Agent Spotlight: Jason Skipworth honors his loving and adventurous great-grandmother with his dedicated involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association
DC Living Real Estate partner Jason Skipworth goes above and beyond for his clients, helping them find the home of their dreams. Enjoying all that life has to offer is something Jason inherited from his great-grandmother. Her battle with Alzheimer’s disease and the affect it had on his family led to Jason’s desire to advocate for stronger awareness, better treatment and ideally a cure.
When Jason was a child, it was always a treat to make the two-and-a-half-hour trip to spend time with his great-grandparents.
“From an early age, I could tell that they would travel, and they were just constantly going on all of these adventures,” Jason said. “They bought a couple of condos on the beach, and they were constantly going to the beach. They bought a boat and an RV.”
These fun-filled trips occurred when his great-grandparents were in their 60s and continued until they were in their 80s.
“I didn’t grow up like that with my parents in my household,” Jason said. “My great-grandparents were an inspiration for me. I really loved them, and I thought these are really exciting great-grandparents and not something I expected to see from people in old age.”
The traveling had to stop when Jason’s great-grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and her behavior changed. Jason said his great-grandmother began to talk about people who weren’t present as if they were there. And she would talk about her parents as if they were alive, and talk about her children as if they were still young.
In the beginning, Jason’s great-grandfather took care of his great-grandmother as best he could, but Jason’s great-grandmother’s condition worsened.
“Family had to really encourage my great-grandfather to get her to a place with proper care,” Jason said. “It was a sad demise for me to see from this woman who was so vibrant and really lived life to the fullest out of anybody in my family.”
When she moved, Jason went with his mom and grandmother to spend time with her. In the beginning, Jason said his great-grandfather was driving between 45 minutes to an hour every day to visit his sweetheart, but at his progressing age, it became unsustainable.
The daily visits dwindled to a couple times a week, and then down to just once a week for him. Jason said, “It was very challenging for him. It just really broke his heart. It was a sad thing to see and experience, visiting him, and him talking about her. He died four years after her, and at his age, he had other ailments, but I always felt like he died of a broken heart.”
The story of Jason’s great-grandfather helped him to recognize the mental and physical exhaustion experienced by an Alzheimer’s caregiver.
“I don’t want to take away from any other situation where someone is a caregiver, but when you are dealing with physicality and mentality [impairment], I think that just adds an extra level of stress and pressure because you can’t make sense of things with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Jason said. “People think that if they keep saying something like, ‘Don’t you remember,’ that somehow, they are going to make the person come around, and that’s just not the case. You just have to learn to go with the flow with them and change the subject or brush it off when their memory challenges are giving them frustration.”
It was after the passing of his great-grandmother when Jason decided to honor her in a profound way.
“My great-grandmother always resonated in my mind, my memories and my heart,” Jason said. “I needed to find something to get involved in and give back. That love and affection for her and how she lived life, that just stuck in my mind, and I thought I want to be a part of helping the Alzheimer’s Association.”
Jason has been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area Chapter since 2008. His contribution began with an annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which raises funds to help bring awareness to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
In addition to the annual walks, Jason has also volunteered as a companion to patients. For a time, he volunteered in a senior day care that specialized in caring for those with Alzheimer’s, and he was later assigned to visit an elderly gentleman in a different care facility.
Jason visited the man frequently. The wife was still living in their home, Jason said. It was a situation similar to his great-grandparents. She could no longer care for him, and he had to go to a care facility.
“The wife just reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association, looking for someone outside to be an additional visitor for her husband for engagement and enjoyment,” he said.
Jason said his involvement makes him feel hopeful and provides a sense of comfort because there is community among those with a family member or friend suffering from Alzheimer’s.
“When you are in those environments of a senior care facility or going to a meeting or a walk, advocacy forums, things like that, you just learn so many other people’s stories,” he said.
Jason said there is also comfort that comes from a larger community of people who are helping as caregivers and searching for better solutions and care.
“Bringing awareness to the government, for funds for the organization, for trials and research, give me hope that we are on the cusp of a cure,” Jason said. “I just hope that awareness continues to grow, even if folks aren’t currently affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia in their families.”
Jason said he appreciates what the Alzheimer’s Association does for people like his great-grandmother and their loved ones as well as the opportunities they give others to get involved and raise awareness. He added that their advocacy work to government has been invaluable to effecting change.
“We are all potentially impacted by [Alzheimer’s], as our parents and ourselves could be affected by it in our old age,” Jason said. “The more we can all address it collectively; I think that will be better for us.”
For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association, click here.