OP ED: “MY MEMORIES ARE FOR MY FATHER”
A few times now, my father says he is waiting for his ride to go home, but he is at home. When he sees me, there is a glimmer of recognition before he starts to talk about his ride to take him home. My father Afoa — an avid fisherman and golfer — loves to spend time with his children, grandchildren and everyone that he has treated and loved as his own throughout his life. Our father was diagnosed a few years ago with early stages of dementia and subsequently with Alzheimer’s —an incurable disease. Our mother, my siblings and I have now entered a strange world that is difficult to accept or understand.
For all of our lives, my father’s advice has been sought by all — not only as a prominent attorney but, mostly as a father figure to his family, his church, his village and his community. Our father is notorious for his giving heart and his calm demeanor and words of wisdom that always provided comfort to anyone that was troubled with a warm smile and reassurance to “Trust in the Lord, and everything will be ok.” He still welcomes anyone to sit with him and talk endless stories.
In our struggle to make sense of this disease, we have learned that this disease affects every single person on island through a loved one or a neighbor. It is not a disease that our community likes to discuss openly as there are many unknowns and factors that even the brightest in the world do not understand. It does affect one’s ability to remember, and each person is affected differently. We know that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s but progression is sure for all that are affected.
The most important way to cope with Alzheimer’s disease, we have found, is to have a strong and solid system of family support and love. Everyone needs to be patient, be loving and to be aware that the affected family member may not be in control of their memories or thoughts, but that they are the exact same person — just one with Alzheimer’s.
My father spent all his life taking care of others, helping others and teaching all of us to care for our families and others of lesser means. Regardless of his financial obligations, he would give the last dollar in his pocket to anyone that approached him for help. It was this compassionate, kind and generous side of him that inspired him to found in 2004, the Agency for Better Living Endeavors (ABLE), to solidify his commitment to care for and support the people that he loves, his island community of American Samoa. This year, through a newly elected board revived by Afoa’s children, ABLE is dedicating its efforts to Raising Awareness for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
President Ronald Reagan recognized November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and ABLE dedicates this month to all our loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
On behalf of our mother, Etenauga LamYuen Lutu, my siblings and the board and volunteers of ABLE, we invite all to share your personal experiences or challenges so that we are able to provide a stronger support as a community for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
Please join us — HC Afoa Lutu, family and village for a wave this Monday, on November 4th, at Utulei Beach to show that we care and that we are committed to providing the support and love that is required by our loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
There are several discussions and talk shows scheduled throughout the month of November to raise awareness in our community, and this campaign will conclude on November 27, 2019 with a Family Gratitude Day at Utulei Beach with the theme: “Unforgettable: We commit family love, support, our gratitude, our memories, our hope and faith and our Trust in our Lord for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease”.
For those that would like to join our fight FOR our loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, please visit our FB page: ABLE Agency for Better Living Endeavors or call Kimberly Lutu-Fuiava at 254-2929, Elinor Lutu-McMoore at 256-1334, Sandra Fuimaono Lutu at 254-7791.