This November, we recognize heroes like William “Bill” Myers in honor of both Veteran's Day and National Family Caregiver Month. Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy in June 1966, right after graduating from high school. He served on the Battleship USS New Jersey, the most decorated warship in US Naval history, from early 1968 to his separation in December 1969. “We spent 8 months off the coast of Vietnam during this period,” he said.
In late 2004, Bill and his family started a battle of a different kind after Mary, Bill's wife, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. When it comes to Alzheimer’s, “I don't see any difference in the importance of veteran's needs and the needs of non-veterans. Anyone touched by Alzheimer's, or any of the other dementias, needs all the support that is available,” he said.
After the first couple of years, Mary began requiring more attention and assistance. Bill contacted the Alzheimer's Association Nebraska Chapter, one of Community Health Charities of Nebraska’s 22 member charities, which provided information on programs that were available, including a list of support groups. Bill started attending a support group at Brighton Gardens, which he said has proven to be an invaluable wealth of information and support. “I learned very quickly that I was not alone on this journey, and I still attend these meetings as I feel I have a lot to contribute to others who are just starting out on this journey.”
Thanks to help and support from his daughter and teenage granddaughters, Bill was able to keep Mary at home for almost 10 years. But in May 2014, Mary moved into a care facility where she has been receiving the level of care Bill felt he could no longer provide at home, and she is still there today.
“It was at this time that I felt we needed to do something to give back for all the support we have received from the Alzheimer's Association,” Bill said. “We participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer's that fall and came away feeling very inspired to do more.”
Since then, Bill had continued to be involved with the Alzheimer's Association. “I feel driven to do all I can to promote Alzheimer's awareness, fund-raise and help the Alzheimer's Association in any way that I can,” he said. He and his family just completed their fourth walk and third benefit for the Alzheimer's Association, and this year, he and his oldest granddaughter served on the Walk planning committee. Bill has also volunteered at health fairs and anywhere he can be of use, including lobbying for legislation that impacts the Alzheimer’s Association through the annual “Day at the Hill” event.
Bill’s reason for staying involved is very much a personal one. “Alzheimer's is such a cruel disease, not only for the person who has Alzheimer's, but also for their family and caregivers,” he said. “My dream is not only a cure for Alzheimer's, but ultimately a means of prevention so future generations won't be faced with it.”