As I sit down to write this statement, I reflect back over the years, years that were filled with pain and heartache, but that were also filled with growth, determination, compassion, and an overflowing of love. As I look back, there is one distinct reason for why I decided to pursue a degree in health and human services—Alzheimer’s disease. This neurological disease profoundly affected my development and helped create the person I am today. This neurological disease quite literally ripped me out of my comfort zone when I was nineteen years old and threw me into an unfamiliar world that helped guide me toward a future in Health and Human Services.
My story begins back in October of 2004 when I drove my mother to Kaiser for a Geriatrics appointment. I can still hear and feel the pain when Dr.Lee explained, “Jacquie I am so sorry, but your mother has early onset Alzheimer’s disease.” At that moment, I felt my world closing in. It was just my mom and I, we were a team—my dad was already gone. I did not know it then, but this was the moment that started my journey. I was not just about to embark upon a journey of self-discovery, but also a journey of becoming a Health and Human Services worker within the older adult population.
During the first stages of my mother’s disease, I saw the strong, kind, loving, and hard working mother I knew become a violent, aggressive, paranoid, and confused woman. I did not understand the transformation. I wanted to crawl under a rock much of the time—I was scared and lost. She would yell, “I hope you die, I hope you get hit by a bus and it kills you, you are the devil.” All I could think was, “My mother hates me.” At these times when I felt weak and lost, I would call Steve Green, the Social Worker from the Geriatric department. He always managed to comfort and guide me by saying, “remember, this is the disease talking not your mother. You can do this, and I am here with you every step of the way.” His kindness, hard work, and passion helped fuel my own desire to pursue a career in Social Work and Geriatrics.
During the middle stages of my mother’s disease, I saw her lose her independence; her disease was progressing quickly; she had to rely on me for assistance in all of her day-to-day activities. I bathed her, dressed her, brushed her hair, and fed her. The roles had reversed right in front of my eyes—the woman I called mom, now called me mom, and I referred to her as my “little girl.” Living with Alzheimer’s was emotionally and physically exhausting. I was fortunate to have a Social Worker who talked me through, and walked alongside me through every stage of a paralyzing disease. Steve was not only my Social Worker he was my support system. His constant support made my desire to become a Social Worker even stronger.
The final stage of my mother’s disease had arrived. In November of 2010 my mother, my “little girl,” was diagnosed at stage seven of Alzheimer’s disease—she was terminal. Steve had prepared me for this moment from day one. His last words to me before he introduced me to Irene, who would be my Social Worker now that my mom was in Hospice, were “You were a great advocate for your mother, I am proud of you and your mother would be very proud of you too.” I realized in that moment that my mom, my sweet innocent little girl, had given me the life experience I needed to make a difference in the lives of families that are experiencing what I had already experienced—she gave me a hands on education you can’t find in a classroom.
The end came on November 15, 2010. The Hospice nurse whispered the words “Time of death, 5:30am.” She was gone, but with the support and guidance of the Social Workers, I was able to assist my mom in her transition from life to death. It was a beautiful experience. I hope to one-day help others understand and accept the aging process through the same guidance and support that was given to me. I quit my career of six years in banking, shortly after my mom died, and enrolled back in school. Death came with new beginnings and a new journey in my education.
Attending California State University Monterey Bay has assisted me in my pursuit of one day becoming a Social Worker in the field of Geriatrics. I look forward to one day being able to walk alongside, help prepare, educate, and support families through their loved ones disease and extended care process. Above all, I hope to share the beauty and reality that are involved in caring for a loved one. The unique program and curriculum that CHHS offers is broad for an ever-changing and growing health field. I will be a stronger and better equipped professional because of this program. The uniqueness of this program expands my resume and my levels of expertise and knowledge in different areas like: public health, public administration, program planning, social work, and social work with older adults.
In conclusion, the knowledge, skills, and hands-on experiences I have gained from the CHHS program will be a tremendous asset to me in the future. As hard as it was to take care of my mother all those years, to watch her slowly slip away, to battle through all the heartaches and ugliness, I am blessed to have had the experience for it led me here. So many people talk of the pain and suffering that they went through when dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s. I find myself remembering all the beautiful moments and hope to help others find moments like those. The Collaborative Health and Human Services program at California State University Monterey Bay has been a great beginning to this new chapter; a great beginning that will lead to infinite possibilities.
Printable Version: Rousseaux-J_Professional Statement