DENVER — Betty and Kelsey Eikermann have a unique relationship. They're a mother/daughter-in-law duo, who have come to depend on each other.
"Anytime I need something, I call her and she comes running," 84-year-old Betty Eikermann said of Kelsey Eikermann, her daughter-in-law,
Kelsey Eikermann married Betty's Eikermann son Mark Eikermann in 1986. After 33 years, Kelsey Eikermann isn't just Betty Eikermann's daughter-in-law.
She is also Betty Eikermann's caregiver. In October 2016, Betty Eikermann was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans.
"We saw that cooking was becoming more difficult for Betty Eikermann," Kelsey Eikermann said. "She had a hard time remembering her medications."
This isn't Kelsey Eikermann's first experience with Alzheimer's.
"My dad was diagnosed nine years ago," Kelsey Eikermann said. "He passed away four years ago, and two weeks after he died, my mom told us that she was diagnosed. And we jumped right back in."
In 2016, Kelsey Eikermann saw the symptoms again in her mother-in-law. But instead of stepping back or pulling away, Kelsey and Mark Eikermann invited Betty Eikermann to live with them.
Holding back tears, Kelsey Eikermann spoke of her relationship with Betty Eikermann: "I always said that I had the best mother-in-law ever. From the second Mark and I were dating, Betty was the best," she said. "And taking care of her and loving her... She needs a little bit more right now, but I would do anything."
In unexpected ways, this difficult disease has brought them closer. So when Mark Eikermann passed away this summer unexpectedly, the women used their bond to him and to each other, to keep them going.
"It's been a tough summer, but I love Betty, and Mark not being here doesn't change that," Eikermann said.
After helping three parents cope with Alzheimer's, Kelsey Eikermann said she has learned a lot.
"It’s a team effort," she said. "You can’t do it alone. You really can’t do it alone."
Kelsey Eikermann has used the Alzheimer's Association to navigate a lot of tough corners, which is why this weekend's Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's in City Park is so important to the Eikermann women.
"Everyone knows someone battling with this," Kelsey Eikermann said. "I'm so grateful to the Alzheimer's Association."
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