A local funeral director has made it a point to support research for a cure that will one day put an end to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Mark Grissom, owner of Grissom Funeral Home, will broadcast live from WOOP-FM over the airwaves and via the Internet from 6 a.m. Oct. 24 to 8 a.m. Oct. 25 to raise funds supporting the Alzheimer’s Association in memory of his mother, Patty Ann Grissom, who died of Alzheimer’s on Dec. 14, 2010.
“What started this was the filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz. If Sen. Cruz can stand up for 21 hours and talk about something so stupid, then I can stay up for 26 hours and talk about something that means so much,” he said.
Grissom said that in the latter stages of his mother’s illness, there were days when she confused him and his father. Her short-term memory was gone, but she remembered things from her childhood.
“Every day, everything with her was confusing,” he said. “She couldn’t remember what she had for breakfast that morning, but she could tell you who her doctor was that delivered her 76 years ago.
“For about five years before she died, she’d gotten worse; mini-strokes and things like that. About a year before she died, I moved my mom and dad up here from Florida so I could be closer to them and help take care of her,” Grissom said Tuesday in an interview at the funeral home his father, retired Church of God pastor Tom Grissom, now works.
In July 2010, his mother took a turn for the worse, “and that’s when doctors told us that she had terminal Alzheimer’s and from then on, it was just a matter of trying to make her comfortable.”
He and his father made the difficult decision to put his mother and Tom’s wife in a nursing home.
“From then until Dec. 14, she was in a nursing home. Dad couldn’t take care of her because she had to have 24-hour care,” he said. “But, there’s no question about it. Since her death, the Alzheimer’s Association is really special to me, and I want to do whatever I can do to [help] find a cure.”
The idea is to attract hourly sponsors for the broadcast. So far, he has 15 businesses, individuals and politicians lined up as sponsors and guests, such as JoJo Collins, who is coming in to play the guitar and sing, and restaurants are providing food.
In addition, Chattanooga Alzheimer’s Association Director Cindy Lowery will be on the air talking about the disease.
“Basically, every penny we raise from this marathon goes to the Alzheimer’s Association,” he said. “The little bit we can do at WOOP that day — but it’s more than about how much money we raise ... we want to bring awareness to the disease.”
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. It is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.
Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer's live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.
“The way doctors explained it to us, is the brain of Alzheimer’s patients shrink a little bit on a daily basis,” he said. “Two weeks before mom died, she contracted an infection. They gave her tons of antibiotics, but the brain couldn’t tell the antibiotics what they were supposed to do in her body. No matter how much antibiotics they gave her, it wouldn’t tell that medicine what to do to fight off that infection.”
Grissom said he does not know any statistics, but he does know that almost every family is affected in some way.
“Everyone has a family member or next of kin who has had it or has it and deals with it,” he said.
Anyone wishing to support Grissom with donations or as an hourly sponsor may call the radio station at 423-614-6553 or Grissom Funeral Home at 423-476-8575. On that day, people are encouraged to drop by the radio station located in the Village Green.
“We’ll take anything from a dollar bill to as much as they want to give,” he said.
Aside from the seriousness of the reason for the 26-hour marathon, Grissom says it will be a lot of fun.
“Probably about 2 in the morning I’ll just keel over,” he said.