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Devoted son and wife walk to fight Alzheimer’s

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

FIGHT ALZHEIMERS: It began subtly: Rich Criscione’s mom wasn’t as organized as before. She was hearing music at night. But at 88 and living alone, she was still independent. She took buses to West New York to shop. She finished crossword puzzles in a snap.

Richard Criscione and Mama Lee

Then quickly, “Mama Lee” succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

This weekend, her son and his wife hope to raise money to fight the disease.

Criscione has a simple goal in mind for this Sunday’s 3-mile walk in Van Saun Park in Paramus: He wants to raise $1,680 — the number of hours he spent caring for his mom after a fall three years ago. She passed on June 1 of this year.

“My mom detested the idea of moving into a senior citizens building, so my wife and I moved her into my building, on our floor, after the fall,” Criscione told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“She was living on Anderson Avenue,” he said “but living on Gorge she had a little more trouble with transportation and keeping in touch with friends who lived near her old apartment.

“Then the symptoms began to surface: poor memory, trouble saying the proper words and overall personality changes. She was almost childlike. She had trouble getting to sleep. She kept walking and walking and not sleeping until, finally, she fell again. This time she broke her hip.

“She survived surgery, as well as pneumonia and sepsis in the hospital. She came home March 17.

“I did the lion’s share of her caretaking, along with hospice and private caretakers. I was with her from 6 at night until 8 in the morning. She didn’t have insurance to pay for 24/7 care, and I refused to let her die in a nursing home.

Rich and Ada Padron Criscione

“But the disease was progressing at a fast rate. At night she hallucinated and continually sobbed. She didn’t respond to most medications, either.

“We decided to bring her to ‘The Villa Claire Marie’ hospice to give her a chance to adjust to her meds – and give me a few days respite.

“She died four days later.”

For all the wonderful memories Criscione and his wife, Ada, have of his mom, the anguish of her demise is still tough.

“Lord Knows, my wife and I tried to maintain the best quality of life for her,” Criscione told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “My dad died suddenly in 1964 and left her with three children — 18, 14, and 8 —  I being the youngest. When she needed help the most, I was the one who stepped up.”

Now Criscione is asking others to do the same. You don’t have to walk if you don’t want to. Donations are being accepted. The Northern Regional Walk so far has raised nearly $206,000 before the first step has been taken.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s began in 1989, dedicated to raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. It has since mobilized millions of Americans, raising more than $347 million for the cause. Events are held every fall in nearly 600 communities nationwide.

All donations benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research.

To register and/or donate: WALK FOR ‘MAMA LEE’

“Thank you, everyone, for your help and consideration,” Criscione said.

The event begins at 10 a.m. Sunday at Van Saun Park in Paramus. Check-in is 9 a.m.

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