Mrs. Annabel Bowlen to Cut the Opening Ceremony Ribbon at Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Mrs. Annabel Bowlen cutting the ribbon at the 2014 Walk to End Alzheimer's
Mrs. Annabel Bowlen cutting the ribbon at the 2014 Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Mrs. Annabel Bowlen, Captain of Team Super Bowlen, will join more than 10,000 Denver residents to unite in a movement to reclaim the future for millions at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s® . Team Super Bowlen was among the Top 10 National Walk to End Alzheimer’s Fundraising Teams in 2014. Broncos fans are invited to show support by joining and donating to Team Super Bowlen for the September 19 Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Denver City Park.

“I like being part of the Walk so we can all come together in unity to raise awareness for this dreadful disease that is plaguing our community and our nation. The fact of the matter is, we all know someone with Alzheimer’s.” –Mrs. Annabel Bowlen

Walk participants will honor those affected by Alzheimer’s disease with the poignant Promise Garden ceremony led by Beth Bowlen Wallace immediately before the Ribbon Cutting. In 2014 the Denver Walk was the fourth largest in the country raising more than one million dollars for care, support and research efforts for those impacted by Alzheimer’s

Denver Walk to End Alzheimer's.
Crowd at the 2014 Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Living Life Well with A Diagnosis

Bruce Peterson
Bruce and Marikay Peterson

Yes, my wife’s diagnosis caused confusion at first. Initially we thought the short term memory loss was similar to others our age, but the tests identified a more severe limitation: Alzheimer’s

Candidly we have found many positives to this disease. It caused me to enter retirement at an earlier age than anticipated and found that I really didn’t mind missing work. The exchange from a business attitude to a more relaxed posture created a more solid marriage. Instead of me leaving an empty house to my wife(our children had moved out) at 6 am, I was sleeping longer, with less worries.

Currently we try to do something together, EACH DAY. Often times (maybe once per week) it involves an Alzheimer’s function, like our journey to Mt. Everest today. Friends have volunteered to help when I leave to play golf. It’s important to identify them before a crises, instead of after (when you can’t find them). At a recent Alzheimer’s luncheon 57 friends joined us for lunch to recognize my wife and share their concerns, to offer their prayers. You can imagine the positive impact on our entire family!

We have signed up for three/four programs that meet at the Alzheimer’s office throughout the month. We found out about Active Minds and Café Connect which encourages intellectual stimulation for seniors. Occasionally we receive free tickets to community activities. Never would we have enjoyed these many Denver activities if it were not for the diagnosis. While seeking treatment at the Anschutz Center we take pride in this wonderful expanding facility which means so much to our community. We always leave with a sense of confidence because the staff is professional while at the same time showing empathy.

Our friends have changed from a purely business and political association to new friends where we share something in common: fear about the future while coping day to day with the unknown. We enjoy our new friends as we wrestle with daily issues that are not understood by the public. We have no concerns about telling the same story multiple times or hearing a joke for the 10th time. This sincere friendship and comfort (“I understand what you’re going through”) would not have taken place a few years ago.

My wife is fully aware of her new limitations, something that might not have been admitted while working up the corporate ladder. Daily we work together to understand our feelings and how to better cope with confusion.

At this time I’m not certain of the future, but believe that this could be one of the best blessings of our retirement lives.

-Bruce Peterson

Living Life When the Diagnosis is Alzheimer’s

At the Alzheimer’s Association we often hear from families that their first reaction after a diagnosis is one of relief, because now they finally know what they are dealing with. However, what follows shortly after is a profound sense of loss at what’s to come as the disease progresses.

What many people don’t understand is that while this disease steals so much of the person known and loved by friends and family, changes can happen relatively slowly. Speech, for instance, begins to deteriorate with a person initially having trouble finding nouns and eventually, they may be unable to put sentences together.  Following step-by-step instructions or a recipe may get increasingly difficult. Balance may be impacted so falling down and dropping and spilling things may occur more often. In addition, the ability to use good judgment to make decisions may begin to decrease. That doesn’t mean life can’t be enjoyed, or trips can’t be taken or new adventures can’t be planned. Simple adjustments may just need to be made to the way you’ve always done things.

While the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are progressive, there is still a great deal of life to live after a diagnosis. What activities do you or a loved one continue to enjoy?
While the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are progressive, there is still a great deal of life to live after a diagnosis.

One man, who thoroughly enjoyed cooking in his beautifully-equipped kitchen, enlisted his wife’s help. They removed all the sharp knives, labeled drawers and moved things around so he could easily find what he needed. Then they simplified recipes and used the ones still most familiar to him so he could continue doing what he loved. Another couple who loved to dance was worried the wife’s balance problems would mean they had to stop. In fact, her dancing feet remembered all the right steps.  And yet another family switched to croquet instead of golf and now the grandchildren get out on the course with grandpa, giving them a wonderful new way to play and interact together.

Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease but it doesn’t have to bring life to a screeching halt. You can still do what you enjoy, maybe just a little differently. In fact slowing things down a bit and allowing additional time for an activity creates a more comfortable and enjoyable environment for someone with dementia . Figure out what kinds of activities are available in your area and adapt them when you can. If you enjoy visiting local museums, find out if there are hours when the crowds are smaller and whether there are docents who are trained for groups with special needs. The Denver Art Museum has a program specifically for those with dementia called Art and About that is coordinated with the Alzheimer’s Association.  Tours are offered each time a new exhibit comes to town. Walking trails designed for the sight impaired offer a unique way to follow guided walkways when balance and direction are issues for a friend or family member with dementia. If you’ve always loved to camp, try an RV instead of a tent.  A pop up camper or RV makes things easier on the care partner. More time can be spent enjoying the out of doors than on the set up, cooking and cleaning up involved with tent camping. If gardening is a special hobby, create a special bin for equipment and help mom find it each time she wants to putter with her roses. And try large-print playing cards to keep dad winning at the Bridge table. Keeping your friend or loved one busy, active, engaged and socializing may mean the disease progresses just a little bit slower. Regardless of the activity or the hobby, the real benefit is that by looking for ways to keep someone you love doing what they love, you have been given the gift of time with them to treasure.

To learn about the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s or for ways to keep a loved one active and content go to alz.org/co or call 800.272.3900

What activities do you or a loved one continue to enjoy?
What activities do you or a loved one continue to enjoy?

The Longest Day

Last year my friends and family participated in The Longest Day on June 20, for the first time. We’ve had a Walk team for the past six first walking in honor and then in memory of my husband Bill and wanted to find a way to involve more family and friends in the cause.

The Longest Day
Join us on June 21, 2013 for The Longest Day, as together we honor those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

After struggling for five years with symptoms, Bill was diagnosed with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s when he was just 57. Our journey lasted a total of nine years and he died in 2010. He was my soul mate and my best buddy on so many adventures. We camped across Colorado and into Utah, South Dakota and Wyoming. We skied resorts from Vermont to New Hampshire to Colorado to Utah and the Tetons. Even in the midst of his disease, we pushed our limits in the search for new, challenging adventures. When the Alzheimer’s Association launched The Longest Day it seemed like the perfect way to continue to honor Bill’s legacy. Along with my friends and family, we took up activities that fit best with what we love to do. My younger sister in Durango rode her horses and her road bike trainer, my parents walked the streets of Vail during what was their anniversary trip, my sister Lynne walked the trails near her home in Lakewood, and my good friend Bob and I rode our mountain bikes near Boulder for four hours. All day, somewhere in the country, our team was doing something they love to raise money and awareness in memory of Bill. Thanks to our generous friends and family, we also raised nearly $1,700 for the Association.

The Longest Day at Vail
My mom and dad walked throughout Vail for The Longest Day.

Did I mention The Longest Day is scheduled to take place on the longest day of the year? The summer solstice occurs each year in June, this year on Friday, June 21. That means there are 16 hours of daylight from sunrise to sunset. The Alzheimer’s Association chose that day in recognition of caregivers, who like me spend every day from sunrise to sunset and into the night providing care for someone they love who is living with Alzheimer’s. The tagline for the event is “for them every day is the longest day, for you it’s just one” and it rings true. The Longest Day offers us an opportunity to give up one day to raise money, awareness and an understanding that this disease steals the person you love long before they die. We have to find effective treatments, we have to stop this disease before more spouses, children, grandchildren and friends lose people who mean so very much. Please consider forming a team this year and join us in 16 hours of doing whatever you love to help end Alzheimer’s.

Sara Spaulding,
Former caregiver for best friend, partner and husband Bill Perrin, Jr
Alz.org/thelongestday

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

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

Art & About Visits Yves St. Laurent Exhibit

One of the most important things we can keep in mind about persons with Alzheimer’s disease is that they have the same capacity to enjoy life as anyone else.  This means that entertainment, humor, inspiration, and more broadly the humanities (music, poetry, art, drama, etc.), all have the potential to move people, including those with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.  Regardless of how early or advanced the disease might be, a person will still tap their foot to music, laugh at absurdity, and appreciate beauty in artistic expression.

Those who participate in our Early Stage programs get regular doses of fun and inspiration as they take part in regular poetry discussions, find ways to make each other laugh, and go on outings to places of interest in our community.  One of the most special of these is our bi-monthly trip to the Denver Art Museum (DAM), a program we call Art & About, and which was modeled after one that began several years ago at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  These tours are led by docents who’ve received training from the Alzheimer’s Association about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia including ways to communication effectively. The docents choose four or five pieces of art and involve groups of about 16 people in an extended discussion.

This week we had the privilege of taking our early stage group to see the very special Yves St. Laurent exhibit.  DAM accommodated the nearly 60 people who signed up by giving us a second day for our tour.  In addition, the museum allowed our group to tour the exhibit with our docents an hour before the museum opened to the public for the day.  This allowed for a “distraction-free” experience in which the discussions were easily heard and the incredible exhibit could be fully appreciated.  All the participants (including the men!) were awe-struck by the variety and creativity of styles created by St. Laurent.  We all look forward to the next tour in August….though this will be a tough one to beat!

Ken Helander

Alzheimer’s Association

Early Stage Services Manager

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Don’t Miss the Blondes vs. Brunettes Flag Football Game

The Young Professionals Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado (YPAAC) was established in 2006 to work in conjunction with the Colorado Chapter to raise awareness among local young professionals. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to chair the Board for this group and we have some exciting events planned for this year.  We have a great group on the Board and even more who serve as volunteers on committees and we’re growing.

On Saturday, June 2nd we’ll host the first ever Blondes vs Brunettes: Tackling Alzheimer’s with Serious Altitude Flag Football Game at DU’s Peter Barton Lacrosse field.  Bring your friends and cheer on your favorite team. To purchase tickets, call 303.813.1669 or visit our Web site. We have also some great sponsors including Emich Volkswagon and Emich Chevrolet. Each dealership took on a team so it’s going to be pretty competitive come game day. We’ve all been practicing in addition to raising money but we’re having fun at the same time. That’s what our group is all about; giving back and making a difference while networking and meeting other like-minded professionals under the age of 40.

A few years ago we took over hosting the Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day at the Boulder Reservoir and each year we raise thousands of dollars while increasing awareness for the Association and for the cause.  Join us and more than 800 crazy plungers to ring in the new year!

In addition to these signature events we have a Spring Spruce Up where we landscape and generally “spruce” up a local care community. We know that as Alzheimer’s progresses often families can’t continue to care for a loved one at home so assisted living, retirement facilities and Memory Units often serve as a final home for those with the disease. We think it‘s important to live in a community that’s nice to look at in addition to providing good quality care. If you’d like to learn more and meet a few of us, YPAAC hosts quarterly education and networking happy hours throughout Denver Metro so give me a shout and plan to join us.

All funds raised by YPAAC benefit the programs and services of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. This includes education, counseling, a 24/7 Helpline, and support groups as well as research to find better treatments and eventually a cure.

For more information about YPAAC, check out our website, be our fan on Facebook, follow us on twitter or email our Alzheimer’s Association liaison Cailin Branchford at Cailin.branchford@alz.org.

Hope to see you at the BvB game. Go Blondes!

Andrea George
YPAAC Board Chair

Know the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

The last two of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s include withdrawal from work or social activities and changes in mood and personality. These two signs go hand in hand. As the person with Alzheimer’s is increasing unable to hold a conversation, follow a favorite sports team or participate in a much loved hobby, it may be hard to determine if signs of depression and mood swings are a result of the isolation or the disease.

For someone who is an avid baseball fan, this sign might be visible with confusion about the rules or trouble remembering who the star pitcher is. Involvement in hobbies might become harder and eventually impossible to continue enjoying. Missed meetings at work or an inability to stay on task, on budget and meet deadlines might be new occurrences for someone used to receiving accolades for performance.  Withdrawal from these activities may be a sign that continuing to be social, deal with the stress of a job or follow the steps required for a hobby are just too difficult.

In addition to the sign of withdrawing from work and social activities, changes to mood and personality are important to watch for. We all sometimes feel sad, anxious or depressed; however, someone with Alzheimer’s will have a more dramatic and sometimes an unexpected  reaction to what’s going on around them. Loud noises, large crowds, and unfamiliar surroundings can trigger anxiety, fear, anger and also increase the risk for wandering in order to get away from noise and people. In addition to mood and personality changes, Alzheimer’s also leads to confusion, suspicion, as well as being fearful and anxious. Family and friends report seeing significant changes in someone who was always cheerful and happy. The change can be very dramatic and unexpected with the person becoming angry and even aggressive. Sometimes that aggression is directed toward someone else. The opposite can also be true of a parent, aunt or uncle who has been characterized as grumpy or even mean all of their life, and now as Alzheimer’s progresses they appear docile, sweet and uncharacteristically loving.

The key to recognizing many of the 10 Warning Signs is the change seen by family and friends, however, if you have concerns about experiencing these signs yourself, your best first step is to see your doctor. Putting the whole picture together can be a challenge even for a healthcare professional and will require a series of tests and exams. While doctors can now be 90% accurate with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, your own recognition of new trouble you’re having as well as what friends and family are telling you can help complete the puzzle and give you a chance to seek treatment and plan for your own future.

Please visit our Web site to learn more about the disease, the programs we offer you and your family, links to ongoing research and clinical trials that you might find interesting, and our Helpline to call or email for additional information. You are not alone.

 

Linda Mitchell,
Alzheimer’s Association
President and CEO

Decreased or Poor Judgment

One of the 10 Warning Signs of great concern to adult children of those with Alzheimer’s is the decrease in judgment apparent as the disease progresses.

This warning sign is more obvious if someone has always been really frugal and especially careful with their finances. Watch for sudden increases in spending or giving large sums of money away to perfect strangers who call or happen by the house. The key is whether this is unusual behavior and if so the risks should be discussed, not only related to financial issues but the personal risk of inviting a stranger into the house could be of concern as well.

Poor judgment isn’t limited to financial issues however. Decision making in general is affected and may include things like not wearing weather appropriate clothing, the inability to determine when it’s safe to cross a busy street, going for a walk alone or even being unable to choose from a large menu.

While sometimes all of us feel as if we’ve made a bad choice or misplaced trust in someone we shouldn’t, a person experiencing the eighth of the 10 Warning Signs will be unable to make decisions at all and the pattern of using poor judgment will only increase.

Knowing the 10 Warning Signs can help rule out what is typical and what isn’t. If you are worried about more than one change in yourself or someone you know, see your doctor. The Alzheimer’s Association can help. Call 800-272.3900.

Linda Bloom,  MS, MBA has worked as Regional Director for the Southern Colorado office of the Alzheimer’s Association for the past two years serving 18 counties in the southeastern part of the state.