Honoring My Parents

Kristen Beatty

Everyone impacted by Alzheimer’s has an amazing and touching story. My friend Marty, whose family also lives with this disease, very eloquently stated a wish that I share: that someday soon our kids will talk about Alzheimer’s the way we talk about polio – a disease that is all but gone due to the advances of science.

My Family

Blog photo.  Ray Rider, Sue Rider, Kristen Beatty, Brian BeattyMy story is also one of love. It is not only about my father currently living with Alzheimer’s, but the amazing caregiver that my mother was for him.

My father, Ray, was in the United States Air Force for 30 years. He was a fighter pilot – full of life – and considered himself lucky to be entrusted to defend our country by flying the F-100, F-4 and ultimately the F-16. He served in Vietnam, and never speaks of the experience.

The true hero of this 30-year story, though, is my mom, Sue. If you’ve ever read anything about military wives, you know the stamina, love and intention it takes to manage a household, move every two years (for some), make new friends, support other wives, and hold it together when your military husband is away often. She was loved deeply by her peers and by me and my brother for her joyful spirit and great advice.

At their 50th wedding anniversary, my mom shared great stories of their travels, adventures and friends. We’d lived in Europe for over 10 years, and she said we’d moved 26 times since they’d been married! Their grandkids called her “Super Nana” because she was indeed super-human, and always there with everything we needed, all while caring for my dad.

Our Journey

My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s sometime in his 60s. My brother and I didn’t know for a while because my mom always kept it together and didn’t want to worry us. Even after we did find out, it didn’t seem to be so bad because my mom made everything seem effortless. She put up a good front to make everything appear “handled” and “not that bad.”

On November 10, 2012, my mom passed away unexpectedly. They said it was from heart failure. I agreed that her heart did fail – she died of a broken heart. Once she was gone and not there to make “everything alright,” we realized just how bad my dad’s condition was – the anger, the paranoia, the confusion and the onslaught of questions that he must’ve asked my mom over and over every day.

My Promise Flower Dedication

I am actively involved in the Alzheimer’s Association, volunteer at many events and even co-chair the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s volunteer committee.
As much money as I raise, and as hard as I work to get the word out for advocacy and change to support research to end this disease, it never seems like enough.tribute wall blog image - rider

I am so happy to have the chance to make a significant donation to support the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado in their names, and place my mom and dad up on the Promise Garden Tribute Wall. My parents raised me to take action, and this is a perfect way to do that and honor both of them.

About the author:

Kristen Beatty is the co-chair of the Denver 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Volunteer Committee, and the director of business development at Webolutions. Kristen is a proud graduate of the University of Denver, and has lived in Denver most of her adult life. She currently resides in Centennial with her husband, Brian, and their two children. Kristen and her brother, Doug, work together with their families to care for her father living with the disease.

#StillMe

StillMe-Sandra

Following the release of Still Alice, a movie staring Julianne Moore as a Columbia linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, several courageous members of our Early Stage Group got together to kick off a new social media campaign, ‪#‎StillMe‬. The campaign aims to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease by putting a face on a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans.

StillMe-Wayne

 

 

Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over time. In its early stages, memory loss is mild. In the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. The #StillMe project aims to emphasize the individuals behind a disease that slowly robs them of themselves.

 

It is the slow and sorrowful progression of Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one that inspired Brad Torchia, a Denver based professional photographer, to get involved with the project:

A few years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  My family lives across the country from me, and on my trips home every six months I would notice her decline, as well as the devastating effect it was having on everyone around her.  I started photographing her as a way to make sense of the situation, and slow the process in my mind.  Over time, this has turned into a larger scale portrait project that I have been working on in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. I provide portraits of those living with the disease to their families at no cost, and simultaneously create a personal body of work. With this series, my goal is to convey the personality, and subtle, but noticeable effects that begin to take shape within the first stages of diagnosis, as well as contribute to the growing conversation around this disease.

StillMe-Rick

 

Barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease, by 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple to as many as 16 million. Despite this trajectory, Alzheimer’s remains the most expensive condition in the United States, and one of the most underfunded disease. Hopefully, the #StillMe campaign can shed a light on the individuals behind these statistics, because where there is humanity there is hope.

 

Now it’s your turn! Take a photo of someone in your life fighting Alzheimer’s disease and post it on Facebook or Twitter (@ColoAlzAssoc) with the hashtag #StillMe ‪#‎ENDALZ‬

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What It’s Like To Have Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

Hello, my name is David Fleming.

David Flemming FTD Dementia
The Flemming Family

Recently, I was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia (FTD). I had my twenty -four hour pity party and then it finally hit me. I am a retired firefighter and Emergency Technician. I have seen so many victims of accidents and there are so many people with health, financial and relationship problem who had far worse problems than me in life. I finally realized, why did I think I should not be immune to the problems of this world? What made me so special, that I should be exempt from these problems of life? I have the greatest family in the world. Four sisters, a brother, two sons, a granddaughter, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles, friends and a church family who love and support me always with unconditional love. I know I am the richest and luckiest man alive. I sat down and wrote to all my family and friends and thanked them for standing up with me and all their support and love.

I decided that day, that I was going to use all my God given talents to help others less fortunate than myself. I would strive to become a better man, brother, father, grandfather and friend. I would give my love to all these people, better than I have ever done before. I have always loved them, but I now love with more compassion and in a more passionate way.

I have always been a person with a positive attitude, but now I am more determined than ever to be more positive and a good example to everyone I meet. I am doing several things to keep myself as alert and useful as I possibly can be. I help my sisters, my church family and friends with construction, electrical, plumbing, and even helped one sister devise a filing system to aid her with her finances. I do some cooking, laundry, and keep a clean and neat home. I work crossword puzzles, read books and play games that exercise my mind. I walk a lot and work at doing things that keep me in good mental and physical shape. I love to dance and sing karaoke. I make my bed every day and make certain that my medicines are in my daily planner. I try to pay attention to my physical appearance. I dress and clean up pretty well. I brush my teeth, shower and shave every day. A positive attitude and prayers will keep us sharp and looking and acting young. Our hearts will take care of the rest.

For those who are taking care of us, please don’t forget to tell us what we are doing different. We may not know that we are digressing, but we need to know what aspects of our lives that we need to work on to keep us on top of our deficiencies. Also, if you are taking care of our mail and our bills, please remember that we still need to feel important and loved. So go ahead and send that junk mail to us! You have the checkbook and credit cards, so we won’t be buying all that junk that they ask us to buy. Another thing you can do is to give us cash when we go out to dine or to the movies. Just enough cash to pay for what we doing gives us pride to still be able to pay our own way, at least in our own minds.
I am still looking forward to a bright and exciting future. I will never give up on myself and what I can do to help others. I want to travel and see the world before I have to say I cannot do this anymore. We are all trying to get through this disease with as few problems as possible.

Sincerely, David

Why I Volunteer With The Alzheimer’s Association Of Colorado

Tokunbo Joseph Olowookere
Tokunbo Joseph Olowookere

The threat of Alzheimer’s is real. This is why I volunteer with and support The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. No immediate members of my family have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but I have some extended family members that have/had the disease. My Pastor’s husband died with Alzheimer’s. I don’t remember the man, because he was ill with the disease when I met him as a child. From what my Pastor speaks about her husband, he was an exceptional man. He was respected by his church as a Deacon, and an excellent provider for his wife and nine children.

I have an Uncle who’s wife’s mom and dad have/had Alzheimer’s. Her mom is still alive, but her dad passed away with the disease. He served as mayor of his city, Altheimer, AR. I wasn’t familiar with former Mayor Fred Martin, but I did meet his wife. I remember during family reunions, my Aunt would have her mom re-fold t-shirts to keep her busy, while others enjoyed the family reunion festivities. I understand eventually, they had to put Mrs. Martin in a nursing home.

These three examples of people with great minds getting Alzheimer’s proves, as Alzheimer’s Association board member, and fellow member of The Association’s African American Advisory Committee, Phillip Heath states, “Alzheimer’s is an equal opportunity destroyer.” There is a form of dementia called “younger-onset Alzheimer’s,” that can occur in the 40-50 age group. This concerns me, because I’m getting older.

I appreciate that the Alzheimer’s Association has a multicultural outreach that caters to African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities. I’ve volunteered on The Helpline, which is a great first contact for people that have questions about Alzheimer’s. Being a member of The African American Advisory Committee, has granted me great opportunities to meet and engage with important people of our time. People like Dr. Ben Carson, Neurosurgeon and Dr. Huntington Potter.

African American Alzheimer's Risk

Now the Alzheimer’s Association, through staff member, Rosalyn Reese and The African American Advisory Committee, have launched an enterprising plan called, “Purple Power Champions Initiative.” It’s about going to black churches, via their health ministries to bring awareness about Alzheimer’s. Since African Americans are more likely to get Alzheimer’s then other ethnic groups, it makes sense that African Americans, and people in general get educated about the disease [African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s due to the correlation of the disease to high blood pressure and diabetes both of which have a higher incidence among blacks and Hispanics]. The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado also has many free classes and courses available to the public.

Not only has the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado made me more aware about the seriousness of this deadly disease called Alzheimer’s, the Association is fun! I enjoy the annual fundraisers, Walk To End Alzheimer’s and The Blonde vs. Brunette Flag Football Game. The staff and volunteers I’ve met at the Alzheimer’s Association are good people to know. So whether you are African American, or any other ethnic group or race, The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado is a good organization to utilize and support. I am proud to be associated with this organization.

Sincerely,

Tokunbo Joseph Olowookere