George pursued his passion for music by singing in the church choir. Additionally, he and his wife Opal frequented the opera and the symphony while they lived in Indiana. “He was quiet until you got to know him,” shares daughter Laura Banasiewicz of Winston-Salem. “He was a sweet man, who was sharp, did all of his own investing, and was good with a computer.” George worked until he was in his seventies, consulted after retiring, and became very interested in genealogy.
“The biggest change we noticed was that when he’d go to the doctor’s office or the grocery store, it would take him forever to get home, as he would forget how,” offers Laura. “He would lose things, put keys down, and could not remember where he put them. My mom called me and said something is going on with Dad, so she took him to the family physician’s office.” A cognitive test was performed on George, and the results revealed that he did have early signs of dementia. Shortly after the diagnosis, Laura’s sister passed away unexpectedly. Subsequently, her father’s condition spiraled. His daughter’s death was a triggering event that exacerbated his decline. Laura’s mother was insistent on caring for her husband herself upon his diagnosis; however, that changed when Laura’s mother passed away suddenly. Laura and her husband decided to move her father to live with them in North Carolina.
“When we moved Dad, we worked with the Alzheimer’s Association for resources as, quite honestly, we were scrambling to figure out what to do since my husband and I both work full time,” said Laura. “We knew that we could not leave Dad at home alone. In addition to caregiver options, I was looking for general information in educating myself on Alzheimer’s —what it is, what are some of the things that we can do to help with the day-to-day. The Association was a really big resource for us!” During Laura’s review of Association information, she discovered her dad’s love for music was key to providing the calming effect for him when he was upset or agitated. “I will always treasure this memory,” shares Laura. “We took my father to Greensboro to see Celtic Women. After the concert was over, he remained sitting in his chair with the biggest smile on his face. We bought him some of the videotapes and CDs. He would sit at the house and say, ‘I want to listen to my girls.’”
She now uses these experiences to pay it forward. As a financial planner with Allegacy Investment Group, Laura believes that she is seeing more and more of her clients — either their parents or their spouses — being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “My experience with my dad has made it helpful for me to try to relate to them and offer them some of the resources that are available through the Alzheimer’s Association.” Laura and her team along, with the help of a local Association staff partner, are planning to offer their clients some educational events and workshops in their investment group initially and then expand it to a broader audience in the future.
Laura and Team Banasiewicz have participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Winston-Salem for about five years, and she is serving as the 2021 Walk Chair. “I have really enjoyed this role as it’s given me the opportunity to reach out to many of my friends and clients that I know have a personal connection to the disease.”
Because of what she’s seen firsthand through the journey with her father, research and finding a cure is of the utmost importance to Laura. In turn, Alzheimer’s hasn’t closed the curtain on the performance, but rather has called for an encore in support of others.
Forsyth Woman is proud to be a media partner for the 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer’s events in Mount Airy on September 18 and in Winston-Salem on November 6. To join us and Laura, sign up as a walker, team captain, or sponsor at alz.org/walk or by calling 800-272-3900.