Cold Hands, Warm Heart – My Family’s Journey Through My Mom’s Incurable Disease


God is not the creator of evil. 1John 1:5 tells us, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.”

Sometimes things happen to you that you don’t expect. You lose all your finances. Your loved one’s in a car crash, someone in your family develops a mental illness.

We all think nothing will ever happen to us, but something like this did happen to my family, when my mom developed Alzheimer’s Disease at the young age of 50 years old.

I’ve learned throughout this process that you can either choose to give into your obstacle and become the victim, or you can learn to love even more from what has been placed in front of you and overcome it.

My mom’s name is Steffie and she is the sweetest angel you will ever meet.

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She was always incredibly loving; always serving people, knitting for them, cheering on her kids at every event possible. She started having problems at work and was let go within a few months.

No one could tell us what was really wrong, but we could see that she was losing her ability to communicate and carry out simple tasks. Soon she could no longer drive and the doctors were talking about the possibility of dementia. In just months she couldn’t leave the house by herself and it was harder and harder for me to understand her.

I was furious at God and angry that this would be happening to the nicest person in the world. I would scream, lock myself in my room and just cry and isolate myself. Things were even harder for my dad. His bride of over 30 years was now unable to communicate with him and we now had to look after her in this new childlike state.

When she started having seizures we saw that she could now never be left alone. Her medical bills grew more and more and my dad’s stress levels skyrocketed. I was not only concerned with my mom’s health, but also my dad’s.

We would take turns watching her and the more she became dependent on me, the more I realized that this was not her fault. And this was not God’s fault.

Instead of staying angry because she could no longer communicate like she used to and she now needed us for every single function, I started seeing that just because she has Alzheimer’s, doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me, and that doesn’t mean that we can’t show her that we love her.

Over the years God has changed my heart. He has shown me that people with Alzheimer’s are beautiful people in our world for the fight for their lives. God calls us to love every single one of his children, those with Alzheimer’s included and we need to embrace them and learn how to interact and love them.

We have now developed our own weird little language. We sing songs, make weird faces, go to the movies and have dinners.

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My dad has been the biggest inspiration throughout this whole process, sticking by my mom’s side the entire time and always giving her the very best. When cooking her meals, he always finds her favorite ingredients and on the weekends always trying to take her to special places.

Many people say that people with Alzheimer’s are vegetables, and that they are completely gone. Although it may look like this on the outside, my mom’s spirit is still there and she still brings so much joy and love into the lives of those around her with just her presence.

She is rarely ever angry, and can light up a whole room with her smile. She can always tell when I’m sad, and will sit by me and we will just hold each other.

My mom isn’t the only one suffering from Alzheimer’s. There are thousands of Steffies nationwide that need our help. Thousands of families whose loved ones get the disease at a young age and who don’t have the resources or the financial means to support the difficult lifestyle.

To all of you caregivers out there, stay strong. You are not alone. Seek out your family for emotional support. Seek out God to get you through this. Every day is a challenge for me and my family. We still go on emotional rollercoasters. It is still incredibly hard to pay for everything that comes along with taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s but I know God will get us through this.


For all of you that have listened to our story, please don’t take your loved ones for granted. None of us are promised any days on this Earth and we need to embrace our loved ones while we still can, and embrace those with mental disabilities like Alzheimer’s; they are still God’s Children that need caring and love too.

When I look at my mom, she’s not a patient, she’s just my mom, and although she can’t tell me how she feels, I know she still loves me just as much as she always has.

We can’t guarantee our days ahead, but we can still love with all our hearts.

My family and I are now Alzheimer Advocates and this year my mom participated in the 5K Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Los Angeles. We will be continuing on our next walk in November to raise money and awareness for finding a cure to Alzheimer’s Disease.

To help raise funds for Steffie’s medical expenses, go to: Steffie’s Fundraising Page

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13 Responses
  1. Erin Hughes

    Ashley,

    Thank you for sharing this story. Although it is tragic it somehow is still bright and hopeful. I am a firm believer that people with special needs are the best teachers in life. I will definitely pass this story along. Keep your head up and continue doing what you’re doing.

    -Erin

  2. Casey

    Ash, that was an incredible video. It brought tears to my eyes. Your mom, you and your family are in my prayers. You are such a strong woman and God has so much in store for you!!! The video made me realize to not take anything or anyone for granted because we never know what could happen. We may not know why God does the things he does but it’s always for a reason! You’re mom is an awesome woman! Keep your head up girl! I’m so proud of who you are! You are such an inspiration. NEVER EVER CHANGE!!!! I love you girl and I hope to see you SOON!

  3. Lauren Bajda

    Ashley that was so inspiring, thank you for sharing your story. You are an amazing person who has learned so much these past few years! Your Dad and yourself are great role models.

  4. Abby Poorman

    Ashley,

    This is an amazing story that you have shared and it really is inspiring. I have always thought Alzheimer’s was the worst mental illness of them all and I still believe that, especially after hearing your story. It really does affect the whole family and my heart goes out to your family. Good for you and your dad staying by her side and making the most of the sad situation! You should be very proud and it is so important to get the message out about the family impact of the disease so others don’t feel alone and hopeless. Good luck to you and your family along the rest of the journey! I would love to help with fundraising to find a cure, even if I am in Ohio still so any ideas for events you have let me know!
    God Bless.

  5. Coco

    I loved your speech at After Dark. That must have been so hard, but you were amazing! You could be one of those motivational speakers traveling the world to inspire others. I’m so proud of you Ashley!

  6. Angelika Pittet

    Ashley, thank you so much for sharing your heartbreaking story. I work with people affected with Alzheimer’s disease for over 6 years. My only goal is to understand them, valuate them and to see the beauty of their personalities. I never judge, I just open my arms and heart and welcome them to my group. We need to understand that there is a story to each of those people affected by this terrible disease. My recommendation for all of you caregivers out there: let’s look at the beauty of the story and recognize every single person affected by Alzheimer’s disease was a wonderful person before the disease would strike.
    Keep us posted Ashley and stay strong.

  7. beth armstrong

    I have watched your video many times and it brings tears to my eyes, it is beautiful!! You & your mother are beautiful people!! Things may have changed a lot for you & your mother, but both of you were able to experience a very deep love & connection that will live on forever!! She is here & will always be here because of you. Your mother taught you a lot & raised a wonderful daughter in those 17 years, and after, as you continued to grow & love each other!! I work in a dementia unit and work with these wonderful people all the time. I too wish everyone could see the value & understand how special these people are!! They are definitely not gone, they are still there! I can see though it isn’t easy and have never experienced this on a personal level, but I think one, in a way, must learn to see & love a little differently. It looks like you & your mother had a very deep & close connection. God bless you for being able to love her like that & see her for the great person she is!! You are wonderful Ashley!!

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