When Christyna Hengstler was growing up, she would visit her grandmother, Donna Hobbs, during summer.
During the visits, Hobbs liked to give her a Shirley Temple perm. Hobbs also had a special saying, particularly when Hengstler needed a boost.
“All you need is a little bit of lipstick, and the rest will work itself out,” Hengstler’s grandmother would say.
Her grandmother’s motto is something that has stuck with the 48-year-old Vancouver resident. Hobbs, who has dementia, now lives in a long-term care facility in Southern California.
Because of the pandemic, Hengstler can’t visit her grandmother right now. It’s tough for her, but she’s used the experience to relate with others in her work with 1st Choice Advisory Services, where she connects people to senior living options and resources. She’ll also honor her grandmother Aug. 29 as she’ll participate in a remote version of Vancouver’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s by strolling around her neighborhood.
“The walk means raising awareness about how this terrible disease steals people away,” Hengstler said.
The event is thrown by the Alzheimer’s Association, which focuses on resources, support and research for Alzheimer’s disease, which more than 5 million Americans have, and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Washington has more than 120,000 residents living with Alzheimer’s and at least 353,000 caregivers, according to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association.
This year’s walk will look different because of COVID-19. Participants are encouraged to walk around their neighborhoods or local trails or parks, in a effort to not spread the virus.
This will be Hengstler’s second walk, and she said that it’s a good way for people to see how many other folks are impacted by the disease.
“You’re not alone,” Hengstler said. “Everybody has a different story, but there are a lot of things that are similar.”
It has been particularly hard at times to for Hengstler to stay in touch with her 92-year-old grandmother, who was diagnosed with dementia five years ago.
Hengstler said the walks and being involved in Alzheimer’s advocacy has made her feel empowered.
“I’m hoping that we have a good turnout even though it is going to look different,” Hengstler said.
Hengstler said people can still donate, even if they can’t make the walk. As she’s forged a new relationship with her grandmother since the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Hengstler has created her own motto to help her deal with the circumstances.
“It’s OK that you can’t remember, I’ll remember for both of us,” Hengstler likes to say.