In the Franks Jennings family both parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia within one year of each other. Early in 2008, the mother, Wilhelmina Franks Jennings, was diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s and Dementia. A year later, father Rashford C. Jennings was diagnosed with AD in 2009 followed by the Dementia diagnosis in 2010.
One of the couple’s sons, Anthony, then a full-time senior high school teacher, lived in the home with them as the primary caretaker. He recalled, “They had memory loss at different stages. Father would frequently open the door and leave the house alone.”
The son continued, “Mother passed away after entering the stage of confusion no longer recognizing her telephone number or the name of her youngest son, Barrington, then deceased.” Six years after their mother’s death, their father reached the final stage and lost physical control before passing away. Anthony’s advice: The caretaker needs a plan and support team.
Anthony Jennings retired from teaching in 2020 and now reflects on his life’s work. Highlights during his 16 years as a social science teacher at Miami’s Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Overtown included creating the College Readiness curriculum and co-founder of the Overtown Cookbook project, adopted by the NFL for its 2007 Super Bowl awareness program.
The Franks Ward family immigrated to Miami’s Colored Town, now Overtown, in the late 1890s. An elementary school teacher, Wilhelmina Franks Jennings was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Egollec Club, and St. Agnes’ Episcopal Church. Franks and Jennings married in 1952. Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, he was a U.S. merchant marine and worked on the building of the Panama Canal before immigrating to Miami.
Their son, Anthony, has expressed interest in writing a book about the family’s history and struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. His sister, Patricia Jennings Braynon, and her husband, Oscar Sr., both retired county administrators, are African-American genealogists with research to contribute. She chairs the board of directors at The Black Archives Lyric Theater located in historic Overtown.
In the past, resources for families affected by Alzheimer’s were very limited. Now help is available to those 65 + years old who have Alzheimer’s Disease or who are undiagnosed and are experiencing noticeable memory loss.
At the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics – University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the clinical research team provides information about the disease, referrals to resources, and opportunities for volunteer participation in clinical trials.
Evaluations are conducted by phone and video conference in English, French and Haitian Creole.
You can schedule an appointment for a memory evaluation by calling (305) 243-1981 or email questions to: [email protected]. Participants will receive a gift card for completed evaluations.
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Ph.D. is a consultant to the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, project: WHY WE CAN’T WAIT | SSR (societysocialsandreunions.com)