Special Walk to End Alzheimer’s Update

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As many of you know, the months of August and September are busy times for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. The 11 Walks to End Alzheimer’s around the state contribute a significant portion of our Chapter’s revenues, and enable us to continue to provide education, programs and services – all at no charge – to Colorado families. In addition, we support national research to find the cure for this dreaded disease.

For those of you who have participated in or supported one of the Colorado Walks, you have our heartfelt thanks. For everyone else, there is still time to participate in one of the four upcoming Walks, sponsor a Walk team, or make a donation to ensure that no family facing Alzheimer’s has to face it without the services of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Upcoming Walks

DenverThe Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, at City Park. Registration opens at 7 a.m. and the Walk starts just after 9 o’clock. We are expecting 10,000 Walkers for Colorado’s premier Walk to End Alzheimer’s and one of the top five Walks in the entire country. The event currently stands at 53 percent of the $1.39 million goal. For details on the Walk or to make a donation, click here.

Colorado Springs – This Walk also will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, at America the Beautiful Park. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. and the Walk starts just after 9 a.m.  This event currently stands at 57 percent of the $195,000 goal. To learn more about the Colorado Springs Walk or make a donation, click here.

Southwest Colorado/Cortez – The third Walk on Saturday, Sept. 17, will be held at Cortez City Park, with registration opening at 8:45 a.m. and the Walk at 9:15 a.m. This event currently stands at 57 percent of its $30,000 goal. Click here for more details or to donate to the Cortez Walk.

Larimer County/Loveland – The final Colorado Walk of 2016 will be held Saturday, Sept. 24, at Loveland’s Chapungu Sculpture Park, with registration opening at 9 a.m. and the Walk at 10 a.m. To register for this Walk or make a donation, click here. The Larimer Walk is at 61 percent of its $185,000 goal.

Recent Walks

Seven Walks to End Alzheimer’s have been held throughout the state already this year, beginning with the Aug. 13 Boulder Walk and including events in Greeley, Sterling, Steamboat Springs, Fort Morgan, Grand Junction and Pueblo.

Collectively, the 11 Colorado Walks are at __ percent of their goal. Check out some photos of the Boulder Walk, and be sure to like us on Facebook to see photos of all the other Walks.

“We are hopeful that those with a family member with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, or those the Association has helped in the past, have an understanding and appreciation for the services that all Coloradoans can receive at no charge, from our 24/7 bilingual Helpline to education to support groups to a wide range of programs,” said Linda Mitchell, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. “In addition, to enabling us to provide services locally, your contributions help further our national research efforts to find a prevention, treatment and cure for this deadly disease.”

To support any of the Walks, or to make a donation to support Alzheimer’s Association programs and services, click here.

Alzheimer’s Facts

  • 67,000 Coloradoans are living with Alzheimer’s – a total expected to top 92,000 by 2025, a 37% increase
    • 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s – projected to top 16 million by 2050
  • 239,000 Colorado caregivers provided 272 million hours of unpaid care valued at $3.3 billion in 2015
  • Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. – it kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined
    • Alzheimer’s is the only leading disease without a prevention, treatment or cure
  • African-American and Hispanic adults are twice as likely and 1.5 times as likely, respectively, to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than white adults
  • More than 1 in 5 Medicare dollars currently are spent on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias – totals expected to reach $1 of $3 by 2050


National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

This month is National Caregiver Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. It can also be a hard time of year for those living with Alzheimer’s.

Bill with the whole family at Christmas in 2006
Bill with the whole family at Christmas in 2006

My own family was impacted 12 years ago as my husband Bill began to develop symptoms of the disease at only 52 years of age. Thanks to my healthy active parents, two wonderful sisters and a strong community network, we were able to care for Bill at home for most of the years he lived with the disease. The holidays were the most stressful for me however. We tried to keep our traditions alive for the first few years, going to the Nutcracker Ballet, cutting our tree from nearby forest land, walking in the annual Golden Holiday Parade. However, as the disease progressed Bill got more anxious about many of those cherished traditions. He worried about buying and wrapping gifts for me and other family members. Party invitations had to be carefully considered if there would be a lot of people because he was easily confused as well as embarrassed at not remembering names. He got frustrated at not being able to make the delicious meals he had enjoyed creating each year during the holidays. I found the tasks specially associated with the holidays as well as many others household chores falling to me alone. With advice from the Alzheimer’s Association, I finally took a hard look at what we were continuing to do each year that was causing me added stress and contributing to a general sense of exhaustion. Once we stopped to think about all the things we were doing, we refocused on what we truly loved the most and looked how to make those things just a little easier for both of us. By changing things a bit we could still manage to keep the joy in the holidays. Cutting the tree on forest land was still manageable if I was the one who used the saw, homemade items could be supplemented with store-bought goodies, friends could take Bill shopping for gifts and help him manage the money, and we could spend time celebrating with smaller groups of people that we really cared about.

This time of year will always be bittersweet for me having lost Bill to Alzheimer’s four years ago this coming February but his legacy lives on every time I share our story and offer insight about caregiving.

This month, take some time and look around your own life. Find the caregivers who need your love and support this holiday season. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help. If you can be specific and suggest some ides of your own, you may find your offer is received and with a great deal of appreciation and relief. Offer to do errands like grocery shopping or picking up medications at the pharmacy. Drop by with a ready-to-cook meal. Give the gift of your time to sit with the person who is ill or needing a companion so the caregiver can take some time off. Offer to wrap gifts or do the decorating. Caregivers are often too busy to think about themselves and what they need in order to keep going. Let them know they aren’t alone. If you know someone who needs help caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia make sure they know about the Alzheimer’s Association. All of the services for individuals and families are free and just a phone call away. 800.272.3900 Many caregivers will tell you there was never any question about whether they would care for someone they love. Each and every day is a gift, every moment, even when things get tough, a treasured memory. Find a way to honor a caregiver in your life this holiday.

Extreme Colorado Weather Puts Those with Dementia at Risk

As the temperature finally dips into seasonal ranges for winter, those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia should all be on notice that snow, extreme temperatures and early darkness present special problems.

Snowy Colorado LandscapeA loved one with Alzheimer’s won’t necessarily dress appropriately for colder weather. Cover as much exposed skin as possible and provide several layers of lightweight clothing for easy movement, especially if plans include time outside. A hat is important since so much body heat escapes from an uncovered head and don’t forget to add a scarf to cover up an exposed neck. Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves and may be easier to help get on and off. Clips designed for skiers can help keep track of gloves or mittens that are otherwise easily misplaced or lost.

Sundowning is a term that refers to increased anxiety, confusion and even increased sleepiness due to the decreased sunlight in the winter months. Visual perception is already an issue for many people with Alzheimer’s and can cause increased confusion or disorientation in dark or shadowy environments both inside and out. Turn lights on earlier, open curtains during daylight hours and add bulbs that simulate sunlight. Install motion detector lights to help illuminate walkways around the home as darkness may fall before arriving home from an outing. Dressing in light or bright colors or adding reflective material to clothing will help a loved one be more easily seen.

To avoid slips and falls, make sure boots are non-skid. There are many boot styles on the market that use Velcro instead of laces to allow the person with dementia some success with dressing themselves. Try separate “tracks” that attach to the soles for added traction on icy surfaces. You can also add a sharp tip to canes for that extra grip on winter days. This device is available at home health care stores.

Assume ALL surfaces are slick and by taking smaller steps and slowing down, the person with Alzheimer’s can match gait and speed to a safer level.

  • Perception problems can make it difficult for the person with Alzheimer’s to see ice on the sidewalk or realize that ice is slippery or that snow is not a solid surface.
  • Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of ice and snow to make walking outside safe for everyone, but do not overuse ice melt products which can reduce traction.
  • Use indoor or garage parking whenever possible.
  • Especially on stairs or slick spots, insist on handrail use and walk arm in arm when possible.
  • Acquire and use a State issued Handicapped placard enabling closer access to the door of buildings.

Medic Alert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® and Comfort Zone®  offer safety for wandering.Wandering is one of the most frequent and challenging problems that caregivers face. About 67 % of people with dementia will wander and become lost during the course of the disease, and most will do so repeatedly.

Wandering may be triggered when a person with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Tries to search for familiar objects, surroundings or people when they no longer recognize their environment.
  • Tries to fulfill former obligations, such as going to work or taking care of a child.
  • Reacts to the side effects of medication that cause restlessness and confusion.
  • Tries to escape stress caused by noise, crowds or isolation.
  • Is not getting enough physical activity.
  • Is fearful of unfamiliar sights, sounds or hallucinations.
  • Searches for something specific such as food, drink, the bathroom or companionship.
Dementia Wandering
Minimize the risks of wandering by enrolling in Medic Alert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® and Comfort Zone

Never assume that being at home with someone who has Alzheimer’s makes wandering less of an issue. It only takes a moment for someone to leave the house, and the confusion and disorientation that accompany the disease means a friend or loved one can get hopelessly lost in a matter of minutes. Having some type of tracking device can provide peace of mind that a loved one could be located within a short period of time after becoming separated. Medic Alert + Safe Return and Comfort Zone are two programs that protect people diagnosed with dementia in case of a medical emergency or a wandering incident.

It is not uncommon for a wanderer to require medical attention following an incident. Through the use of a 1-800 number, MedicAlert + Safe Return provides the member’s personal health record including medical conditions, medications and allergies and can be updated 24-hours a day through a private online account or by calling the toll free number during business hours.

When someone enrolled in the program wanders, the MedicAlert + Safe Return hotline activates the resources of law enforcement, medical professionals and the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter staff to assist the member when an incident – either wandering or a medical emergency – occurs.

Comfort Zone® is a comprehensive web-based location management service. Families can remotely monitor a person with Alzheimer’s by receiving automated alerts throughout the day and night when a person has traveled beyond a preset zone. The alert can be received in any location, even notifying family members or caregivers in another state. This program is particularly useful for those in the early stages who want to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as they are able. Comfort Zone uses a location-based mapping service, or LBS . This term refers to a wide range of services that provide information about a person’s (or object’s) location very similar to a GPS device for turn-by-turn driving directions or tracking packages online. A person with Alzheimer’s wears or carries a locator device (such as a pager or cell phone) or mounts one in his or her car.

To learn more about MedicAlert + Safe Return and Comfort Zone, contact the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter at 800-272-3900 or go online to alz.org/co. For help caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or for answers to questions about memory loss, call 800-272-3900.

Year End Donations

Year-End_Giving_BannerThe holiday season is always a great time to give and exercise the spirit of giving by donating to a qualified charitable organization. Although tax savings are not usually the primary reason for charitable giving, your gift may qualify for significant tax benefits while providing much needed capital for a charity like the Alzheimer’s Association. The rate of diagnosis is on the rise and due to the popularity of Colorado as a retirement destination, the demand for our programs and services is expected to increase dramatically in the next few years. While we work hard to engage the business community in sponsorships for our special events, as is true with most non-profits, our budget is offset by individual giving. As you do your research and make decisions about your end of year giving, we hope you think of the Alzheimer’s Association and the thousands of Coloradoans who need our help.

There are a number of ways you could make that gift to the Association:

Direct Contributions – Gifts enable the Colorado Chapter to continue serving individuals and families in communities throughout Colorado who are living with Alzheimer’s. Designate your gift for general programs and services or to a specific program or to research.

Memorials and Honorariums – A way for family and friends to honor the memory of their loved one or those celebrating special occasions such as a birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or an anniversary. Tree of Hope LeafTree of Hope – Each leaf on the mural, on display at the Denver office, is inscribed with the name of an individual, group or event being honored. Employee Giving Program – Contribute by designating a specific amount to be deducted from your paycheck. #EndAlz Shirt Planned GiftsInclude the Alzheimer’s Association in your estate plan which can be structured to provide tax advantages and a life income while accomplishing a charitable intent. Shop online – The Alzheimer’s Association receives a percentage of your purchase when you shop at our Web site www.alz.org/co.

Car DonationDonate your car through Vehicles for Charity contributions to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. Year-end charitable donations keep giving long after your gift is received. Your generous contribution is always appreciated especially in years where financial assets are still struggling to increase in value. -Robyn Moore, Chief Development Officer

Alzheimer’s Association Services Offer A Lifeline to Families

The Alzheimer’s Association offers education programs, support groups, counseling and a 24-hour Helpline for anyone concerned about their own memory loss or changes they are seeing in a friend or loved one. All the services are offered at no cost so our fundraising is critical to our ability to meet an increasing demand. Our weather, opportunities for outdoor recreation and a healthy lifestyle draw young families which in turn draws seniors wanting to be close to children and grandchildren. This increase in our aging population will have a dramatic impact on the number of people in our state reaching the age of highest risk for Alzheimer’s, 65 years of age, where one in eight develop the disease. Today there are 72,000 people in Colorado with Alzheimer’s, by 2050 that number is expected to be 110,000. And, this disease affects the entire family with increased needs for caregiving as the disease progresses.

Early Stage Support Group at Alzheimer's Association

Classes offered to individuals and families offer insight into the disease and its stages as well as tips and techniques for supporting the person with the disease, caregiving and managing the emotional and physical stress that is often experienced by care partners. Support groups also offer a “lifeline” providing those in the early stages a way to share with others facing the same challenges and frustrations. Care partners are ensured of a safe, comfortable and confidential environment in which to share their grief, their confusion, their anger and even sometimes, laughter with those who understand.

Here’s what some of our attendees had to say:
Savvy Caregiver Class

“I came to this class discouraged and overwhelmed. I leave empowered with volumes of information, sources of support and the courage to continue. Thank you!”

“The Savvy Caregiver Class gets you to put on your seatbelt and get ready for the ride of your life. You learn what’s in store, how to manage, mistakes to avoid and how to laugh! Best 6 weeks of my life–to learn how to better deal with my parents!”

“Everyone at the [support] group knows how it feels to have Alzheimer’s in the family. They understand with knowledge that others don’t have. I love being understood.”

Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association in support of our work on Tuesday, December 4, 2012, Colorado Gives Day.

Cheryl Parrish
Vice President of Programs
Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado

Holiday Tips For Caregivers

The holidays offer unique challenges to family care partners as well as the person with Alzheimer’s.

Traditions once shared should be reevaluated and adjustments made if necessary. For instance if Dad always led the tree cutting to the local national forest, maybe this year an adult child could do the cutting after Dad picks out the perfect tree. If your family always attended a worship service together, maybe the local priest or Rabbi would make a visit to your home.

You also may want to consider the size of holiday parties and meals. Gatherings of family and friends can be loud, happy occasions but can increase anxiety and confusion for someone with Alzheimer’s. Consider smaller groups or dedicate a place in the house where a family member can sit quietly with the person with Alzheimer’s if things get overwhelming. Use music as a way to engage the family while including the person who has Alzheimer’s disease. Seasonal music and songs are often remembered long after more recent memories are gone.

Reducing stress for the care partner should be a focus for family and friends as well. Find ways to help by offering to shop, bake, decorate and gift wrap. Offer a respite from caregiving with coupons for a night out, movie tickets or a coffee break with care offered for the person with Alzheimer’s.
Thanksgiving Dinner with Family
Making small changes to your holiday tradition can go a long way toward creating a calmer, more relaxed season for everyone.

Tips for caregivers:
• Have everyone wear festive name badges so the person with memory issues isn’t embarrassed at not remembering the names of family members or old friends
• Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper to involve the person with dementia and save time
• Buy fresh bakery items or ready-to-bake dough instead of spending hours in the kitchen
• Ask neighbors or friends to help with outdoor decorations
• Use Elfster.com or simply draw names for gift giving to reduce the number and cost of gifts
• Plan dinner and parties for earlier in the day before sundowning occurs
• Identify another family member or friend to assist the person with the disease for signs of stress, especially if the primary caregiver is busy cooking or hosting the party
• Find a fun stamp to use for signing holiday cards or scan a signature from a past document and have cards pre printed
Fill an iPod with favorite tunes and make it available when things get overwhelming or you recognize signs of stress in a loved one with dementia

– Sharon Stokes, Alzheimer’s Association Early Stage Services Coordinator

National Caregivers Month: Betsy is a Younger Onset Caregiver

John and Betsy
John and Betsy attending the Alzheimer’s Public Policy Summit 2011
We were devastated when my loved one (John McClelland) was diagnosed at 55, everything changed. After a couple of years and my position ended, I decided to stay home rather than take another position that required heavy travel. I don’t see myself as a “caregiver” at this time, but I do try to help where I can. It has been an adjustment for me to not work and to deal with the loss of income, but it has been a gift to have time together before the full impact of the disease takes over.

We have traveled the country, visited friends and built new memories. I don’t know how long we will continue to do this, but it has been a special time for us.

I take a lead role in managing our finances; making more of the routine decisions; try to keep projects and plans on track; ensure John has a quiet environment to rest; and has healthy meals. It is hard to watch the days when John is caught in a fog trying to sort out the days activities, it exhausts him. Fortunately we have more good days than bad.

We jointly attend a support group for those in early stage. We have already lost one member and all share in seeing the slow transition of the disease together. The friendships and support we have is very important to us. I also attend a support group for caregivers; our leader is excellent; bringing in support for us on the ongoing grief process, as well as time for us to support one another. In that group, are my heroes who support their loved ones in the later stages of the disease. They are role models of strength, love and commitment. I only hope to be that capable when those demands are called upon to me.

-Betsy Anderson

This week’s blog focuses on a number of people who are combining their own personal passion with fundraising in support of the fight against Alzheimer’s.

A Walk to Remember

Fred Wolfe completed his eighth year hiking to Vail from Denver raising more than $280,000 and the funds are still coming in. Read more in the Denver Post and the Villager about Fred’s Walk and why he has continued this strenuous effort for the past eight years.

CEO Linda Mitchell with Fred Wolfe

Climbing for a Cause

I have to admit, I never really gave Alzheimer’s Disease a second thought. That is until I found out that my Grandmother had become a victim of this terrible disease. As I started to look into what Alzheimer’s was I began to realize that thousands of people across the country are touched in some way by AD- either people who have AD or family and friends who must stand hopelessly by as loved ones slowly lose their precious memories. Many of my friends were in the same position that I am and I had to do something about it.

This summer, I will be climbing 14 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in order to raise awareness about and money for Alzheimer’s Disease. But, as no one in this struggle is alone, I am asking people to join me on one, two, or any number of the climbs. I am climbing in dedication to my Grandma and my Aunt Theresa who has been by her side since the beginning of this struggle. I am asking anyone to join me- either by climbing or donating- and dedicate a summit to a loved one. If you can’t physically join me, send me a picture of you and the person you are dedicating the summit to, and I will make a poster collage and take a picture from the top of each peak. Climbing these peaks is a metaphor for the daily struggles of Alzheimer’s Disease, but this is also about showing that no one is alone in this struggle. We all have mountains to climb.

All donations go straight to the Alzheimer’s Association- nothing is used to finance a climb. For more information please go to 1414ersforalz.org or email me atKalsbeek.robin@gmail.com

Robin Kalsbeek

ALZ Stars Ryan Kushner & Robin Kalsbeek ran into each other in the middle of their climbs up Evans and Bierstadt

I climb because I love pushing myself to go for that next challenge. My grandparents always taught me that you can overcome anything with effort and the right mind set.

Why do I want to climb mountains? Fighting Alzheimer’s is extremely hard and long process somewhat similar to climbing mountains. However, just like mountains with hard work, dedication, inspiration, and sometimes help from others we can fight and overcome this disease. I do not expect this to happen overnight but I do expect to continue climbing to do whatever I can to raise money for this cause in the memory of my grandparents Ed and Dorothy Christenson and everyone else suffering from this terrible disease.

So far  I have climbed 35 of the Colorado 14ers including several of them multiple times. Just last month I represented the Colorado Alzheimer’s Chapter on the summit of the third highest point in North America, Pico de Orizaba at 18,491ft. My next goal is to climb Illimani in Bolivia at a lung busting 21,122ft. I have already bought my plane ticket and will try to climb this mountain in July. It will most likely take 9 or 10 days to reach the summit and get back down safely.

Ryan Kushner

You can follow Ryan and Robin from the ALZ Stars Facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/ALZStarsColorado