A musical advocate for Alzheimer's

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Edwin Scherzer | February 11, 2014

MADISON — “Patience is a virtue” is a phrase many of us have heard, however, it would seem to fall on deaf ears these days. In our lightning-paced, digital age society, we expect everything on demand, streaming into our lives.

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But for those around Alzheimer's patients, patience is a precious commodity. Karen Wheelock has the patience many of us could use — or at least could learn from.

Wheelock, 30, grew up on a town of Darien farm. These days she lives in the Madison area, where she sings and writes songs, edits for an online music magazine and regularly plays in assisted living facilities.

Wheelock became connected to Alzheimer's when the disease claimed her grandmother shortly after high school graduation.

“I will never forget the last day I saw her,” Wheelock said. “She didn't recognize me or anyone around her, and she needed help just turning over in bed.”

Like so many losing a loved one to a fatal disease, Wheelock learned all she could, admitting she didn't know much at first.

“I didn't really understand Alzheimer's at the time, and the disease is more common than people might think,” she said.

She also didn't know continuing education was in her future as her mother, Barb, also was diagnosed with the disease nearly a dozen years later. Wheelock has learned to listen patiently when talking with her mother, who is diagnosed as being in the moderate stages of the disease.

“She will ask me the same question about 10 times in 10 minutes, and each time, it will be like a new question to her,” Wheelock said about her mom, 69. “I have learned to be patient, and just answer it like I'm answering it new each time.”

Growing up on a farm didn't make Wheelock an advocate for Alzheimer's. But Wheelock's father, Dale, believes it didn't hurt either.

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