By Alzheimer’s Association, Special for USDR
The successful careers of sisters Yassmin and Karmine Alers on Broadway mirror the show they currently perform in: ON YOUR FEET! the true story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan—two people who believed in the power of their music, their love, and the American Dream. Karmine is a swing member of the cast, and Yassmin is part of the singing and dancing ensemble.
The demands of a Broadway career are something the sisters thrive on, but Yassmin and Karmine, along with their sister and two brothers also took on the role of caregivers for their mother Carmina, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, one year after the death of her husband of 60 years. “At first, we thought it was just grief she was suffering from, after the loss of our father,” said Karmine. “But gradually the symptoms became something different. And then, one day the moment came when Mom went to the corner store and couldn’t find her way back home. Then we knew this was more than depression and we needed more information and better answers. That’s when we found the Alzheimer’s Association on the internet.”
After rehearsals and 8 performances per week, the sisters would travel to the Bronx to check on Mom. Yassmin would focus on medication management and doctor appointments; Karmine specialized in keeping her Mom’s hair and clothes organized and looking good. Eventually, a home attendant was also needed for a few hours a day, eventually escalating to 24/7. All five siblings took turns visiting on weekends.
“Mom was frustrated by her memory lapses, and was becoming increasingly more anxious, paranoid and confused. She was becoming reclusive” said Yassmin. “We had a family discussion to decide whether to tell her she had Alzheimer’s disease, and we all thought if we were in her position, we would want to know.” Once her condition had a name, the family got more organized, writing down routines and schedules, and more able to focus on the future.
One of Yassmin and Karmine’s biggest disappointments is that Alzheimer’s disease has prevented Carmina from seeing ON YOUR FEET! and she will never have the opportunity to see two of her daughters performing together on Broadway. They are performers today because of the exposure they had to musical theater as children and because of their Mom’s personal love for the arts.
“We became more involved with the Alzheimer’s Association last year when we read about The Longest Day, a program that demonstrates your love for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease,” stated Yassmin. “On the summer solstice in June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks that you select any activity you love — or an activity loved by those affected — and to perform it. These personal acts of love help raise awareness for care and support while raising funds for research.”
Yassmin and Karmine decided to reach out to the homeless. Their mother would give a meal to anyone who showed up at her door hungry. Before their Broadway show, they distributed bottles of water and fruit to the homeless around Penn Station and the Port Authority. “We spread our efforts out for more than two weeks, and we were deeply moved by the responses to this kindness,” said Karmine.
After this experience, Yassmin and Karmine were both eager to stay involved with the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. They performed and participated in the Promise Garden Ceremony at both the Queens and Brooklyn Walks to End Alzheimer’s this fall, and the family continues to take advantage of the information and resources the Alzheimer’s Association offers to help their family cope with the disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care support and research. The mission of the Alzheimer’s Association is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through brain health. To learn more, visit alz.org/nyc or call 800.272.3900, anytime.
SOURCE Alzheimer’s Association