Dave Fotsch's mother developed Alzheimer's as her husband's health deteriorated. When Fotsch's parents could no longer take care of themselves, he moved them to Boise to serve as their primary caregiver.
"My mom was his sole care provider. I think that just accelerated her descent into Alzheimer’s," said Fotsch. "They don't really know; the connections in the brain just don’t work they way they used to."
Fostch serves as public information officer for the Central District Health Department. Starting Saturday, June 30, he is embarking on a ride by bicycle from Boise to St. Louis, an 1,800-mile trip, to return his mother's ashes to her birthplace. He and a riding partner hope to raise funds to contribute to the Alzheimer's Association, as part of their "Longest Day" campaign. Or in this case, 18 long days.
"If I reach 20 mph—and that's a big if—that will be five hours in the saddle. But it's probably more like seven to eight hours per day," said Fotsch.
They've established a goal of $5,000 for the Take Mom Home team, payable through their website, comprised of Fotsch and friends Eric Lafferty, Denise Lauerman and Stephanie McCurdy. The website encourages anybody to join the pack on their trek for as short or long a distance as they please.
Fotsch's grandfather had similar symptoms back home in St. Louis toward the end of his life, undiagnosed at that time. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.4 million Americans suffer from the disease.
"What I’ve witnessed with my own eyes is how she lost her vocabulary. She played piano almost up to the very end, but she would play slower, and slower, and slower," Fotsch said. "It’s really tragic to watch someone that you know and love go through that."
The team will have support in the form of a camper following along the route. Fotsch will upload photos and construct blogs on a schedule based on his leftover energy. Chances are he'll be ready, he said.
"I've been training all winter," said Fotsch.