Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness
The Hill is an amazing place. The Sisters of Charity settled on what was a farm and turned it into a sanctuary for young people to grow and learn. The sisters lead by their example. Even as their numbers dwindle, their impart is felt by everyone who experiences The Hill. “Hazard Yet Forward” motto is painted above the dining hall entrance.
Sister Lois Sculco, S.C., PhD
Sister Lois died in April. She was a remarkable woman. The Sisters of Charity and the Seton Hill University community feels the pain of losing her.
Her remembrance reads in part:
“A native of New Kensington, Pa., Sister Lois graduated from Seton Hill with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and English in 1960 and then entered the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. She celebrated her 60-year Jubilee in 2020. Sister Lois served in a variety of roles during her tenure at the University, including Assistant Dean of Women, Dean of Students, Mission Officer, Vice President for Mission Identity and Student Life, Administrator of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, and most recently as Executive Director to the President for Alumni Engagement and Mission, the role from which she retired in 2019. “
United Farm Workers
I knew Sister Lois since I was young teenager. She had me passing out buttons supporting a boycott of table grapes and iceberg lettuce to help the California’s United Farm Workers in my public high school (in a dairy farm community 3000 miles from migrant farm workers). None of that mattered to me, she taught me to advocate for vulnerable people’s rights.
Kicked the Habit
Sister Lois was a trail blazer. She lived in a rented house with a bunch of other sisters on an ordinary street wearing, well, normal clothes. There was nothing that gave away their mission of service, they looked like the rest of us. I admired how cool and progressive she was since all the sisters I knew, up to then, dressed in habits and lived in convents.
My Guiding Light
I was Sister Lois’s work study student as an undergraduate. I made her life a living hell and she loved me. She has been a constant advisor and friend till the time of her death. In fact, I asked for her permission to marry my husband. She often reminded me of that fact. Over the years, I visited her with my sons every summer up north. She visited me when her travels brought her south. She attended my family funerals. I knew it was her when she called because she pronounced my name “Mauhneecah” with that familiar Pittsburgh accent and then she would giggle.
Looking back, Sister Lois was showing signs of dementia years ago. Over a decade before her death, I was told she was falling in her apartment. She lived alone. I attempted to install fall detection devices, but she would not have it. Six years ago, I noticed she was shuffling her feet. I questioned her but she dismissed my concerns. She was proud of her good health and believe not going to the doctor for check-ups was smart.
Amazingly, the support of her community and friends enabled here to remain active and engaged as the disease progressed. Sister Lois moved into the mother house to live her final years with the other sisters. The staff of Caritas Christi took such great care of her, as they do all the sisters. The Sisters of Charity community is a shining star for Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. All these women treat each other with dignity and respect.
Alzheimer’s Disease Impact
Referred to as the long, slow good-bye, Alzheimer’s Disease rates are increasing. According to the National Institutes on Health, 6.2 million Americans were diagnosed in 2021 at a time when social isolation and loneliness were soaring. According to the NIH, the number could be 13.6 million by 2060. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates the cost of dementia treatments as $305 billion in 2020 with expectation to reach $1.1 trillion by 2050.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 16 million people are now providing unpaid care services to people with brain diseases. This trend is not sustainable as family size shrinks while number of people requiring care continues to grow.
Longest Day Campaign #ENDALZ
I dedicate this year’s longest day campaign to dear Sister Lois. Her life was dedicated to serving vulnerable people. Please join me in supporting the #ENDALZ campaign.