For the month of November, CREA is proud to recognize Alzheimer's Awareness by making a monetary contribution to the Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys cognitive functioning abilities (thinking, reasoning and remembering) and behavioral abilities essential to perform simple daily activities. It is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than six million Americans (mostly older adults).
The Alzheimer's Association is the foremost voluntary health organization in, and largest nonprofit funder of, Alzheimer’s care, research, advocacy, support, treatment and prevention efforts and initiatives. Working on a national and local level, the Alzheimer's Association strives to be the primary voice for Alzheimer's disease with an aim to accelerate global research in search of a cure and provide quality care, support and resources for everyone affected by dementias.
CREA Connection – Tony Bertoldi
CREA is especially proud to donate to organizations that support a cause our employees are passionate about and have a connection with. This month’s cause presents a personal connection with Co-President, Tony Bertoldi.
Tony Bertoldi joined CREA in October 2009 as SVP, Syndications. A little over two years ago, he was promoted to Co-President and now oversees the Syndications, Portfolio Management and Credit & Underwriting teams. Outside of work, Tony enjoys being active outdoors, playing tennis as often as possible, and spending time with his boxer puppies, named Aurora and Romulus (don’t worry, you can follow the adventures of this dynamic sibling duo on Instagram @aurora_and_romulus).
However, Tony still struggles to grapple with one difficult part of his story. Tragically, Tony’s father passed away from Alzheimer's disease on February 15, 2020. In hindsight, the timing of his passing right before COVID-19 was a blessing due to visitor restrictions and higher COVID-19 rates in congregate elderly care facilities.
Symptoms and Daily Life
Tony and his family started noticing warning signs five years prior. Upon looking back, Tony recognized that his mother even tried to disguise some signs, in denial of the cognitive decline of her husband.
Bilingual in Italian and English, Tony’s father lost his Italian language ability first. Tony remembers his father’s inability to coherently put Italian words together when they were trying to communicate with locals on a family trip to Italy.
Over time, Tony’s father began to not recognize family members, lost motor functions, and needed to be fed and bathed, bound to a wheelchair. In the last three years of life, he stopped talking entirely.
Tony’s father experienced a horrible deterioration, and the family felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Tony’s mother quickly required some home healthcare assistance to help aid her husband’s daily care activities and needs.
At the time, promising medications to help treat his symptoms and slow his decline did not exist, as more sophisticated medical research has been discovered today.
Memory Care Facility and End-of-Life
Following some uncontrollable incidents, Tony’s father moved into an assisted living facility that caters to people with memory care needs, together with a nursing home available on-site if required. This was a difficult transition for Tony’s mother; she visited her husband every day, well-knowing it was not always a pleasant encounter.
On a Sunday in mid-February, Tony’s father was stable, considering his advanced state of Alzheimer's disease. However, by mid-week Tony was informed that his father had taken a turn for the worse. Not imagining it was anything out of the ordinary, Tony embarked on a personal trip to Maine on Friday.
That Friday night, he received another phone call from his family. They were unsure how much longer his father had to live.
Quickly the next morning, Tony’s brother regrettably said that his father would not make it through the day. Tony immediately started to make his way to the assisted living facility.
Unfortunately, there was not enough time. His father abruptly passed away from a seizure and cardiac arrest before Tony could make it to the hospital.
Impact on Family Members
Alzheimer's disease fosters a horrible living reality for the individual, as well as close family and friends. It was only until after his father’s passing that Tony could look back and put the pieces together, concerning the progressive pattern of cognitive decline.
Tony reflects, “The saddest part is that there is nothing you can do for a person who is inevitably declining and cannot care for themselves anymore. The hardest part is that you do not understand what is happening when you are in it. Alzheimer’s manifests differently in everyone.”
This heartbreaking experience has deeply impacted Tony’s perspective. He is hopeful for advancements in medicine and medical technologies to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s today.
With the passage of time, Tony has become more accustomed to thinking about this part of his story. He discusses it often with friends and coworkers, grateful for their continued care and comfort. Tony focuses his charitable giving in supporting nonprofit organizations and fundraising efforts that center on Alzheimer’s disease.
Outlook and Advice
Based on his experience, Tony stresses to those with a loved one experiencing Alzheimer’s that while their loved one may not know who they are and may not be able to interact as a functioning adult, they are not at fault. Accepting the realities of the disease means not blaming oneself.
Yet, Tony makes clear that we ought to enjoy the precious time with loved ones with Alzheimer's and lean into the mutual comfort of family presence. Just sitting together feeding or grooming them—without expecting much reciprocation—is the best way to be present.
Tony closes, “Accept that the person you knew and loved is not the same person anymore. Be willing to let them go when they are ready, so they can peacefully rest in freedom from this horrible experience—it is not a good existence. We want our loved ones to have a dignified end-of-life, but this disease robs that privilege.”
While the memory of Tony’s father was mostly erased, Tony’s memories with him were not. Though the end was difficult to live through, there was a lifetime of joyful experiences with his father that are worth remembering and holding close to his heart.
For more detailed information regarding the warning signs, symptoms, stages, causes, treatments, prevention habits and caregiver support for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, we encourage you to check out these resources: