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An exhilarating yet heartbreaking moment in CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley’s career was when she strode on stage to moderate a 2012 presidential debate. It’s heart-racing to fulfill such an important role but heartbreaking when the last thought she had as she crossed the stage was “mom will never remember this.”

Crowley’s mom has Alzheimer’s disease and she shared their story at an Alzheimer’s Association policy event in Washington, DC last week.

“So many things I mourn,” Crowley said. “I was with her when I got the call when they asked me to do a presidential debate. She reacted and was there and was excited. It was the last thought when I went out on the stage that mom will never remember this. This great productive mind.”

She added to the crowd of more than 800 at the Renaissance Hotel: “You all have these stories. You know these stories.”

“I want to tell you how much I miss my mother. Bits of her are still there. …I miss her most when I’m sitting across from her,” Crowley said.

There were signs that the dementia was advancing, but family members did not glom on. “Was it that summer in Michigan when all the siblings decided her hearing was going because she kept asking us the same thing?,” she asked. (The family did have her hearing checked, but it was OK.)

Crowley also recounted a time when she took her mother to Europe. Crowley’s mom was the navigator on the trip. Crowley noticed one night while her mom was perusing the map and preparing for the next day that  “the map was completely upside down.”

“She was always quirky. She was always smart,” Crowley reminisced. But now “she is so unmoored in space and time. Nothing makes sense. She needs orienting every five minutes.” Crowley said she thought of her mother’s mind as if there were balloons floating inside and sometimes she grabs one. “Sometimes she grabs them all and the stories come out.”

Alzheimer’s “creates a kind of friction that the family needs to be strong for. You have to hold onto things and know what is true in life,” she said.

Crowley advised the association’s members who were poised to trek to Capitol Hill to discuss with lawmakers their cause to share their stories. She recommended putting all the facts and figures related to Alzheimer’s disease on a sheet, hand it to a lawmaker or their staff and then tell them “about the person you’re losing and what it’s done to your life. Congress is susceptible to stories and constituents. The story is what moves them. …What ever it is you’re thinking that you don’t want to talk about is probably what you should say.”

 

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