“TODAAT – take one day at a time” – is the code phrase that IU Health Foundation supporter Jerry Gonyo lives by. But as a caregiver for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, that phrase is more often than not easier said than done.
Jerry’s wife, Darlene, was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in 2002. They’d gotten married in 1963, had two children, and were living in Arizona. After Darlene’s diagnosis, Jerry retired so he could spend as much time, and make as many memories, with his wife as possible.
The decade that followed saw Darlene’s memory and cognitive ability decline. In 2012, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “At that time,” Jerry says, “we had done all that we could do.” Darlene began receiving home care and eventually moved into an assisted living facility, but by 2016, their adult children were concerned, not only about their mother but about Jerry’s well-being, too.
The couple moved to Bloomington to be close to family, and Darlene moved into a facility where she could have around-the-clock care. It was there, in Bloomington, that Jerry first became involved with the IU Health Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Service (ADRS), which provides support to professional and family caregivers.
Through it all, Jerry continued taking things one day at a time. And even as Darlene’s memories faded, Jerry worked to keep them alive. He gathered their extensive collection of scrapbooks and family photo albums, and on good days, would flip through them with Darlene, reminiscing on a life filled with adventures, family, and love. He even began decorating her room with photos and keepsakes, calling it a hands-on, visual way to remember their life together.
During this time, Jerry’s involvement with ADRS increased. He attended support groups, orchestrated events, and began volunteering as much as possible. After Darlene’s passing, Jerry wanted to do even more. “We had a good life together,” he says, and because I had a good career, I felt I could share financially and help somebody else extend their life, or find a good support group.”
That is exactly what Jerry did — funding a matching gift for all donations made to the ADRS during a recent IU Health Foundation campaign. The funds will go to provide support and resources to caregivers just like Jerry, who know firsthand what a difficult disease this is.
If you’d like to make a gift to support IU Health Bloomington ADRS and caregivers like Jerry, contact please contact IU Health Foundation Philanthropy Director Diane Buzzell.