Since being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Terrie Montgomery’s main goal is to live life the best that she can. As a breast cancer survivor, Terrie recognizes the importance of taking advantage of every day. May is Older Americans Month, and Terrie is a perfect example of someone who is an inspiration for all people, especially older adults, who are looking for ways to simply enjoy life.
“What I focus on is how can I make a difference and help people enjoy their life,” Terrie said.
Her outlook on life has certainly shifted since 2015 when she found out she had Alzheimer’s disease.
“I am more kid-like now,” she said. “Before the disease, I was very careful, you know, wanting to make sure I was professional at all times, that I say everything right, do everything perfect. But then having this disease, I’ve learned to enjoy life.”
She also explains that she lives her life “second by second.”
“Having Alzheimer’s has taught me to appreciate those that are valuable to you. Appreciate life, do those things that you probably never would have done, and don’t be afraid,” she said. “Enjoy your family, enjoy your friends, enjoy an ice cream cone in the middle of the day.”
Although she has a positive outlook, Terrie still faces challenges that come along with Alzheimer’s disease, such as issues with short-term memory.
“I am not 100 percent independent, each year losing a little bit more of my independence,” she said.
But despite these challenges, she stays active and is an inspiration for others living with the disease. In 2018, Terrie participated in the Alliance for Aging Research’s Senior Patient and Family Caregiver Network with her daughter. With support from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the Senior Patient and Family Caregiver Network trains older adult patients and family caregivers on patient-centered outcomes research and the clinical trials process. Terrie enjoyed the training and she said she learned about so many ways older adults can get involved in the research process.
“I found it to be an educational experience,” Terrie said. “For me, it was a great opportunity to see how we can raise awareness of clinical trials.”
She is also involved with the Alzheimer’s Association, raising money and speaking at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“I chose to share my story because I want to raise awareness, especially because many people may not know that Alzheimer’s can affect a younger group of people,” she said. “Sometimes we have a picture of older people having it, but there are people in my support group that are in their forties.”
The theme of this year’s Older Americans Month is Connect, Create, Contribute, and Terrie covers all those bases, especially through her writing. She has always loved to write, finding it therapeutic, and stays connected with others by sending daily inspirational emails.
For anyone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Terrie said it’s important to “start enjoying and focusing on the things that you are still able to do, and don’t look at the things that you can’t do anymore.”
Terrie encourages older adults looking to connect, create, and contribute to consider volunteering or looking for events in their local newspaper.
As for her future, she plans to stay connected by continuing her participation in the Alzheimer’s Association walks and writing her inspirational emails. She has also recently started to enjoy dancing and hula-hooping.
“I’ve just learned to appreciate the very small things in life,” Terrie said.