Centennial couple prepares for next step in Alzheimer’s journey

Two years ago, Centennial couple Barb and Harold Arnold surprised many of their family and friends by sending out the first Christmas letter of their 41-year marriage. It wasn’t your routine “where did we go on vacation” letter. In it, the couple revealed Barb’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Today, the couple is issuing their third holiday missive with another surprising update: Barb is moving to a nearby memory care facility. While the news will be startling to some, the Arnolds want friends and family to know that they’re entering into this decision as a team with their eyes wide open.

“Barb deserves the best,” said Harold, holding his wife’s hand as they discussed the conclusion they reached jointly after months of deliberation. “I can’t tell you how much better I feel. If something should happen to me tomorrow, Barb will be taken care of.”

As they have throughout their 43 years of marriage, the Arnolds approached the subject as partners. They have visited nearly a half dozen memory care facilities over the past six months, but the time wasn’t right. However, as Harold reached age 85, he wanted to ensure that Barb could receive the around-the-clock care he no longer felt he could guarantee on his own.

The couple has adapted. He installed a tracking app on his wife’s phone so he could find her on those occasions when she might wander, but she didn’t always remember to carry her phone. So he bought her a smart watch with similar tracking capabilities, and it recently helped him locate her several blocks away, resting against a tree, too tired to come home without assistance. That helped confirm for him that the time was approaching for a change.

“That’s magic”

In recent years, the Arnolds have enjoyed long walks – keeping them active andhelping Harold as he recovered from a heart attack. Their route would take them several miles to Centennial’s DeKoevend Park, a scenic spot a mere two blocks from where Barb and her children lived 45 years ago when Harold was courting her. There, they enjoyed walking and cross country skiing, and had their favorite bench for resting.

Recently, a new memory care facility, Cherry Hills Assisted Living and Memory Care, was built overlooking DeKoevend Park, and the couple visited it several times, taking time to meet staff and residents. One feature that delighted Harold was the view from a room that became available –overlooking their favorite bench in the park.

After jointly making the decision to register Barb into Cherry Hills, the couple moved furniture into the new residence and Barb’s first words were: “I love it,” which sealed the decision for Harold.

“That was magic,” Harold said when Barb expressed her approval of the move, knowing that he would not feel comfortable with the decision if his wife wasn’t in agreement. “The way I approach it is, if that was me, how would I want to be treated. It was important that we make the decision,” with an emphasis on “we.”

Adjusting to the change

Barb and Harold have made daily visits to Cherry Hills in anticipation of Barb’s Nov. 26 move-in, helping her get acclimated to the new environment.

Harold’s daughter, Polly, baked cookies and joined the couple on a recent visit. At one point, she observed Barb get up and leave the room. Harold’s instinct was to follow her.

“That’s part of being a caregiver,” he said. But Polly held him back and gently reminded him that he doesn’t need to worry because Barb was in a safe environment.

A textbook approach to an unpredictable disease

There is nothing predictable about dementia since each case takes its own path and follows its own schedule, but Alzheimer’s Association professionals praised theArnolds for their thoughtful approach, understanding that the disease is progressive and puts increasing burdens on caregivers.

“Noone wants to see their loved one progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Association’s Colorado Chapter. “But until we find a cure, it is unwise to deny that changes will occur. Making this decision now – before a crisis might occur – helps guarantee Barb’s safety and the quality of her care. It also enables Harold to be the best caregiver he can without working himself into exhaustion.”

“We have no secrets”

Asis their style, the Arnolds are announcing their decision (“we have no secrets”) knowing that everyone around them may not agree with the timing. The fact that Alzheimer’s is a continually progressing disease can be challenging to those who aren’t day-to-day caregivers. But the couple is pressing ahead, and will celebrate the 2018 holidays at Cherry Hills.

Harold’s busy decorating Barb’s room with photos of their six children, 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, with names affixed to each. And everyone will have name tags for the holiday gathering, although in smaller groups as crowds can be a bit disconcerting for Barb.

You either laugh or you cry

The Arnolds’ journey with Alzheimer’s is already two years old. The road can be bumpy, but they continue to live their lives and enjoy every minute together. It’s roughly a two-mile walk from their home to DeKoevend Park, so Harold will continue to get his exercise as he visits Barb, and they’ll still get to spend time resting on their favorite bench.

“With Alzheimer’s, you either laugh or you cry,” said Harold.

“And I don’t like to cry,” chimed in Barb.

“We even laugh a lot,” he added, squeezing his wife’s hand.

“We can’t help that,” she added.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sabrina Tunoa

sabrina tunoa

Name:  Sabrina Tunoa

Volunteer Role(s): MIM volunteer; event volunteer; working to become a support group facilitator

Years Active with the Alzheimer’s Association: <1

Professional Background: Administration; management; bookkeeper; and on track to graduate with my BA in psychology, minoring in gerontology from UCCS

Why I Volunteer: My grandfather was diagnosed with dementia and passed away in 2013. I was grief-stricken for many months as he was one of my absolute favorite people. I felt an extreme responsibility to become a helper to others, whether they are the affected or the loved ones.

My Favorite Moment/Experience as an Alzheimer’s volunteer: I volunteered during the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and met a woman who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and in the early stages. I had an emotional reaction, as did she, and I asked her if I could give her a hug. It was a beautiful, touching moment that I will never forget.

How I Make a Difference: I volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association and am receiving education in line with my passion of helping those affected with dementia. I am excited for my future in this field!

Alzheimer’s caregiving is isolating – alone in a crowd of 16 million

Job opening: Position requires you to be on call 24 hours a day. Salary is zero. In fact, you will pay, on average, $10,697 per year to do a job that will negatively affect your own health, and may shorten your life. Average time on the job: 8 to 10 years, although some hold the position 20 or more years.

Sound too good to be true? That’s the job of an unpaid caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In 2018, there are nearly a quarter of a million Coloradans working in this job, among the 16 million people in the U.S. doing the same work for love, not for money.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Family Caregivers Month, as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan, whose wife, Nancy, became his caregiver when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.

Following are a few interesting facts about those who are volunteer caregivers for loved ones living with dementia:

  • Most are women. About two-thirds of unpaid caregivers are women.
  • Women caring for women. Nearly two-thirds of those living with dementia are women.
  • 4 billion hours. That’s how many unpaid hours of caregiving were provided in 2017 to persons in the U.S. living with dementia by family and friends.
  • $232 billion. That’s the value of the hours of unpaid caregiving (average $12.61/hour).
    • That’s a lot of hamburgers. That unpaid caregiving value is more than 10 times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2017 ($22.8 billion).
  • Depression is common. Between 30 and 40 percent of family caregivers for people with dementia suffer from depression compared with 5 to 17 percent of non-caregivers of a similar age.
  • A high-stress job. Nearly 60 percent of caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia report “high to very high” levels of emotional stress, while 38 percent report “high to very high” levels of physical stress.
  • It could kill you. A Stanford University study reported that caregivers have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, and 40 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the person for whom they are caring.
  • Double trouble. One in four respondents are “sandwich generation” caregivers, meaning they care for children under age 18 as well as an aging parent.
  • Experience not required. Half of all dementia caregivers (51 percent) report having no prior experience performing medical/nursing-related tasks, and often lack the information or resources necessary to manage complex medication regimens.
  • “No” is not an option. Survey respondents frequently said that they felt they had no choice in whether they could take on the caregiver role.
  • Highly educated. About 40 percent of dementia caregivers have at least a college degree, if not more education.
  • Not highly paid. 41 percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Almost half tout the benefits. Despite the physical, emotional and financial strain, 45 percent of caregivers surveyed by the Alzheimer’s Association reported the experience was “very rewarding.”
  • Most commonly expressed concern: “Nobody gets it.” Alzheimer’s caregivers frequently state that others – particularly those who are not caregivers themselves – do not understand the pressures and challenges facing those who are on duty essentially 24 hours a day due to the unpredictable behaviors and sleeping patterns of the person with dementia.
  • The toughest choice. The majority of caregivers admit that the toughest choice they have ever had to make is deciding when they can no longer provide care for a loved one and it is time to move him or her to an assisted living facility.

Colorado-specific caregiving statistics

  • Nearly 250,000 unpaid caregivers in 2017 for 71,000 people living with dementia.
  • 282 million hours of unpaid care provided, valued at nearly $3.6 billion.

“Caring for a loved one with dementia is, in many ways, the most challenging job a family member or friend will ever undertake,” said Danelle Hubbard, director of Family Services for the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “For that reason, caregivers are the focus of a sizable portion of the services that our Association provides.”

Information, programs and services that the Alzheimer’s Association provides – all at no charge – to Colorado families include:

  • Educational classes on topics including (click here to find a class near you):
    • Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters – If you or someone you know is experiencing memory loss or behavioral changes, it’s time to learn the facts. Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease gives you a chance to begin drug therapy, enroll in clinical studies and plan for the future. This interactive workshop features video clips of people with Alzheimer’s disease as a way to highlight the challenges they face every day.
    • Dementia Conversations – A workshop that offers tips on how to have honest and caring conversations with family members about going to the doctor, deciding when to stop driving, and making financial and legal plans
    • Effective Communication Strategies – Learn to decode verbal and behavioral communication with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Participants leave with strategies for meaningful connection with people in early-, middle- and late-stage dementia.
    • Healthy Living for your Brain and Body: Tips from the Latest Research – Learn about research in the areas of diet and nutrition, exercise, cognitive activity and social engagement, and use hands-on tools to help you incorporate these recommendations into a plan for healthy aging.
    • Legal and Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Disease – This workshop, presented by an attorney who is a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association, is for anyone who would like to know more about what legal and financial issues to consider and how to put a plan in place.
    • Other classes include:
      • Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia
      • Living with Alzheimer’s for people with Early Stage Alzheimer’s and Care Partners
      • Living with Alzheimer’s: for Middle Stage Caregivers
      • Living with Alzheimer’s: for Late-Stage Caregivers
      • Living with Alzheimer’s: for People with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s
      • Understanding & Responding to Dementia-Related Behavior
    • Support groups composed of other caregivers.
    • Family care consultations.
    • The Association’s free 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900), staffed by trained professional counselors available to answer questions, refer people to resources in their community, deal with issues that are vexing to the caregiver, and more. The Helpline is staffed by bilingual English/Spanish counselors, and translation services are available in more than 200 languages and dialects.
    • The Association’s website: alz.org/co offers a wide variety of information and resources.

To learn more about caregiving, find care resources and support, click here.

Volleyball team aces Alzheimer’s tribute

Montrose and Fruita VB teamsWhen Rick Edmondson was diagnosed less than two years ago with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 57, his sister, Shane Forrest, knew what she had to do.
The head volleyball coach at Montrose High School (MHS), Shane took a year away from the coaching position she’s held for the past 20 years to spend more time with Rick and his wife, Traci. And she spent her 50th birthday captaining his team, True Grit, in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Boulder, leading it to the highest family team fundraising total at the event.

While Shane has since resumed her coaching responsibilities at MHS, she isn’t done advocating for her brother by a long shot. Raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease has become an important part of her mission, and she’s enlisted her students in the process.

“Go Purple” was the theme at Montrose High’s most recent volleyball match, and the entire school embraced the cause, adorning the halls with purple and inspiring people to divulge their own personal stories. Even the opposing team from Fruita High School showed up in their own purple shirts with ENDALZ on the back.

“Many MHS staff members have shared their stories with us about their mothers, their uncles and their friends, and the battles they waged with this ugly disease,” said Shane. “The stories are powerful, and I feel like we’re giving them a small way to remember and honor their loved ones.”

Shane’s volleyball team raised funds for the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association by selling purple shirts at the game, and she will be back in Boulder next August with Rick and Traci for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Nearly 6 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 71,000 in Colorado. It is the No. 6 killer of people in the U.S., and the only leading disease without a prevention, treatment or cure. To learn more, go to http://www.alz.org/co or call the Association’s free 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

The cost of Alzheimer’s – it’s higher than you think

Connor Visser_opt

Alzheimer’s disease is stealing the memories and quality of life of nearly 6 million people in the United States. But that’s not all it’s taking.

The financial toll of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is crippling. Sadly, very few families are prepared for the cost of care, or realize how little of that cost is covered by insurance.

Today, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia take $1 of every $5 in Medicaid funds to provide care for persons living with dementia. Since Alzheimer’s is the only major disease without a prevention, treatment or cure, and our country’s population is aging, those numbers will only get worse. If no cure is found by 2050, it is estimated that $1 of every $3 in Medicaid funds will go toward dementia care.

We are not prepared for retirement – or Alzheimer’s

But what about the financial impact on individuals and their families? Edward Jones Financial Advisor Connor Visser believes the vast majority of people are already unprepared for the cost of a healthy retirement. For those affected by dementia, the impact could be devastating.

Visser, who manages Edward Jones’ Superior, Colorado, branch, says that the cost of just one year’s care in a nursing home – estimated by the Department of Health & Human Services at $85,775 for a semi-private room ($97,455 for a private room) – already tops the $84,821 the average adult has saved for retirement*.

“The average nursing home stay is 2½ years, according to Health & Human Services statistics,” Visser said, “but it’s not uncommon for people to live in nursing homes for 5 to 10 years.”

That would mean the typical family with a loved one in a nursing home is looking at roughly $200,000 to $250,000 in nursing home charges, although those costs could approach $1 million in some cases.

Visser cited statistics from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College which show nearly 40 percent of people over age 65 will require nursing home care.

Other care options also carry a hefty price tag

While many families opt for in-home care for their loved ones living with dementia, those costs can still be sizable, especially when considering that after diagnosis, people with dementia can survive as long as 20 years, although 4 to 8 years is more common.
The cost just for assisted living, which is a less intensive form of care, averages $45,000 per year, according to the Genworth 2017 Cost of Care Survey. In-home healthcare average $49,000 per person per year.

“It’s important to recognize that the Genworth study focuses on ‘basic costs’ of care,” noted Danelle Hubbard, director of Family Services for the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “The reality is that anyone living with Alzheimer’s who is in memory care will not be covered under the basic service rates, and the cost could well be double.”

Medicare isn’t the answer

“If people haven’t saved enough for retirement, they probably haven’t saved enough for long-term care,” added Visser.

And Visser has seen too many people surprised to learn that Medicare, which is the prime source of healthcare for people ages 65 and over, is not the solution for long-term care, such as nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and adult daycare.

“Medicare typically covers up to 100 days of short-term care and a portion of costs, and the stay must be related to medical care,” he said. “You must check a lot of boxes for Medicare to cover costs.”

Women carry a larger burden

  • Of the 40 percent of the population over age 65 that will spend time living in a nursing home, the Boston College research data shows that:
  • Nearly 75 percent of nursing home residents are women
  • Women over 65 require care for an average of 3 years (double that of men)
    66 percent of long-term care recipients are women (women live longer than men and typically don’t have a spousal caregiver)

“A couple’s retirement portfolio must care for both people, and the cost of care for one could affect the surviving spouse’s ability to live comfortably in retirement,” Visser said.

Insurance options

For those families that do not have the financial resources to pay out-of-pocket for long-term care, Visser believes the best approach is long-term care insurance. But he advises caution there too.

“I don’t recommend that people look for long-term care insurance until age 55 to 65, as it’s very expensive, but there are different options,” Visser noted. “There is traditional long-term care, hybrid insurance policies with a long-term care rider where people can use the death benefit as a long-term care payment, and others.”

Visser recommends that people talk with their personal financial advisor to understand the options, and that they discuss them early enough so that they can begin paying the premiums from their salary versus their retirement account.

“Even if you don’t anticipate needing nursing home care, it’s good to include it in your long-term strategy,” he said.

Hubbard also advises that families purchasing long-term-care policies understand the limits of those policies.

“Many long-term-care insurance policies will only cover 4 to 5 years of assisted living facility costs,” she said. “The reality is that many people outlive those policies and may need to move into a skilled nursing facility, personal care home or a Medicaid facility if the family is unable to assume the higher costs of care in an assisted living facility after the policy expires. This can lead to an additional transition for persons with Alzheimer’s at a time when they require a higher level of care.”

A sensitive conversation

Visser knows from experience with his clients that the long-term care insurance conversation is a tough one.

“When you start talking about preparing for the unexpected, it gets pretty sensitive,” he said. “People don’t want to bring it up, even with their spouse. It won’t be a fun conversation, but it’s an important one to have.”

Volunteers boost Alzheimer’s Association in Colorado’s mountain towns

IMG_1370_opt“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” That was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s approach to volunteering. Coloradans take that message to heart, and the Alzheimer’s Association volunteers in the Rocky Mountain communities are the best examples.
“It’s more than 250 miles from our regional office in Boulder to our office in Grand Junction,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “For us to provide services to families in the many mountain communities, we rely on our volunteers. And we are blessed to have some outstanding ones.”

Sandra (Sandy) Bainbridge of Frisco is one of those outstanding volunteers. A caregiver for her own mother during her nine-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease, Bainbridge serves as a volunteer in the Alzheimer’s Association’s speakers bureau to bring educational programs to towns throughout Summit County. She also supports the Association’s Boulder office (a mere 87-mile trip each way) in addition to her work on the Colorado Assisted Living Committee and the State Respite Coalition, not to mention working with Summit County Seniors to develop a volunteer respite companion program.

In her free time, Bainbridge is working with the Summit County Seniors board to mobilize the county’s 2,000 senior members to support the inaugural Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Eagle on Oct. 20. Scheduled to start at 10 a.m. at Brush Creek Park and Pavilion, 909 Capitol St., the newest Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Colorado’s 12th – has an ambitious $100,000 fundraising goal to support programs, services and research to find a cure for the only leading disease without a prevention, treatment or cure.

Summit County is the fastest growing retirement county in Colorado, and Bainbridge understands the need to expand awareness of services offered at no charge to families, like those provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Awareness through education is important,” she said. “We do have a support group for caregivers (for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia), but there is not an (Alzheimer’s Association) office in the rural mountain towns, so we depend on volunteers to make things happen. More and more Baby Boomers are retiring here, and we see a need to educate them and provide services.”

Bainbridge is one of the 1,000+ volunteers around Colorado who make it possible to extend the reach of the Association’s nearly 50 staff members. These volunteers help provide programs and services to the 71,000 Coloradans living with dementia, as well as the nearly quarter of a million unpaid caregivers – family and friends.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization,” said Schafer. “In fact, it was volunteers in the Vail Valley, including Chuck Smallwood and Gary Wicklund, who were the driving force behind establishing our new Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Eagle. Without them, we could never aspire to deliver our programs and services to every family in need in Colorado. They are heroes on the front lines of our fight to end
Alzheimer’s disease.”

To register for the Oct. 20 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Eagle – or to make a donation – go to www.alz.org/walk.

Edward Jones’ Colorado commitment

Neil DraxlerAlzheimer’s disease destroys memories. The process can take years – sometimes as long as 20.

And given the enormous cost of Alzheimer’s care – whether in the home or in an assisted living facility – Alzheimer’s also can destroy a family’s lifetime of savings.

The challenge of helping the families of nearly 6 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s cope with this incurable disease – 71,000 of them in Colorado – makes for a natural bond between the financial services firm of Edward Jones and the Alzheimer’s Association. In addition to being the National Presenting Sponsor for the Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Edward Jones has deep connections with the Association throughout Colorado.

“The single greatest threat to financial security late into life is contracting a long-lasting disease that destroys a person’s savings and leaves them dependent upon their children or Medicaid,” said Neil Draxler, Broomfield-based regional leader for Edward Jones. “The most expensive of those chronic diseases, in both financial and emotional costs, is Alzheimer’s.”

“The thought of any of our clients’ nest egg going to pay for Alzheimer’s medical care, rather than to their heirs or to leaving legacies to causes that matter to them, is unacceptable to us,” said Draxler. “That is why Edward Jones is partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to drive financial support for increasing the pace of research and enhancing vital care and support efforts.”

Draxler estimates that 40 percent of Edward Jones’ seven million clients are age 65 and over: the age range of greatest risk of this disease.

At the recent Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Boulder, an estimated 85 percent of Edward Jones’ staff participated in some way, whether by walking, fundraising, donating or volunteering on the planning committee.  They raised more than $22,000 for the Boulder event.

Across Colorado, Edward Jones has 38 employee teams with 220 participants that have raised nearly $42,000 thus far for 12 Walks to End Alzheimer’s, although those totals are certain to rise as Colorado’s Walks extend through October this year.

Nationally Edward Jones plans to have a presence at 600 Walks to End Alzheimer’s with goals of 5,000 teams with 30,000 participants raising $4 million.

“The commitment by Edward Jones’ staff in Colorado and across the United States is truly inspirational,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Not only are they helping us raise awareness of the disease and funds to find a cure, but they are providing invaluable counsel to their clients to help them understand the financial challenges this disease poses.”

“For more than 95 years, Edward Jones has been in the business of building healthy relationships and helping our clients create and manage wealth,” said Draxler. “We often hear from clients facing Alzheimer’s that the disease does just the opposite – that it damages relationships with friends and family. And, in many cases, it destroys finances for both the individual facing the disease and her or his family.”

Family history motivates these Alzheimer’s volunteers

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Alzheimer’s disease makes a deep impression on those it touches. The Bowen Team members at Guild Mortgage understand that very clearly, and that’s what motivates them to raise funds for the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Lead mortgage processor Andy Buchanan carries his beloved grandfather’s name, Carl, as his middle name. Andy got to know and love his grandfather before Alzheimer’s disease took its toll. And he recalls his mother driving 150 miles each and every weekend to care for her dad.

Marriage brought Andy more reminders of the devastation of dementia. He got to know both of his wife’s grandmothers before Alzheimer’s claimed them, causing both Andy and his wife to wonder about their medical futures.

In addition, Andy’s neighbor is currently living with Alzheimer’s, and his neighbor’s wife recently moved him to an assisted living facility to help ensure his safety.

“This is what drives me to raise as much money as I can,” said Andy. “My hope is that year after year, I can raise more and more funds and awareness for this great cause.”

Coworker Chuck Griffin, production manager at Guild Mortgage, also lost his grandfather to Alzheimer’s. He had served as an Army physician before the disease claimed him.

And team leader Mike Bowen, branch manager and mortgage banker, saw his father-in-law receive a dementia diagnosis two years ago. He’s observed the symptoms progress from slight memory loss to losing the ability to communicate effectively and difficulty in walking.

“I’ve witnessed a man struggling to hold onto his independence and, more importantly, his dignity,” said Mike. “This, to me, is the saddest and most impactful part of this disease.”

For these and other reasons, the Bowen Team is striving to be among the most successful teams for the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s, with a minimum goal of $5,000. In addition to their individual fundraising, Bowen is donating $25 per loan closed during their third quarter, and is encouraging all real estate agents who work with them to join their Walk team as well.

To join or support the Bowen Team, click here.

Volunteer Profile: Cindy Reagan

Cindy Reagan (1)Name: Cindy Reagan

Volunteer role(s):

Since 2008, I have been an art class facilitator for the Alzheimer Association, starting in a support group and presently in dementia units in various facilities.

I’ve just returned from my third time walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain/Portugal as a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. Combined, I’ve covered 1,100 miles on foot, raising awareness about Alzheimer’s in my discussions with fellow walkers from all over the world. In my related blog and on Facebook, I shared my travels and stories about my MIM artists, and accepted donations for my Walk fundraiser. On the trail, one of the first questions asked is why are you walking, and it is amazing to hear how prevalent Alzheimer’s is throughout the world.

Years active with the Alzheimer’s Association:

I did my training in 2007 and began volunteering in 2008.

Professional background:

I was assistant art director for a city magazine, ran an in-house advertising agency and was the promotions director for a large manufacturing company.

After our second child was born, I began freelancing as a graphic designer, producing advertising materials for various companies.

Why I volunteer:

I began volunteering full-time 25 years ago. It feels good to possibly be able to make a difference in someone’s life. As a volunteer, I feel I am able to give quality time to another person. Often, I am able to give them all of my attention without dealing with time constraints. I lose track of time when I work with people with Alzheimer’s because we both get so involved with the painting or a story or just having a conversation.

My favorite moment/experience as an Alzheimer’s volunteer:

One of my favorite moments as an Alzheimer’s volunteer was working with a woman who was an incredible artist and was always interested in the techniques of painting. She was very dedicated to her work. Her memory would be sporadic at times, sometimes telling me stories about her son serving in WWll.

Once she painted a mountain scene that depicted a brightly shining sun. After she was finished, she talked for an hour about how today she could paint this scene because “a man’s load had been lifted from her shoulders and replaced with just a woman’s load.” She was smiling and said she was free. That shows just how powerful art can be in retrieving feelings that possibly made a huge difference in her life.

How what I do makes a difference:

With Alzheimer’s, I’ve watched a person with the disease come into class restless and unable to sit still, and see them become very calm after starting a painting. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a few brush strokes or a detailed painting, it shows the power that art has on brain function. It can reduce stress and create a happy mood that may not have been there. Art has the ability to open up a time in their life that has possibly been long forgotten. Even if it’s for a moment in time, that moment can provide a smile, or a story, or just a feeling of contentment that they may not have had.

Anything else:

I have been involved over the years as a team member or co-leader for Habitat for Humanity, building homes around the world, including one in Argentina that stands out to me. I took a photo of the new owners: the grandparents, parents, son and daughter who would live there. They now had a 2-bedroom home with an indoor kitchen. I realized as I looked at the children that someday they would be the grandparents in that same house. That’s giving generationally. That’s when I realized just how important volunteering is.

Currently I am on the board for a medical clinic serving in an impoverished area of Ecuador, and I have spent time teaching school and building homes in the Andes Mountains of Peru.

Thanks to golfers Fore the Memories

DSC_2040No one understands the challenges of caring for the 71,000 Coloradans living with dementia better than two veteran memory care industry professionals who happen to be long-time friends. When they get together, the results are golden – in the form of substantial monies raised in the effort to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

John Bachofer, director of Community Relations for the soon-to-open MorningStar Senior Living of Arvada, and Bob Gossett, executive director of SAFE HOMECARE, recently pooled their talents and created a popular new fundraising event for the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The pair’s Fore the Memories golf fundraiser attracted 138 paid participants and generated a net $10,500 donation to the Colorado Chapter to support ongoing programs and services as well as research for a cure.

The seeds for the event were planted late in 2017 when Bachofer reached out to Gossett, who had organized golf fundraisers for the Association in the past, but never on the scale of Fore the Memories.

“I knew we needed to do something to celebrate the Longest Day and wanted to do a golf event, so I gave Bob a call and we agreed to partner,” said Bachofer.

While neither Bachofer nor Gossett have a family connection to Alzheimer’s disease, both have worked in the industry for more than a decade, giving them strong links to their industry peers. Because of their connections, the event was heavily attended by memory care industry professionals.

“I was trying to find an event that could be universally embraced by the community,” said Gossett. “Being in Colorado, people like to be outdoors.”

Both Gossett and Bachofer are also well-known and highly regarded in the Alzheimer’s community.

“I’ve personally known both John and Bob for more than a decade,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado Chapter. “They are active and outspoken supporters of ours, and events like Fore the Memories are just one more extension of how they help our mutual cause.”

At Bachofer’s urging, MorningStar of Arvada invested in the event to support marketing and organizing.

And the Fore the Memories event enabled Gossett to revive and expand upon a fundraising formula he has been perfecting for years. This was the ninth golf tournament he has organized for the Alzheimer’s Association since 2009, which he estimates have collectively raised nearly $40,000.

Already, the pair are looking ahead to June of 2019 for an even bigger and better Second Annual Fore the Memories.