Jessica’s Story - Alzheimer’s Research

Jessica Koehler of the Department of Transportation stands smiling.

My cause is Alzheimer’s research. Three years ago, my mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at 65. At the age of 35, it never even crossed my mind that I would be having to deal with a parent who had Alzheimer’s, so I had no idea what was wrong when my mother started asking me the same questions over and over again and calling me daily from across the country because she had driven somewhere and forgotten where she parked. As an only child I was terrified. Jessica Koehler of the Department of Transportation stands arms spread and smiling.

My mother was divorced and living on her own and I was living in Washington D.C. while she was in Colorado. She had been so independent, and now she couldn’t even remember the simplest of things. My mom and I were close; we talked on the phone daily, laughed and cried together, had numerous adventure; my mom was my rock. I began navigating a new world with her as she lost the ability to communicate, take care of herself, and became a shell of what she formerly was. In three short years I have had to come to terms with the terminality of my mother’s illness. With every progression of the disease, the doctors can’t tell me when the next progression will come or how much longer I have with her because they know so little about the disease. People keep reassuring me that she is not aware of her illness, that I am the one who is suffering the most, but no one truly knows, so I just keep telling her how much I love her, so she knows I am there.

Jessica Koehler, Department of Transportation