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Local resident to receive state honor

Monday, March 27, 2006 from Vindy.com

Her husband died, but a Valley resident continues to help people.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

WEST CHESTER — Her husband's Alzheimer's disease drastically changed Carolyn A. Haynali's life, and she in turn used that experience and knowledge to help make the lives of other caregivers more bearable.

For that and other longtime service to the community, Haynali will receive the Ohio Award for Elder Caregiving on May 17 at the Statehouse Atrium in Columbus.

Haynali, 71, of 14646 Ellsworth Road, was nominated for the award by her daughter, Denise Ramsey of West Chester. Ramsey described her mother as "one small voice that has reached all over the world with her mission to make a difference and to fight this terrible disease, Alzheimer's, that took my father."

Haynali's husband, Charles D. Sr., was 74 when he died of Alzheimer's on Jan. 17, 2004. His wife had taken care of him at home for six years, and then traveled several times a week to the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky to visit him the past four years before his death.

Mr. Haynali served in the U.S. Navy in the Korean War aboard the USS Wisconsin. The couple was married in 1953, and had two children, Denise, and Charles D. Jr. in New Hampshire. Mrs. Haynali has three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

When the bad news came

By the time her husband retired in 1991 from the Lordstown General Motors fabricating plant, he had suffered four heart attacks and survived a bout with prostate cancer.

"I thought that was the worst that would ever happen," she said in a telephone interview from her daughter's home in West Chester.

But it wasn't.

"When Chuck came to the recovery room after his prostate surgery, he didn't know where he was. They did a CT scan, and the doctor took me aside and said he has the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease," Haynali said.

"When I heard the word Alzheimer's, I didn't believe it. I was in denial for quite a while," she said.

But later developments forced her to face the issue squarely.

"My husband was very handy. He could fix anything. I asked him to put a light bulb in the lamp, and he looked at me and said, 'What do I do with this?'"

"He would come up to me and say, 'Where's my wife?' I'd say, 'I'm right here.' He'd get mad. Then I'd cry. I found out later he was looking for the younger woman I was when we married. But even knowing he was not being deliberately cruel, it was a stab in the heart," Haynali said.

Exhausted and desperate, she turned to the Internet for help.

Searching for help

Her husband had gotten her interested in the computer, but she had never learned to use the Internet.

"But, when he got sick he would keep me awake, and so I learned to go online," she said.

Carolyn found an online support group, but it folded. It was then she decided to create her own online group, the Caregivers Army, in 1999.

"I said, I need to help other people. There are others out there crying just like me who don't know where to turn. I didn't think my eyes would ever dry up," she said.

Since then, as spokeswoman for the Caregivers Army and Alzheimer's disease research, she has testified twice before the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's and has gathered about 200,000 signatures on a petition asking the federal government for more money for Alzheimer's research.

"Alzheimer's is going to be an epidemic in 10 to 20 years, as more and more people live longer," she said.

"The saddest part for me about Chuck's death is that he died not knowing his loved ones were with him," said Haynali, who has also become a poet and writes magazine articles.

Her writing

That emotion inspired her first article, "Into the Hands of Strangers: Placing a Loved One into a Nursing Home." She has also written articles for Today's Caregiver Magazine. Her "Poetry From the Heart by an Alzheimer's Caregiver" was published in 2004. Copies of the book of poems have been placed in the George G. Glenner Alzheimer's Family Center and the Ronald Reagan Memorial Library, both in California.

"She is a woman with a mission, and until her last breath will be a voice reaching others with her dedication and drive. She is a strong, intelligent woman ... with a heart for helping others," Ramsey said, in nominating her mother.

Haynali has received numerous local and state awards for her community service, primarily through the Caregivers Army.

"I never realized I did so many things when Chuck was sick," said Haynali, who is still trying to "pick up the pieces" after her husband's death.

"My caregiving days are over. Now, I have to reach out to others to keep this alive. I still want the message to get out there," said Haynali, who is also a member of the Lake Milton Assembly of God.

"We [caregivers] are depressed and exhausted, and we can feel alone and disconnected from life. The nights seem endless," she said.

She said U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts described caregivers as "unsung heroes."

"I have purpose in my life yet. I will speak in any place I'm asked, and whenever I can help someone get through what I went through, I will do it. Everybody needs somebody to listen," she said.

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