LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — If motherhood seems natural for Mallory Martinez, it’s because she learned how to be a mom from her mom, Patti.
“The best. That’s the best way to describe her,” said Mallory. “Our family was everything to her. Me, my brother, my dad, her siblings. Everybody just meant the world to her.”
The two shared a bond only a mother and daughter can, a bond made stronger after Patti was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease 10 years ago. As Patti battled the disease, Mallory’s role transformed beyond a daughter, to a caregiver as well. She and her husband Matt even moved back home to help out. From cooking to household chores, they took on new responsibilities.
“We had outside caregivers, but we were all also caregivers,” said Mallory. “So, just lots of unexpected things we didn’t know about.”
Patti died in February of last year. She was 62 years old.
One month later, the pandemic hit.
And last May, Mallory gave birth to her first son, Mateo.
“I still kind of feel like I live in an alternate universe,” she said. “Just because we had three major things happen, all at one time, so that was really challenging. It’s still kind of hard to wrap my mind around.”
According to the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana, there are an estimated 149,000 caregivers in Kentucky alone. Just like Mallory and her family, they face many unknowns, but they’re not fighting them alone.
“We don’t want Alzheimer’s to be the best-kept secret,” said Erin Gillespie-Hislope, the Director of Programs for the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana. “We want people to know what’s going on in their communities. That way, they can get the help they need.”
Since her mom’s passing, Mallory has also taken on the role of advocate. She hopes to spread awareness of the disease and share how families can find support when they need it, during a an often isolating, lonely experience.
It’s another challenge for this young mom, as she remembers her own this Mother’s Day: “I think she would be really proud.”
The pandemic impacted in-person programs through the Alzheimer’s Association, but local advocates say they’ve been able to adapt with virtual services for patients and their families. They also have a national 24/7 hotline available. It’s 800-272-3900.
For more resources, go to Greater Kentucky / Southern Indiana Chapter (alz.org).