MOUNT VERNON — Bill Lukov of Mount Vernon said the first time he heard about the Morey Skaret Leadership Award was when he was told he had received it.
The award is given each year by the Washington chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to a support group volunteer whose leadership has made a significant difference in the lives of people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Lukov said the volunteer work he’s done for the Alzheimer’s community has been his way of giving back to the community that helped him through his own encounters with Alzheimer’s.
“It’s basically a debt that I can never repay totally,” said Lukov, who received the award for 2022. “It was partly because of them that I was able to get through (my own experiences with Alzheimer’s and dementia).”
Lukov’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1996 at age 56. A few years later, his mother received a diagnosis of dementia.
While working full time, Lukov became caregiver to both his wife and mother.
Struggling and worn out, he contacted the Alzheimer’s Association, which suggested he attend one of its support groups for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients.
“When I went, it was like this weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Lukov said. “Here’s a group of people going through the same things that I’m going through — some of them farther along than my wife was, some not — but I knew that this would be a group I could learn from.”
The conditions of Lukov’s wife and mother progressed slowly until they both died in 2008, he said.
“Somebody described (Alzheimer’s) as death by a thousand cuts,” Lukov said. “It’s slow. It’s gradual. It’s expected, … but even when it does come, it’s a little bit of a shock.”
In 2010, when the Alzheimer’s Association needed a new volunteer support group leader in Bellevue, Lukov agreed to take charge.
He has been volunteering to facilitate support groups and has been helping with Alzheimer’s Association classes since then, and when he moved to Mount Vernon in 2019, he founded a new caregiver support group — the Mount Vernon Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, he said.
The new support group was placed on hold for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but resumed in April and plans to meet on the third Wednesday of each month at the Mount Vernon Senior Center.
The support group is looking for more members, Lukov said.
Since 2002, Lukov has also participated in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which raises funds for Alzheimer’s awareness and treatment, and he joined a Walk to End Alzheimer’s planning committee in Burlington in 2021.
Fourteen years after the death of his wife and mother, Lukov is still saddened by what they went through, but the Alzheimer’s support community and doing service for others has provided him comfort, he said.
Support group members keep in touch between monthly meetings and have events throughout the year such as summertime barbecues and Christmas parties, Lukov said.
“It’s kind of (become) family,” he said.