Why I Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Centreville

Why I Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Centreville


Walker Name:  Tracy Cheifetz

Hometown:  Centreville, VA

Team Name:  Amy’s Army

Participating in the Reston Walk on Oct. 24

Q: How many years have you been involved with the Walk?

A: This will be my second time walking. Prior to my brother walking in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s with my Mom in NY in 2017, I didn’t feel my Mom’s Alzheimer’s was my story to tell. When I saw how much fun she had with my brother, I knew I wanted to participate with her here in Reston in 2018. My brother and his wife came down to join us. My Mom is now in a nursing home on a Memory Care Unit and I have felt helpless throughout Covid to assist her, so I wanted to honor her and get involved in the walk again this year. 

Q: If known, how much money will you raise this year?

A: My team “Amy’s Army” is currently at $1,429. My husband, my youngest son and two of my friends have so far joined my team. I just set this up four days ago.

Q: Why do you support the Walk and the Alzheimer's Association?

A: My Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 8 years ago. I was with her the day the Neurologist told her. I was there for every appointment after that. My Mom was a nurse. She knew what this meant and we had so many deep conversations about what was going to eventually happen to her. I know she was so scared. I also know she was scared for me. My Mom and I enrolled in a drug trial at Georgetown University. We’d make those trips into DC from Centreville, Va. knowing that this trial would likely not help her. She still wanted to do it. She wanted to help the next person diagnosed. My Mom is the most selfless person I know. There is little I can do for her now, but I can walk and raise money and hope that one day we End Alzheimer’s.

Q: Please share a favorite memory of your loved one.

A: Most of my favorite memories of my Mom involve my kids or my dog. She loves both so very much. She’d literally do anything for them. Every summer we’d go to Wildwood, NJ for vacation. If the kids weren’t tall enough to ride a ride, she’d go with them. She didn’t like rides, but she loved seeing the boys happy. So one summer in 2009, my Mom (65 years old at the time) is convinced by my three boys to go on a water slide! I am thinking there is no way she is going to go on this slide. So we all climbed the many flights of stairs to get to the top of this slide. We stopped to get a picture of us at the top. You can tell by the picture that she was so scared, but she wasn’t going to disappoint her grandsons. I wish we all carried phones with video back in 2009 … she came screaming down the slide splashing into the pool at the bottom. She looked at me and said, “I will never do that again.”

Q: What would you say to someone to encourage them to join the Walk?

A: If you know someone with Alzheimer’s or someone who had it, this walk is a great way to honor them. If you don’t know someone who has had or has Alzheimer’s you should consider yourself extremely lucky and should be doing everything you can to help raise money and awareness so that you don’t ever know someone who has Alzheimer’s. My brother played a word association game with my Mom before her first walk back in 2017. When he said “Alzheimer’s,” without any hesitation my Mom said “Oh, that’s miserable.” Please come out and help end this miserable disease. You will be so glad you did. My Mom found these walks fun and inspiring.

Q: Any other thoughts, comments, info you'd like to share?

A: I would be happy to share more about the impact of Alzheimer’s on the whole family. My 3 boys all became “Grammy sitters.” My oldest is now a Paramedic/Fire Fighter and he has had a situation where he recognized a patient’s issue was actually Alzheimer’s because her story sounded like a story he could imagine my Mom telling. My middle son is a junior at JMU. My youngest is a senior in high school and is also registered for this walk. I could talk about my Mom’s love for her Grand dog RBI (pronounced Ribby). We joke that my little bichon took her for daily walks, not the other way around. We made sure the dog had a name tag with my phone number on it in case my Mom got lost. When she moved into the nursing home my sister bought her a stuffed dog that looked similar to him. My Mom took that dog everywhere. I have since sent her two replacements because “he gets into things.” My brother organized a stuffed animal drive for my Mom’s nursing home because of the comfort these animals bring to the residents. My Mom tells us stories about taking her dogs for walks and watching him play. With Covid we were unable to visit my Mom for 18 months. (outside of me seeing her in a hospital in February when she had to have surgery for a broken hip after a fall). When we made the trip up to see her this past August, they only allowed 3 visitors at a time. So my two younger sons and I went in the first morning. (We planned to visit the three mornings we stayed there.) Later that afternoon an employee on another floor tested positive for Covid and with NY’s rules being so crazy, her entire facility was going into lock down. I thought my oldest wasn’t even going to be able to see her once, but we raced over at dinner time. This is when we saw “Nurse Amy” in full force. She was helping a resident who was crying. The only way to get her to leave this patient after a nurse told her she would step in so my Mom could visit with her family (I don’t think she knew us at this point) was to ask Nurse Amy to come to the cafeteria to help another patient. She reluctantly left and read the report to my older son (the paramedic). It was something I am so glad I saw, but it wasn’t the visit I wanted for my son. This wonderful home had given my mom purpose. I am grateful for that. My boys did not get to see their Grammy again that visit and I am not sure when I can get their schedules to work out to get them all there again. (They are 23, 20 and 17.) I was able to see her the next few mornings because I was listed as a “primary caregiver” that due to new guidelines allowed residents to still maintain some visitation. She was so isolated over Covid that a nurse found her one day looking through a family album crying. When she was asked why she was crying she said “They must all be dead.”