Memories are for my father

Dear Editor,

Our Honorable Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga has declared November as the Alzheimer’s Awareness Month to highlight the importance of learning about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia related diseases and to support our loved ones with such diseases and families.
We share once again the following editorial written in 2019.

Today, our parents reside in Loma Linda, California; Our mother Etenauga Lam Yuen Lutu remains the stronghold of our family as our father’s Alzheimer’s Disease has progressed with all of its debilitating effects slowly showing true as promised. As we witness our father’s conversation and abilities slowly disappear, we remain grateful as he is nevertheless healthy overall; his smile has not faded, his song and praise of His Lord Savior is intact and his gentleness and calmness remains. Love and Support of a family are so essential to live with Alzheimer’s Disease. It is all that we have to hold on to, to keep our memories for our father. God Bless all our caregivers and loved ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia-related diseases.

My memories are for my father
By Christinna Lutu-Sanchez *Reprint from 2019*

A few times now, my father says he is waiting for his ride to go home, but he is at home. When he sees me, there is a glimmer of recognition before he starts to talk about his ride to take him home. My father Afoa—an avid fisherman and golfer—he loves to spend time with his children, grandchildren and everyone else that he has treated and loved as his own throughout his life.

Our father was diagnosed a few years ago with early stages of dementia and subsequently with Alzheimer’s—an incurable disease. Our mother, my siblings and I entered a strange world that we were not used to could not comprehend. For all of our lives, my father’s advice has been sought by all not only as a successful lawyer but mostly as a father figure to his family, his church, his village, his community.

Our father is notorious for his giving heart, his compassion, kindness and reassurance that always provided comfort to anyone that was troubled with a warm smile and guarantee to “Trust in the Lord, and everything will be ok”. He welcomes anyone to sit with him and talk endless stories. In our struggle to make sense of this disease, we have learned that this disease affects every single person on island through a loved one or a neighbor.

It is not a disease that our community likes to discuss openly as there are many unknowns and factors that even the brightest in the world do not understand. It does affect one’s ability to remember, and each person is affected differently. We know that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and the progression is sure for all that are affected. The most valuable way to cope with Alzheimer’s is to have a strong and sure system of family support and love.

Everyone needs to be patient, be loving and to be aware that the affected family member may not be in control of their memories or thoughts, but that they are the exact same person, just one with Alzheimer’s Disease. My father spent all his life taking care of others, helping others and teaching all of us to care for our families and others of lesser means.

Regardless of his financial obligations, he would give the last dollar in his pocket to anyone that approached him for help. It was this compassionate, kind and generous side of him that inspired him to found in 2004, the Agency for Better Living Endeavors (A.B.L.E.) to solidify his commitment to care for and support the people that he loves, his island community of American Samoa. ABLE’s programs provides avenues to help improve the lives of people especially children.

Since 2019, through a newly-elected board revived by Afoa’s children, ABLE is dedicating its efforts to Raising Awareness for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease. November was recognized by President Ronald Reagan as the National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and ABLE dedicates this month to all our loved ones with Alzheimer’s. On behalf of our mother, Etenauga, my siblings and the board and volunteers of A.B.L.E., we invite all to share your personal experiences or challenges so that we are able to provide a stronger support as a community for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s or any other dementia related diseases.

Please join us, HC Afoa Lutu, family and village for a wave on November 1st at Utulei Beach to show that we care and that we are committed to providing the support and love that is required by our loved ones with alzheimer’s disease.

There are several discussions and talk shows scheduled throughout the month of November to raise awareness in our community, and this campaign will conclude on November 24th, 2021 with a Family Gratitude Day at Utulei Beach with the theme: MAKING MEMORIES: We commit family love, support, our gratitude, our memories, our hope and faith and our Trust in our Lord for our loved ones with alzheimer’s and dementia related diseases.

Please join us in supporting our loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia related diseases, please visit our FB page: @AgencyForBetterLivingEndeavors or call us: Kimberly Lutu-Fuiava at 254-2929, Elinor Lutu-McMoore at 256- 1334, Sandra Fuimaono Lutu at 254-7791 or myself at 252-2222. God Bless.