Physician Takes His Alzheimer’s Message to the Streets

byron-conner.jpgDr. Byron Conner recently retired after more than a quarter of a century as an internist with Kaiser Permanente, but relaxing isn’t high on his agenda. Now he’s a full-time volunteer, taking his message of the connection between brain health and a healthy lifestyle to churches, barber shops, salons and community forums through the Denver area.

While Dr. Conner has spoken to a wide range of audiences on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, his passion is focused on the African-American community where the risk for Alzheimer’s disease is highest – and he finds far too many people who choose to ignore the warning signs.

“We know that vascular disease – diabetes and hypertension – are much more common in minority populations (African-Americans and Hispanics), and vascular dementia and diabetes are linked with Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Conner. “I see too many young people with hypertension…not only more prevalent, but starting at a younger age, including people in their 30s with uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes.”

The predisposition to vascular disease is among the factors that contribute to African-Americans being twice as likely as whites to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and Hispanics are 50 percent more likely than whites.

Despite that elevated risk, Dr. Conner is frustrated that many people he encounters remain in denial.

“Some people who I meet in our sessions in the community (through the Colorado Black Health Collaborative) say they don’t want to know about high blood pressure,” he said. “Obesity is skyrocketing. Our whole population is more sedentary, and that’s a problem.”

While there isn’t a cure, treatment or prevention for Alzheimer’s, Dr. Conner stresses that the key to lowering the risk of dementia is living a healthy life, particularly as we age.

“I have seen elderly people who have almost no diseases at all,” he said. “To a person, they go out to walk daily, they don’t smoke. And I’ve seen the opposite – people who have major health issues in their 40s and 50s. There is the lure of unhealthy fast foods. The best way to eat a healthy diet is to not eat anything advertised on TV.”

Exercise is the other missing piece. Dr. Conner notes that we are fortunate to live in Colorado, where the climate allows for being active outdoors virtually year-around.

“You don’t have to be into sports, but you need to run or walk or do anything,” he said. “There is a strong correlation to and a strong payoff from living a healthy lifestyle.”

To learn more about Alzheimer’s Association guidance on the impact of a healthy lifestyle – and the “10 Ways to Love Your Brain” tipsheet – go to or call the Association’s free 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

Monica Londoño has found her purpose: Helping people

Volunteer Profile

LMonica Lodono - preferred pixife wasn’t supposed to turn out this way for Monica Londoño. She was living happily in her native Colombia when, at age 21, she met a man from the United States who married her and whisked her away to live in Loveland, Colorado.

That marriage lasted only six years before divorce. Then, tragically, their daughter later passed away at age 7. Suddenly, Monica found herself alone, 3,000 miles from her home, feeling an absence of purpose in her life.

“I had to reevaluate my life and move forward,” said Monica. “I think about how painful it was and how hard it was to wake up in the morning.”

Monica found her purpose and her motivation through giving, and people living with Alzheimer’s disease have been among the primary recipients of her generosity.

“Just giving…just helping…has giving me purpose,” she said. “I would say that we don’t have to think we need to change the world, but we can change the life of one person at a time. I feel that I have been able to make an impact on those people I’ve been able to help. There’s so much need in this world, but I know the person I am helping appreciates it.”

The super volunteer

To say that Monica volunteers her time is an understatement. Somehow, she finds “free time” where others might not. Her days already are full as owner and operator of a franchise of the SENIORS Helping SENIORS business that provides in-home care services. Despite the fact that she has not experienced Alzheimer’s or dementia through her own family, Monica has adopted the cause with a passion.

Monica began her engagement with the Association through the Greeley regional office, volunteering on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  Seeing the benefits of her labors, she sought out additional Alzheimer’s training from Regional Director Kelly Ostoff.

“Monica is a priceless volunteer for our organization’s work and has the biggest heart for the people we serve,” said Ostoff. “Despite how busy I know she truly is, she always says yes to lending a hand and her time to our cause.”

From student to teacher

Before long, Monica was certified to teach classes herself…The Basics of Dementia…The 10 Warning Signs…Leaders in Dementia Care… And, being fluently bilingual, she has taught them in both English and Spanish.

​“Monica is an invaluable resource serving Spanish-speaking families living with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Marissa Volpe, Diversity and Inclusion coordinator for the Colorado Chapter. “Monica is able to connect immediately with constituents and her Spanish fluency allows her to gain trust, offer critical insights and resources, and bridge communities to the Alzheimer’s Association. She has taught classes on Alzheimer’s disease in Spanish, led a Spanish-speaking caregiver support group, conducted outreach within the Latino community and most recently helped with a Telemundo phone bank. She is, as we say in Spanish, imprescindible — essential!”

Later, Monica heard of a need at the Association’s new Boulder County regional office, so she contacted Regional Director Ralph Patrick and offered her services both on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and in delivering services.

“Monica is always willing to provide whatever help is needed,” said Ralph Patrick. “She has a very ‘can do’ attitude and is extremely committed to the cause.”

As if that’s not enough, she served a year as a volunteer legislative advocate to U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, sharing with him the importance of Alzheimer’s-related issues.

“Monica is an ardent advocate for the Latino population and readily contributed her input regarding their special needs,” said Cheryl Parrish, former vice president of Programs for the Colorado Chapter, who worked with Monica on her advocacy efforts.  “She is an inspiration and I was enriched by my time working with her in my ambassador role, and interacting at Alzheimer’s Association Walks and other events.  She is an ardent advocate on behalf of seniors who struggle with Alzheimer’s and other health challenges.  An added bonus is her contagious enthusiasm as a new American citizen.  The Alzheimer’s Association is lucky to have her in the volunteer ranks.”

While the Alzheimer’s Association is blessed to have Monica as one of its “super volunteers,” we share her with other worthy causes. She leads an annual medical mission team to Nicaragua where they rent and run a hospital to perform free surgical procedures for about 10 days. And then there’s the Longmont Meals on Wheels program, the Greeley Philharmonic Guild, the Greeley Chamber of Commerce…

Monica’s mentors

“The reason I help so much is because I grew up with three amazing women…my grandmother, my mother and my aunt,” said Monica. “My grandmother and mother were business owners, and my aunt is an incredible woman. I’ve learned that the best way to help community is to give more than you receive.”

Through her business, Monica sees the impact that Alzheimer’s disease has on caregivers. It helps motivate her to engage even more as a volunteer, just as her own company gets busier by the day as the aging population requires more and more help.

“I love all the training I’ve taken with the Alzheimer’s Association,” she said. “I can use everything I’ve learned in my personal life, business…everywhere. Through my business, I’ve been able to see the struggles family members go through when one is affected by this disease. I feel compassion for the 24/7 caregiver because it not only affects you mentally, but physically. Plus, it’s a very expensive disease.”

And, seeing the impact the disease has on both the individual as well as caregivers, she has a wariness of Alzheimer’s.

“With Alzheimer’s…I’m afraid of that one,” she said. “I look at my boyfriend and imagine him not remembering me someday. It’s so emotional.”

That fear drives Monica – as it does nearly 1,000 other Colorado volunteers – to support the Association as it raises funds to find a cure for the disease. Until that time, she has no plans to slow down her pace.

“I will just help and help until I can’t get out of bed anymore,” she said, “or until people stop asking.”

Denver Broncos Continue to Show Support

broncos-banner.jpgThe Denver Broncos – team and family – continue to show their support for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado as we raise funds to support the mission of eliminating Alzheimer’s disease through research, providing care and support and promoting brain health.

Team Super Bowlen – the family and friends of team owner Pat Bowlen – currently stands as the No. 1 fundraising team for the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s, having exceeded its $100,000 goal. “This one’s for Pat!!” is the slogan for the super fundraisers.

Beyond the Bowlen family, the Denver Broncos team, a community partner of the Colorado Chapter, has been a consistent supporter of the Association. The team is continuing that support by displaying a banner on the side of Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium through the end of the year.

“The Denver Broncos and the Bowlen family have been amazing partners for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado,” said Gene Sobczak, executive director of the Colorado Chapter. “We greatly appreciate their support, which has grown over the years and helps raise the profile of the Alzheimer’s Association throughout the state.”

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the principal fundraiser for the Colorado Chapter, and it supports the Association’s ability to provide programs and services at no charge to Colorado families. The Colorado Chapter’s collective 2017 target for its 11 Walks to End Alzheimer’s is $2.3 million, and it will continue working to meet that goal through Dec. 31. To make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado in the name of Denver Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen and Team Super Bowlen, click here.


Be A Champion in the Community Logo

The Surprise Christmas Letter

DSC_0100For the first 41 years of their marriage, Harold and Barb Arnold didn’t send out a Christmas letter to friends and family. Not about vacations. Not about the births or graduations of their six children, 11 grandchildren or six great-grandchildren.

It wasn’t until the holiday season of 2016 that something happened to change their lives that they felt required a special message. So when their friends and family members opened the Arnolds’ holiday card in 2016, they were in for a surprise. Not only was there a holiday letter enclosed, but the couple shared the news that Barb was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

With his wife’s permission, Harold penned the letter in her voice, introducing “the new Barb,” and describing a few of the ways the disease was affecting her. It concluded with their honest assessment: “(We) continue to have fun and enjoy life every day. We still value you as our friend.”

The candid letter elicited the kind of warm response you would hope for, with the vast majority of recipients calling to express their support and offer to help.

Families facing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, like the Arnolds, struggle with how to tell their friends and family the news. The couple believes that many of their inner circle suspected the diagnosis might be coming. The toughest was telling some of the most distant relatives who haven’t been around frequently enough to observe the subtle changes in Barb’s memory.

While some family members may be a bit in denial, one of the reactions the letter generated was welcome visits and promises of visits from children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The solution creates another problem

Ironically, for the Arnolds the toughest part of the process of publicly acknowledging Barb’s diagnosis was what to do with the outpouring of genuine care and support.

“We did the first step right (sending the Christmas letter), but we didn’t know what to do with all the offers to help,” said Harold.

“We’re not used to receiving help,” Barb added, noting that they are more likely to offer support to others than seek it in return.

Channeling good intentions

The challenge for both the recipient of sincere offers of help and those delivering them is how to make them meaningful. Barb notes that she responds to the anticipated question of “How are you feeling” with her standard response: “I feel fine,” emphatically adding: “And I am!”

But the couple doesn’t want to dismiss those offers of support because they realize that there may be a time when they will be needed more.

So this year, the couple is going to revisit Barb’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in their second annual Christmas letter, this time offering some specific examples of what people can do, starting with the idea that friends and family can contribute photos and memories that they have with and of the Arnolds back to them for inclusion in a new scrapbook.

They also will share some of the tips from the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado on what well-intentioned loved ones can do to help those with a diagnosis. Some of those tips include:

  • Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Stay in touch.
  • Be patient.
  • Offer a shoulder to lean on.
  • Offer to help the family with its to-do list.
  • Volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association.

The tipsheet also offers a few ideas on understanding the diagnosis from the perspective of the person with it, including:

  • “I’m still the same person I was before my diagnosis.”
  • “My independence is important to me. Ask me what I’m still comfortable doing and what I may need help with.”
  • “I can still engage in meaningful conversation. Talk directly to me if you want to know how I am.”
  • “Don’t pull away. It’s OK if you don’t know what to do or say. Your friendship and support are important to me.”

Barb offered a simple example that hit right at the heart of the issue. Since her diagnosis, she has given up driving, so when Harold is busy and she wants to get around town, she’s stranded.

“So if I want to buy him a surprise present, I have to ask him for the money, and then ask him to take me to the store,” she laughed.

Everyone’s adjusting

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis changes everything, but the Arnolds are adapting. Harold is learning how to cook, with mixed results. And he’s trying to pick up more of the household chores that Barb routinely handled.

The other big adjustment is that the couple is planning their inaugural venture into social media. They intend to enlist one of their grandchildren to set up a Facebook page for them so they can share the photos and memories their friends and family contribute, and to stay in closer contact with their distant relatives.

How to help those with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis

To learn more about how you can support loved ones with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s confidential and free Helpline at 800-272-3900. It is staffed by trained professional counselors who can offer counsel and direction to local programs and classes, all at no charge, as well as resources for legal and lifestyle planning. You can also visit us online at

About Larry Schwartz

By Cherie Karo Schwartz, his loving wife

My husband, Larry Schwartz, was just Larry to most everyone who knew him, yet he was really Dr. Lawrence Schwartz: MIT- and UCLA-educated aerospace engineer, chief scientist and Top Fellow at Hughes and Raytheon for 43 years.

Larry’s salient attribute, beyond his genius and magnificent mind, was his gentle sense of humor filled with puns. Blessed with a kind heart, Larry had always been a quiet man until the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in 2006 gave him the gift of gab. He loved finding out about others’ lives, and he had seven strong personal stories of survival and strength that he loved regaling anyone and everyone with, usually in a running dialogue.

One of Larry’s loves was supporting the arts in all forms: liberal, Jewish and educational causes, and organizations for social justice. Always creative, he designed my wedding dress per our shared vision of it, my engagement ring, our wedding invitation, and our entire home. He even made some of the furnishings.

Larry also was an outstanding artist who, after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, contributed several drawings to the Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making (MIM) arts gala, which he attended for several years, helping to raise funds for the Association. He watched with pride as two families got into a bidding war for one of his standalone pieces, “Pigasus,” in the silent auction. He offered commentary and got to talk with the winners. He was flying with joy.

Larry derived great happiness from the dual support groups, poetry, croquet, befriending some special people, and being on the advisory board for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Early Stages Fall Forum. He loved working under the guidance of Alzheimer’s staff members Vicky, Ken and Sharon. One of his proudest moments came as he was chosen to address the crowd at the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s. He spoke beautifully before thousands of people.

Larry lived with Alzheimer’s for more than nine years, doing big jigsaw puzzles, playing games, dancing, singing, and loving life. Sadly and tragically, his life ended too soon. Until the end, he still knew those he loved and who loved him, and was as kind and sweet as he had always been throughout his life. He died very peacefully on Nov. 22, 2015. His memory is a blessing, and his stories live on in those he loved.

In Larry’s memory, I am proud to underwrite the Early Stages programming of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado for the coming year through the Larry Schwartz Remembrance Fund. These were interactive programs that Larry loved dearly, and supporting them for other families living with Alzheimer’s is a fitting way to honor his memory.

Top Denver fundraiser enjoys Broncos victory

Devin Olsen, the top individual fundraiser for the 2017 Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s, was a guest of the Denver Broncos at their recent victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Devin shares her excitement at attending the game, as well as her motivation for creating her first fundraising event for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, a community partner of the Broncos. The sold-out stadium saw information about Alzheimer’s disease, and the family of owner Pat Bowlen presented the Colorado Chapter with a check for $100,000.


“I was completely in shock when I got a call on Wednesday to attend the Broncos game on Sunday, Sept. 17, with the Alzheimer’s Association and have field access as well, because I was the highest individual fundraiser for the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I was extremely excited to experience the game and see the Denver Broncos players from the field level for a bit. It was so cool to look up at the 76,000 + people who were cheering for my team, the Denver Broncos, and who were also going to be educated a bit about the Alzheimer’s Association, and how the Bowlen family got involved to honor Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who is living with Alzheimer’s.

“Yes, I may have been the highest individual fundraiser, but since I have lost two family members to this horrible disease in the past years, I wanted to raise the most money I possibly could in memory of my family members, and for my team, LCC Stonegate, where my team members and I work with residents affected by Alzheimer’s/dementia and their families.

“Thank you, Alzheimer’s Association and Denver Broncos, for inviting me to the game! I greatly appreciated the opportunity and enjoyed the experience of being on the field and the game.”

We still need your help reaching our $1.5 million goal. Donate now.

Lessons from a Caregiver

sisters Dorothy & Mary (3)

Martha Stevenson Wright

From loving daughter to dedicated caregiver, author Martha Wright shares her experiences from six years of providing care to her mother who was living with Alzheimer’s disease. A member of the Piney Creek Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution team for the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Martha shares her insights and lessons learned.

When it starts, you are oblivious.  When it’s happening, it’s unreal.  When it’s over…well, it’s never really over.

Several years before I realized that my sweet mother was ill, my parents would joke about the funny play on words “old-timers,” using it in a lighthearted and playful way.  Or, perhaps, it was actually a way of coping with what they both knew (or feared) was ahead.  The taboo word Alzheimer’s would never be spoken.

In 2002 my father passed away and it was my turn to learn about everything my mother was losing.  It was a shock.  Dad had been kind to keep so much from us but that kindness had an especially difficult sting for me.

I was teaching full-time and that means 6:30 to 4:30 at school, working a couple of hours in the morning and another couple in the evening, at least part of one weekend day, planning and preparing, grading and analyzing, worrying and starting it all over again.  After so many years of teaching and dealing with kids, parents, and colleagues, I was exhausted.  Yet I had no idea how weary I would soon be – physically, mentally, emotionally – exhausted to the very depths of my soul.

The diseases of Alzheimer’s and dementia are different for everyone so each person’s experience is unique but here are some things that I do know.


Especially the help of someone who knows because they have been through this long journey.  I was so busy with children, grandchildren and students that I did not seek help, and I regret that.  I felt so alone.  I couldn’t talk to my mom about my problems anymore.  My husband was very understanding, but she wasn’t his mom.  We had a great doctor, but this was not his experience.  I needed someone who actually knew what it felt like.  I stopped by to check on my mom every morning before going to school.  After working all day, before going home and making dinner, I stopped by to see her again, at first when she was still in her own home and later in a care facility.  I told myself I was too tired to do any more after a long day, but reaching out and finding just one daughter like me – even once – would would have made a world of difference.  Being tired or lacking time do not compare to the healing power of the human touch.


Anything that will help you to cope.  The Long Goodbye: Memories of My Father by Patti Davis, Chicken Soup for the Soul Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias by Amy Newmark, Mom, Are You There? Finding a Path to Peace Through Alzheimer’s by Kathleen A. Negri, and The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease by Mac and Rabins are all excellent resources that I wish I had discovered sooner.  I had used books for enjoyment and to learn about the world all my life, yet it did not occur to me that I could get through the worst experience in my life just by reading.  Sharing the experiences and knowledge of others through reading would have helped so much to feed my depleted soul.


Just like you always have, or even more.  Little daughters hug their mommies and need their mommies and want to grow up to be just like them.  Grown daughters still need their mothers to learn from and share their own grown lives with.  Life is beautiful when it continues in this way until the end.  But when it does not, the roles can be reversed and the daughter becomes the mother.  It happens slowly and with difficulty, mostly because no one tells you how.  Over time, I learned to do things I had never done before: read to my mother, help her get dressed, talk in a way to bring back the happy memories.  What I did not do – what I will forever regret not doing – is learn to listen more without embarrassment.  There were many times that Mom did or said something wrong or funny and we would both laugh at that.  But we rarely talked about her feelings and fears.  Talking more, and more honestly, when we still could, would have been best for both of us.  Talk more, listen more, hug and kiss more, and later you will have more warm memories for yourself.


No matter how difficult your journey, you need to do things for you.  I neglected exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and doing the things that I like to do.  Some of this was inevitable because that’s what women do.  When you are raising a family and working there is so little time left for you to take care of yourself.  Yet all those people who you love need you to be healthy more than anything.  One of my most memorable moments of the six years that I cared for my mom was very near the end.  About six months before she passed away we started hospice care.  I learned a lot about professionals when the hospice team took over.  They knew exactly what they were doing and were kind but also frank.  Through tears I told the doctor how guilty I felt if I did not stop by after work to visit Mom every single day.  He explained to me that she was at a point in her disease where she did not experience time and really didn’t know if I had skipped a day.  Well, then the floodgates opened up and relief took over.  I hadn’t known how really sad and guilty and tired I was until I was told the honest truth.  I felt like I could breathe, or maybe even do something for me.  Make a daily goal: take a walk, practice a little yoga, make something delicious or fun, or just do nothing!

GET HELP WHEN IT’S ALL OVER (because it isn’t really ever all over):

The saying “time heals all wounds” is only partly true.  When my mother passed I was, of course, still busy.  Ultimately, it was a relief, but a relief accompanied by such sorrow and regret.  I wish that I had used some of my “extra time” on speeding up the healing of my heart.  If you did not get help or counseling or whatever you needed then, get it now.  Find others who share your experiences if you have not already.  Read more about the whole process, including how to heal at the end.  Choose something that you couldn’t do before and do it now.  I think that a common fear for many people is to end up with this dreadful disease.  For those of us who experience it so personally, the fear is painfully real.  Although that fear can fade somewhat over time, it is always there.  I learned to heal with help from others, including lots of reading about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but learning what you need personally is the secret to healing.


I do believe that there is nothing more profound than personally finding out that there is really only one thing that makes us who we are.  Riches come and go, people fall in and out of love, we age gracefully or we wrinkle and go gray.

But at our core we are the one and only person on earth exactly like us.  Our lives are all different, our heritage is our own, and each story is unique.  With dementia, all of that is slowly lost.  One day at a time we find we cannot do things we used to do, we cannot find the words that express what we so desperately want to say, we cannot remember where to go.  Eventually, we forget the names of loved ones and, finally, in the cruelest twist, we cannot remember who we are.  Everything that ever mattered is gone.  Yet, it becomes clear that the only thing to do to fight this thief of life is to do good – help a little old man across the street, write a book, or place a wreath on the grave of a soldier.  Only you will know what to do, what matters, what will express the real you.  Think about it.  Decide what to do and do it.

One more thing, go ahead and write about it like I have here.  Nothing is worse than keeping it all on the inside.  So many of us don’t want to complain or burden others so we push it aside and soldier on.  I have not talked about the worst experience of my life in over eight years.  I cried once more as I wrote all of this down on paper and it feels so very good.

Marth is walking in the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Please consider donating to her team. 

The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado provides a broad range of programs and services for persons with a dementia diagnosis as well as their caregivers. To learn more about services for caregivers, click here. For details on Caregiver Support Groups or Early Stage Groups, click here or call the Alzheimer’s Association’s free 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

Take a Shot at Fundraising for Alzheimer’s

When Devin Olsen was challenged to create a fundraiser as part of her internship at Life Care Center of Stonegate in Parker, Colo., the senior at Denver’s Metro State University was at a loss. However, witdevin-olsen.jpgh the memory of having lost both her grandmother and great uncle to Alzheimer’s disease, she had the inspiration. All it took was a nudge from a friend and Devin knew she would take a shot at it – in more ways than one.

Even though “Let’s Shoot Out Alzheimer’s” was both Devin’s first attempt at a fundraiser as well as her first time shooting, the Aurora resident hit the bullseye. The sporting clay shooting fundraiser, which she conducted recently at Kiowa Creek Sporting Club in Bennett, Colo., drew more than 70 participants, who each paid $100 to participate, along with 30 volunteers.

“When Life Care Center of Stonegate gave me an opportunity to raise money for Alzheimer’s, I had to jump in,” said Devin. The activities department intern credits 10 hard-working and eager committee members who helped her by gathering 28 silent auction items, seven live auction items and 30 raffle items.

Once the dust settles and pledges have been received, Devin estimates she will have raised more than $10,000 for a cause that is near and dear to her heart – and nearly double her target.

“I lost my grandmother, Marge, to Alzheimer’s in 2008 and great-uncle Ray in 2012, so I knew that an event raising money for Alzheimer’s was the right fit for me,” she said. “Not only have I lost people I love to this devastating disease, but I found out how it affects great people and their families everyday at the Life Care Center of Stonegate.”

After she graduates from Metro State this spring, Devin hopes to pursue her dream job in equine therapy, a form of experiential therapy that involves interactions between human patients and horses.

Devin is continuing to seek donations to her team, which is raising funds for Alzheimer’s care and research as part of the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Her Walk donation page can be found here.

Not Your Average Fundraiser: Lilly Templeton

dsc_2029.jpgA lot of kids start lemonade stands. A few of those donate some of their profits to charity. Only one in Colorado has emerged as a Grand Champion fundraiser for the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

At the age of 12, Lillian (Lilly) Templeton will be attending her ninth Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sept. 16 at City Park. Having raised just over $1,007 so far this year in memory of her grandfather, David Templeton, who passed away from Alzheimer’s disease five years ago, Lilly is the youngest Grand Champion for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado.

So far this year, 54 volunteers across Colorado have topped the $1,000 fundraising mark to earn Grand Champion status. Lilly, who raised $175 for the Alzheimer’s cause last year through her lemonade stand, isn’t awed by the numbers or daunted by the challenge. She has been volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association along with her grandmother, Jane, since last year. And she’s been part of the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s since she was 3.

This year, Lilly decided to ramp up her fundraising a notch. After making a presentation to her class at Denver School of Science and Technology, she joined her father, Josh, at his office at ClickFox and made her pitch to his coworkers.

“I just went to my dad’s office and asked a lot of people from my dad’s work team for $20 or $25,” she said. When her efforts pushed her past her initial $300 target, she raised her goal to $500, and later to $1,000. Of course, it pays to be persistent.

“You need to try your best and follow up with people,” advises Lilly. “I send a follow-up email to everyone who makes an online pledge but hasn’t paid yet.”18670768_10154624549887671_8060951475942707476_n.jpg

Considering that Lilly, who lives in Denver’s Montclair neighborhood with her parents and younger brother, only began her 2017 fundraising campaign in early August, she’s made huge strides. She’ll be making many more come Sept. 16 when she joins with grandmother Jane and the rest of their family as the Wannabe Walkers proudly walk in memory of grandfather David, and raise funds to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease – the No. 6 killer of Americans and the only leading disease without a prevention, treatment or cure.

Click here to support Lilly and the Wannabe Walkers.

A Doctor’s Guide to Dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease

Lesage_Suzanne_0648Alzheimer’s is a confounding disease, even for doctors. Salida (Colorado) neurologist Dr. Suzanne Lesage ought to know. Through her role with the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, she sees new patients who may be concerned about memory loss. Dr. Lesage also counsels others living with the diagnosis on how to best cope with a disease for which there is currently only treatment of symptoms but no cure.

In a recent informational session conducted for 50-plus community members by the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, Dr. Lesage joined fellow neurologist Dr. Yvonne Rollins and Ann Carter, regional director of the Southern Colorado Region of the Alzheimer’s Association, to discuss the basics of memory loss and dementia and answer questions regarding the challenges the disease poses for individuals, caregivers and doctors alike.

“Dementia is slow in developing,” said Dr. Lesage. “We can offer a diagnosis based on symptoms, but even under the broad umbrella of dementia, there are multiple types, including Alzheimer’s, vascular, Lewy body, frontotemporal and others, and some patients may be living with more than one.”

Doctor’s advice

Even with the uncertainty surrounding dementia, and specifically Alzheimer’s, Dr. Lesage counsels her patients and their families that there are specific steps they should take to ensure the best care for loved ones who are either dealing with a dementia diagnosis or have concerns about the disease:

  • Be proactive – “At the primary care level, people must be proactive with their doctors,” said Dr. Lesage. “There is a huge spectrum among doctors regarding their comfort level with dementia. Some feel – because there’s currently no cure – that there’s not much they can do.”

Because some doctors may be reluctant to issue a dementia diagnosis, there is a risk that they will not provide the guidance that families need to take appropriate steps.

“A diagnosis gives hope and clarity to the patient,” Dr. Lesage said. “At least they know what they’re dealing with.”

  • Free 24/7 Helpline – A referral to a neurologist can lead to a proper diagnosis, she said. The Alzheimer’s Association’s free 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) is another resource for direction.
  • Rapid Referral – Dr. Lesage is a strong advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association Rapid Referral program, which enables doctors to put the individual and their caregivers in touch with a full range of services – all at no charge – that physicians are not in a position to provide.

If there is concern about or discussion of dementia, or Alzheimer’s in particular, Dr. Lesage said there are specific subjects that she raises with her families that should be addressed with the primary care physician, including:

    • Medications that may provide some benefits
    • Counseling for the individual and family
    • Driving considerations and potential restrictions
    • Medical power of attorney and when it should be transferred
    • Types of in-home and residential care that families can consider
    • Opportunities for financial assistance
    • Referrals to support groups, like those provided by the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado
  • Get support – Caregivers need to understand that they do not have to face this situation alone. In addition to support groups, families can reach out to their regional Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado office or call the free 24/7 Helpline to schedule a Care Consultation. In addition, there is a broad range of resources available in terms of educational information, message boards, classes, clinical trials and newsletters from the Alzheimer’s Association, all provided to the public at no charge.

In addition, Dr. Lesage said that individuals should rely on their primary care physician for medical information and guidance.

  • Continue living – Dr. Lesage emphasizes that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis doesn’t mean the person’s life is over. She stresses that there can be significant quality of life, even later in the disease’s progression. She notes that she has helped devise travel plans for families where a loved one has advanced Alzheimer’s. “Even if they don’t remember the trip, they can enjoy the day,” she said, adding that new memories are created for loved ones.

“The goal I set is for my patients with dementia to stay in the home until it’s time for them to move into hospice care,” said Dr. Lesage. “It’s not appropriate for all, since caregiving capacity is very individual but, for many, there is still good quality of life close to its end.”