At 24 years old, Brittney Williams became a full-time caregiver to her mother with Alzheimer’s and parent to her four youngest siblings. Though met with challenges, Brittney’s powerful testimony shows that love always wins. She shares her story with BlackDoctor.org below.
On October 18, 2013, the day before my 26th birthday, I buried my mother. Her death was neither shocking nor unexpected; she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease five years prior, at the young age of 49.
The illness had been a calculated and insidious thief, robbing us of her bit by bit. Along the way, I stepped into the role of full-time care provider to my mom; I sometimes marvel at the fact that I even made it through the immensely trying experience. I marvel even more at my youngest four siblings—aged 15, 14, and 13 (twins) when I assumed the role—who in helping me, were required to step up in ways that far exceeded their years.
The time I spent as a caregiver began with failure. I returned home in the summer of 2011 after being suspended from the University of Michigan—where I was a sixth-year senior—for academic reasons. My mom’s diagnosis during my junior year had broken me, and several semesters marked by failed courses and late withdrawals followed.
Three months after I came back, my father was offered a coaching position in another state, and left almost immediately to start. Consequently, a woefully unprepared 24-year-old me was tasked with organizing a cross-country move, providing full-time care to my mother, and toeing the line between big sister and parent to my youngest four siblings.