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Longtime Abilene educator battles Alzheimer's with her family's help

By Kristen Pope, Reporter, kpope@ktxs.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:19:56 AM CST
Updated On: Sep 24 2013 11:45:29 AM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Alzheimer's is a disease without a cure and it respects no one.

About 5.2 million people in the United States are living with the disease. Alzheimer's takes its toll, not only on the person it affects but also on the family. The Ashford family went through some challenging times when doctors determined their matriarch, Ernestine had Alzheimers.

Ms. Ernestine Ashford was an educator for 40 years, 36 of those were spent in the Abilene Independent School District.  Her son Aaron Ashford is also a teacher in AISD at Craig Middle School. He said the irony of this disease is that it's deteriorating the mind of such a great educator.

"Mama is a live wire," Aaron Ashford said, with a high I.Q. She was a high achieving lady, very active in her community. Very active in church."

The diagnosis of the disease in Ernestine took a toll on the family.

"When it comes to the family, we're all still having to deal with this," Aaron Ashford said. "It's still some what of a shock to see a person that is really gregarious and outgoing come to this."

Aaron and his daughter Briarston said the Alzheimer's disease has given their relationship new meaning. 

"It's drawn us closer, because I've had to work with her and having to show love more and be involved in her life at this stage," Aaron Ashford said.

"It's just more to love," Abilene High School student Briarston Ashford said. "Knowing that she might not be there all the time later in life, so you might as well cherish the moments now."

When asked how Ernestine feels she said," How would you say that your ways and actions are affecting you. You can't say, because they're all natural with you, and so it is with I. I am still natural with myself, Ernestine Ashford."

There's still one thing for sure Ernestine has not forgotten; her sense of humor.

"Now what's another word for humor," Ernestine asked her son Aaron. "You're funny," Aaron said "Funny old woman...thank you very much," Ernestine laughed.

There are ten signs and symptoms to look for when seeking to diagnose the Alzheimer's disease:

1. Memory loss
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
3. Problems with language
4. Disorientation to time and place
5. Poor or decreased judgement
6. Problems with abstract thinking
7. Misplacing things
8. Change in mood or personality
9. Trouble understanding visual images
10. Loss of initiative

If someone you know is showing signs, call the Alzheimer's Association of Abilene.
(325)-672-2907.