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Sisters unite to care for mother with Alzheimer's

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Raquel Lowe Hubbard remembers her mother calling about a man standing in her driveway with a group of kids. “I asked them what they wanted but they didn’t say anything,” her mother said.

Hubbard knew nobody was there.

“She was able to have a decent conversation with you,” says Hubbard, “but it would just be episodes of not remembering anything or hallucinations.”

In 2001, Alice Boone Lowe was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a progressive form of dementia that destroys brain cells and causes memory changes, erratic behavior, and loss of body functions, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s which has the highest mortality rate among women. And with the survival expectancy averaging eight years after noticeable symptoms, it was a fate that Hubbard and sisters, Terri Lowe Anderson and Bettye Lowe Lawson struggled to accept for their mother.

Lowe, a retired teacher, ran their family-owned Brookhaven Shop ‘N’ Wash in Garysburg, North Carolina until memory lapses forced her to sell the store. Soon, “bizarre happenings” followed including getting out of her car during a car wash.

Consequently, the three sisters became caregivers for Lowe, widowed since 1991, despite her insistence for independence, and were equipped with only information about the disease and medications. “But beyond instructions from that perspective, how to prepare us emotionally, how to prepare finances, we learned on the job,” says Hubbard.

Later, Lowe suffered a series of regressions triggered by hip replacement surgery and the successive deaths of three brothers advancing her to mid-stage. “The hardest thing was trying to help mom come to the realization that she needed help,” says Hubbard. “I'm living in Charlotte. My sister Bettye’s in Houston. Terri's the closest but she's traveling.”

Desperate, they enlisted church members to cook meals, administer medications and stay overnight. However, a fall during an unsupervised visit would send Lowe to a nursing home where she would suffer another regression accelerating her to late-stage.

“It was challenging dealing with that guilt that she never wanted to go to a nursing home,” says Hubbard. Although they wrestled with honoring her wish, the nursing home remained the best option, yielding another dilemma: nearly $10,000 in monthly expenses.

So, Anderson took in Lowe where she stayed until her death on February 28, 2013, at age 84. “I'm thankful for my sisters because we had to lean on each other for support,” says Hubbard.

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