WALLINGFORD – “I think the pandemic didn’t help because of the isolation,” says Teresa Sheehan, looking towards her husband, Jack, who has declined in recent days.
The 58-year-old has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. His grandchildren crowd around the man they call “Pa”.
“When they’re playing in the living room, they’re just talking amongst themselves, all of a sudden he’ll start laughing because you know he hears them,” says Teresa.
“They know exactly how to handle it and for young kids to be able to control that energy and that volume is kind of amazing to watch,” adds Jack’s stepdaughter, Amanda Lynn.
But many moments are extremely tough. “Seeing how it affects all of us,” says Amanda.
The family remembers the man who coached basketball for 35 years, even continuing after his diagnosis.
“It got a little harder not because he didn’t understand the coaching but because he was having trouble expressing himself,” says Teresa, noting that his step-daughter, Christina, stepped in to help and be his voice.
“I told him I’d do it as long as he wanted to do it because he didn’t want to quit,” explains Christina. “It was nice to know that I helped him do something he loved.”
Inevitably, in 2018, Sheehan stopped coaching the Hamden Father’s League.
“At the awards ceremony, he asked me to speak for him because he wasn’t able to,” says Christina.
Family, friends and former colleagues formed The Jack Pack, a different kind of team, one that takes part in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“It’s nice to see all the people come together to support our family,” says Amanda through tears.
“They have the flowers. They ask what it means to you,” says Christina. “That’s when it gets me every time.”
It’s all about finding a cure so another family doesn’t feel this pain.
“It’s devastating to watch, especially someone so young,” says Teresa.
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