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Being Thankful Despite Life’s Hiccups

| November 2, 2012 | 1 Comment

This past month I got to have a conversation with Jen Johnson of Encinitas, who was willing to share her experiences as the daughter of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her dad is Joe Wiler, and he is 57 years young. Two-and-a-half years ago he realized something wasn’t right when he couldn’t remember how to tie his own tie, a daily ritual he’d been performing for decades. Joe and his wife, Marty, scheduled a visit to their general practitioner and a specialist to confirm the diagnosis.

Jen informed me that the experience has brought her family closer together and has forced them to be very proactive, learning as much as possible from the Alzheimer’s Association of San Diego/Imperial County and being active participants in the various groups and programs they offer. She said that her dad immediately became an advocate, speaking at various events and before elected officials in Sacramento.

Marty, Joe’s wife of 32 years, has become the primary caregiver. She goes to Alzheimer’s support group meetings and functions to learn of the phases of the disease, as well as to use these activities to meet others who are caregivers.

Jen is grateful to her immediate and extended members of the family, neighbors and friends, who have been comforting and supportive. And, she is thankful for her dad who has a positive attitude. Jen said, “Dad said he has a choice on how he handles this disease. He is doing his best.”

Joe has embraced early retirement, and now fills his days with planning family trips to the Florida Keys and Hawaiian islands, where he just last year convinced the entire family to go scuba diving, a pastime Joe has loved for years and will likely have to give up in the months to come. Though driving around town isn’t something Joe does on his own anymore, he still finds joy in his family’s faith, still sings at First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley – the church where Marty and he first met – and still relishes Tuesday night family dinners.

Sharing a family moment, left to right, are Lesley, Peyton and Matt Hyatt; Marty and Joe Wiler; and Jen and Casey Johnson., where he just last year convinced the entire family to go scuba diving, a pastime Joe has loved for years and will likely have to give up in the months to come. Though driving around town isn’t something Joe does on his own anymore, he still finds joy in his family’s faith, still sings at First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley – the church where Marty and he first met – and still relishes Tuesday night family dinners.

With courage, energy and conviction, Joe and Marty along with their two daughters, Lesley and Jen, have dedicated themselves not only to supporting Joe, but also to becoming the faces and voices of Alzheimer’s disease—speaking out for those who cannot and traveling as advocates to raise awareness whenever possible. And, the Wilers are committed to finding a cure for the 615,000 people projected to develop the disease by 2030.

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