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
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.
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.
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.
The annual Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making (MIM) Art Auction was held at the DTC Hyatt and raised more than $250,000 to support families living with Alzheimer’s as well as research to find better treatments and eventually a cure. This year’s theme, An Elegant Evening of Art, was well emphasized throughout the second floor lobby of the Hyatt with stunning framed watercolors created by those with Alzheimer’s disease and original works donated by local professional artists.
Many returning professionals were in attendance this year including Martin Lambuth, Margaretta Caesar, Cheryl St. John, Tammi Otis, Lisa Hut, Frances Gottlieb, Al Murphy, Jean Shom, Amy Winter, Marin Dobson, Shawn Shea, Anne Aguirre, Kay Landen, and Madeleine O’Connell. Duke Beardsley’s painting of cowboys on canvas and Roxanne Rossi’s gorgeous black and white laquer dress titled Afternoon Tea were two of the pairings that saw rapid fire bidding from the more than 550 guests during the live auction hosted by 9News anchor Kim Christiansen. Her son Tanner helped out the cause by walking the catwalk with artwork while mom shared poignant stories about the paintings and the artists who created them.
The highest bid ever for the Association was $13,250 for Beardsley’s piece paired with a watercolor of two cowboys, while Rossi’s dress and its pairing of a Red Strapless Dior Dress went to Stephen Koch and Donna Herlehey for $4100. Other high bids included: Gary and Donna Antonoff on a series of watercolors titled Roses paired with Love for Growth by artist Laurie Maves. Jim and Zodie Livingston whose successful bid earned them the watercolor titled Aspen paired with a beautiful oil painting by Margaretta Caesar.
It was an amazing evening celebrating and honoring the work of artists who paint in our Memories in the Making (MIM) program, which is offered at no cost across the state. We are so thankful to all of the sponsors and bidders in our silent and live auctions. We are also especially grateful to the families who donated the MIM watercolors as well as all the wonderful professional artists who donated an original work for pairing with an Alzheimer’s watercolor or for contributing a palette for our silent auction.
Other special guests attending the Denver auction this year included Sunday Mann, Susie Frey, Ted Shipman, Alex Speros, Dr. Gene Eby, Tim and Kathy VanMeter, Lisa and Ed Hut, Dick and Norma Auer, Courtney Sipperley, Leslie Liedtke, Sally Haas, Bonnie Perkins, Julie and Rich Wham, Mike Spriggs, William Brummett, Gary, Sandy and Scott Autrey, Barbara and Lee Mendel, Melinda Quiat, and Alzheimer’s Association Board members Tom O’Donnell, Tom Hurley and his wife Jeri, Adam Duerr and his wife Ali, Sid Okes and his guest Shari Gillespie, JJ Jordan and her husband Tim, Kristy Tochihara, Venetia Marshall, Chris Binkley and his wife Linda, Linda Peotter and her husband Jeff, Board Chair Sarah Lorance and her husband Michael, Association President and CEO Linda Mitchell and her husband Ken Neeper.
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!
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.
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.
President and CEO
As Alzheimer’s progresses two of the most recognizable changes occurring are 1) new problems with words in speaking and writing and, 2) misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
The first of these two signs exhibits itself as problems with speech which includes talking as well as understanding what’s being said. Initially it may be simply having trouble finding words, especially nouns that identify common objects. For instance friends and family may notice a loved one is unable to ask for more coffee. Instead they point and ask for another cup of “that stuff” (coffee).
Problems with words can also be seen with someone who starts to withdraw from conversations or during social outings. The person with dementia begins to struggle with understanding what is being said. It becomes too hard to follow whatever it is the group is discussing. When asked a question, putting an answer together with words in a way that makes sense is simply too difficult. This might be why a loved one repeats the same questions over and over. They just don’t understand what’s being asked and can’t formulate an answer. As a result, the person gradually goes from being a participant to spectator. The change can be so gradual that it is often missed by the casual observer.
Reading and writing can also be a challenge. Reading the same line over and over again without comprehension, taking all morning to read one story in the newspaper or being unable to finish a novel are all indications of new problems. Leaving sticky note reminders may work for some period of time for the person with the disease but eventually it becomes clear they can no longer read what’s been posted. Additionally handwriting may change and eventually be illegible. It can be startling when even a signature becomes unrecognizable.
Another of the 10 Warning Signs is the inability to retrace your steps when you’ve misplaced something. Many of us walk into a room and say to ourselves “now what did I come in here for?” After a minute or two we’ll remember the reason. Or we’ve put our car keys down and can’t remember where. The difference between us and someone with Alzheimer’s is that ability to think through where we’ve been and what we’ve done allowing us to locate those misplaced keys.
While there are typical changes that occur as we age, 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.
Teresa Black has served as the Western Colorado Regional Director for the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter since 2009. The office is in Grand Junction, and supports individuals and families throughout a nine-county area serving Mesa, Montrose, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Pitkin and Lake counties. Teresa holds a Bachelor’s degree from Colorado Christian University and a Master’s from Colorado Mesa University.
As the symptoms of Alzheimer’s become more pronounced, friends and family may begin to see a decrease in coordination or what appears to be a problem with vision. The ability to make sense or understand visual images and spatial relationships is the fifth of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s. This sign is exhibited by spilling or dropping things more often, having trouble with balance, tripping over curbs, area rugs, or mistaking dark patterns in carpeting or tile floors for holes, and trouble reading.
When someone begins having vision problems, it’s important to get a checkup by a family physician or an optometrist especially as problems with reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast increase. Families in Association education classes and support groups share examples of a loved one who can’t find their coffee cup right in front of them on the breakfast table or a husband who was a scratch golfer and now struggles with following their golf ball on the course. This warning sign also reveals itself in the concept of seeing your own reflection in the mirror. You may think someone else is in the room or even have a conversation with the person you see reflected there.
As we age we may experience typical changes to our vision. Putting the whole picture together is important; however, in order to determine if the changes are more serious and related to Alzheimer’s or another medical condition like cataracts or macular degeneration. That is one of the reasons it’s important to see your family doctor to determine whether there is another medical reason for issues related to trouble with vision and spatial relationships or if in fact the problems are occurring because of this most common form of dementia.
Marcia Shafer is the Northeastern Colorado Regional Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter. The office in Evans, near Greeley, serves the counties of Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, and Weld. Marcia has lived in Colorado for 38 years and has worked for the Alzheimer’s Association for 2 years. She has a M.Div. from the Iliff School of Theology and is taking graduate courses in Gerontology from UNC.