CLEVELAND — With the advancement of COVID-19 vaccines, Thanksgiving will look a lot more normal for many Ohio families.
The house of Karen Jones’ mother has plenty of pictures full of memories she treasures.
“This was us in 2000. We took the kids to Disney World, and everywhere we’ve ever gone, my mother has always been there. She is our rock. She is the wind beneath our wings,” explained Karen.
Karen, a Cleveland-area teacher, had to move back into this house when her mother, Inez, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s around 10 years ago and became her mother’s caretaker. The news was devastating and life-changing.
“Every day is different. When you think you’ve mastered one part of the journey, something else happens, then you have to kind of just pivot and then handle that, but there’s been a lot of laughs on this journey, been a lot of tears,” said Jones.
And when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, seeing children and grandchildren became more difficult. Karen found ways to adapt, like getting her mother a portal to chat with her grandkids.
“It actually helps them call more because they’re able to see her, she doesn’t have to hold a phone because when she’s holding a phone, she’s always trying to tap the phone so this, just sitting here and she talks to them and they stay in touch and one son actually calls, and he will cook his whole meal while he’s talking to her,” explained Karen.
Karen and Inez’s family is one of many that had to do Thanksgiving a little differently in 2020. The family still got together, but did so with masks and other safety guidelines. This year, everyone is fully vaccinated. They’re looking forward to celebrating with four generations of family members in Washington, D.C., where they'll create more memories with a new great-grandchild.
“We feel a lot more comfortable than we did last year, even just the opportunity to go out and do something else and just not be in the house the entire time we’re there for Thanksgiving,” said Jones.
As the family prepares for a more traditional holiday, Karen is staying active as a board member with the Alzheimer’s Association, hoping to help other families like hers and continuing to make memories with her mom.
“When she gets ready to go to bed and I’m tucking her in and I tell her I love her, and she always tells me that ‘I love you too,’ and that ‘you’ll never know how much,’ and that ‘I really appreciate you.’ So to hear her say that almost every night is just a blessing, and it warms my heart and my soul to know that I’m trying to do everything I can for my mom,” said Karen.