Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s Association

Join the Fight

Vantage Point: Join the Fight

As days go by, we never really notice change until we sit down to reminisce and look back at our past. Every couple of years, I look back at old family pictures and home videos and realize how much has changed. This triggers memories and further discussion on that particular time in my life.

As we go through our lives, we meet so many people. It can be hard to remember all their names, well at least for me, but I always remember faces for some reason. I love to see people I remember, even if I don’t quite remember their names.

In this line of work, I get to see so many people with different backgrounds, and unfortunately, with different illnesses. When I first encountered Alzheimer’s disease, I wasn’t sure how to approach it or even how to act. It was not an obvious sign. Instead, it was very subtle. I really had to pay attention and see the different demeanor this person had.

After that encounter, I started to do my research on what happens when a person gets diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I came across the Alzheimer’s Association. I learned so much on its website and realized how Alzheimer’s is so common. Did you know that Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States? The disease also accounts for 60–80% of all dementia cases.

This illness takes away so many of our loved ones, neighbors, and friends. So what is being done? How can we stop this terrible disease from taking so many memories away? One thing to keep in mind if you are going through this, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association has walks all over the county each year to raise awareness and funds for the research of an Alzheimer’s cure. The main reason for the walk is Alzheimer’s care, support, and research.

Here in the Wenatchee Valley, the walk will take place on September 8, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Pybus Public Market. In Grant County, the walk will be September 15, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Moses Lake High School. The Yakima walk will also take place September 15, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Sarg Hubbard Park.

To join the fight, join the Alzheimer’s Association at one of these walks. It’s an opportunity to be the change and the voice for those who are no longer with us.

 Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in the Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.

Remember September

Long View: Remember September

Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh-so-mellow.

Many of you may remember this Andy Williams song from years ago. For me, it rekindled some fond memories of a younger time. Did you read the lyrics, or sing them (as I did)?

September is a time when we welcome autumn and say so long to summer. Living in the Midwest for most of my life, I love the change of seasons, especially this one! The shades of nature are a mixture of both summer and fall.

It’s a fun time in fashion when colors start to pop as wardrobes transition. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear plum opaque tights with a pastel-colored summer frock, a cozy navy sweatshirt with those favorite khaki shorts, or even a pair of gray light wool pants with some snazzy, strappy sandals! (Is white OK after Labor Day these days?)

One of the most prominent colors of the season that you will see displayed this month is purple. Did you know that purple is the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement?

September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and here at Health Alliance, we participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in many of our communities throughout Illinois. These wonderful walks are intended to raise awareness of the disease and to raise funds for care, support, and research. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible disease that progressively and slowly destroys a person’s memory and mental skills to the point of not being able to carry out the simplest task.

Finding a cure for this disease is the focus of Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and developing prevention along with treatment is part of the process. Check out the dates and towns for the 2018 walks near you. It’s a nationwide annual event, with more than 600 communities across the United States participating.

There are many way to help, even if you don’t want to walk. Take your first step and go the official website at Act.ALZ.org/Walk.

Here are some of the 2018 local walks where you may spot Health Alliance:

  • Champaign – September 22
  • Decatur – October 6
  • Mattoon – September 29
  • Bloomington/Normal – September 15
  • Peoria – October 13
  • Rockford – September 15
  • Springfield – September 22

Come up with your own transitional outfit to wear (maybe add a splash of purple,) and hope to see you at a walk!

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

Fight Caregiver Fatigue

Long View: Nobody Is an Island – Recognizing and Addressing Caregiver Fatigue

The holidays are supposed to be a time for family gatherings, parties, traveling, and opportunities to laugh and relax with the ones you love. For some, though, the holidays have different associations, like stress, anxiety, and isolation.

Caregivers can often feel stressed during the holiday season. While others are enjoying this time of year, caregivers may feel isolated as they focus on the care of a loved one. Caregivers selflessly provide around-the-clock, unpaid care to seniors and people with disabilities. They are tasked with accompanying their loved one to medical appointments, managing their medications, and handling their financial affairs, all while balancing their own obligations.

Caregivers also often overlook their own mental, emotional, and physical health. As a result, they can feel a sense of isolation, like they’re alone on an island. This feeling is called caregiver fatigue.

Mitchell Forrest, a social worker at Central Illinois Agency on Aging in Peoria, provided insight into caregiver fatigue. “Caregivers who feel a sense of hopelessness, are socially withdrawn, not sleeping, and experiencing illness and weight loss, may be suffering from caregiver fatigue and should seek out supports to help them manage their stress,” he said.

If left untreated, caregiver fatigue can take such a physical and mental toll that they can no longer care for their loved one.

But caregivers can find a network of encouragement through support groups. National organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association, offer local support groups for caregivers of people with different diagnoses.

Respite services can be another vital resource. For a fee, nursing homes and adult day services offer a safe, supportive environment where the loved one will be in trusted hands for a few hours or longer, so the caregiver can rest. In-home personal aides can also provide additional assistance to the caregiver.

While no resource is a remedy for the anxiety of caring for a sick loved one, caregivers should know that they are not alone. Talking to someone is invaluable, and there are many counselors who specialize in the needs of caregivers.

Area Agencies on Aging offer resources and referrals to support seniors, people with disabilities, and their caregivers. If you feel alone on the island, send a signal and help will find you.

Chris Maxeiner is a community liaison with Health Alliance. His background is in the fields of healthcare and government programs. His favorite superhero is Batman, and he is an avid Chicago sports fan (Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox).

Love Story through Alzheimer's

Chasing Health: Member’s Love Story of Caring for Wife with Alzheimer’s

As a writer, I get to interview all kinds of people about all kinds of topics, and sometimes I come across a story that gives me goosebumps.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Cary Ulrich, a member who lives in Washington, for the spring issue of House Calls, one of our Medicare newsletters. This former drafter and current fire photographer was kind enough to share his heartfelt story with me.

Cary’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and passed away after we published this article. But for nearly three years, Cary was her primary caregiver, a tough task for a person watching someone he loves suffer from a disease that does not yet have a cure.

I don’t know if I could handle it, but Cary did. And he even found a way to make something positive out of it. Today, Cary leads caregiver support groups and is writing a book to capture how grateful he is for the time he spent with the love of his life.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, and with Thanksgiving coming up, I think it’s the perfect time to share Cary’s story of being grateful while making sacrifices. Maybe it’ll inspire you to join the cause to end Alzheimer’s or thank a caregiver.

Take a Minute to Care about Caregivers

Cary Ulrich, a second-year Health Alliance Medicare member, likes a challenge. The one-time drafter and surveyor at an engineering firm went from designing layouts for Wenatchee Valley’s buildings and subdivisions to taking photos on the frontlines of wildfires.

The toughest challenge he faced wasn’t learning the art of drafting by hand before the drafting world went digital, and it wasn’t going out on his first fire call to take pictures of people putting their lives on the line to save others. It wasn’t even a challenge he enjoyed, but it was his most important, being a caregiver for one of the people he loves most, his wife.

Sharon Ulrich was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (a type of dementia) after showing some confusing symptoms, like having visions of everything from Old English-style visitors to spies and people trying to break into her home.

At first, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was it depression? Dementia? And if she had dementia, what kind was it? At 63 years old, she seemed too young for that.

While doctors looked for answers, Cary stayed by his wife’s side. From her earliest symptoms and first diagnosis in March 2010 to moving her to an adult home in February 2013, Cary was a caregiver. And he quickly learned that being a caregiver can take its own toll.

“I was on the outside going through everything,” he says. “I was very frustrated and angry at the situation, not at her. I had all those feelings, and no one seemed to care about me.”

He watched his wife’s health get worse while knowing he couldn’t help her get better. The woman who’d walked past his back-row church pew almost two decades ago, the one he thought was way too classy to ever even talk to him, now needed him to be her caregiver.

Cary and Sharon

“It’s a hard process,” he says. “I don’t exactly know how I did it, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve had to let go of what was and just totally accept her for the person she is now.”

Cary never backed down. Instead, he used his experience of caring for a loved one with dementia to help others do the same, turning his negative situation into something positive.

Today, Cary helps run two caregiver support groups, one specific to dementia at the Grief Place of North Central Washington and a more general one at Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington in East Wenatchee. In both groups, Cary gives support and tips to other caregivers because he believes it will help them feel better and make smarter choices about their own loved ones.

“The more you know when these things happen, the more you can kind of accept them,” he says. “You know you’re going to have to change because your loved one has changed and can’t go back the other way.”

He also talks to nursing classes at Wenatchee Valley College and to first responders in different fire districts to help them know how to work with people with dementia and the family and friends who care for them.

Cary takes on other challenges, too, like helping put on the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Wenatchee. Last year, he lined up sponsors, set up, and took photos for the 2-mile event that raised money and awareness.

Wenatchee's Walk to End Alzheimer's

Cary’s selflessness shines through in everything he does, and the man who likes to take on challenges and still goes out on fire calls hopes to make caregivers’ lives less challenging in the future.

“As a caregiver, you have the memories of what was, but all you have is what is. It’s a very difficult place to be. I know what these caregivers are going through, though. And I want them to know they are valued and can still enjoy life.”

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Alzheimer’s Disease Brain

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month, so on social media, we gave you more info on the disease each day.

In the U.S., there are more than 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. Give these people a big thank you! And learn how to join in the raising awareness this month.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops it.

There are approximately 500,000 people dying each year from Alzheimer’s, and it’s the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.

1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. These numbers could triple with the baby boomers unless we make breakthroughs to prevent or treat it.

Alzheimer’s is the most expensive condition in the nation. The cost to America in 2014 will be $214 billion. Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare dollars is spent on those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Almost 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. In her 60s, a woman is more like to develop it than breast cancer.

15.5 million caregivers provide 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for Alzheimer’s victims. More than 60% of them are women.

Find a walk, other ways to help, or more info.

Using Your Brainpower

Boost Your Brainpower

Challenging yourself mentally raises your brainpower and function, which is shown to reduce the risk of mental decline and dementia in old age. What can you do to keep your brain in amazing shape?

Never Stop Learning

Learning new things in school or classes, at work, and in your spare time all help you challenge your mind, no matter what your age.

As we get older, we get comfortable doing the things we’ve always done. But your brain will benefit from tackling something new. Learning keeps life stimulating, especially during retirement.

Community colleges and park districts offer a variety of courses that allow you to interact with others while challenging your mind. You can try a new sport, learn a new language, take up painting, or learn a skill you’ve always been interested in picking up.

Activities that use your hands, like woodworking, sign language, or knitting, are also great because focusing on your hand-eye coordination works multiple parts of your brain.

Not only will it help you stay sharp, you’ll also feel accomplished. Never stop challenging yourself to learn new things!

Memorize

Learn a new word a day, take up local theater where you learn a small part, learn your favorite poem by heart, or learn all the words to your latest favorite song. Writing things down as you go can also help. This careful listening and learning can help you sharpen your thinking.

Get Involved

Volunteering with a local organization offers you the chance to interact with others, which also stimulates your brain. You can meet new people who are both working and being helped in the community.

Help your church, local library, animal shelter, or even a branch of a larger organization like the Alzheimer’s Association to meet people, work events, and even get active with 5ks.

Eat Antioxidants

Foods like blueberries and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants, which help fight age-related diseases. They can also help delay or prevent cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

And they’re delicious! Win-win!

Get Moving

Dancing with a partner or in a group may be one of the best physical activities you can do that is also good for your mind. When you dance the salsa, a waltz, or even the electric slide, your brain whirls to keep up with the steps, all while you interact with others around you. Dancing is also shown to help slow the progress of dementia.

Try Something New

Break out of your routine and see something new, like an art show. Taking pictures for social media, writing about it, and making scrapbooks to show your family and friends are all great ways to train your brain to remember the details about your new experience too.

There are many brain games on the market you can try to stay sharp. Lumosity is one online tool you can try, for a fee. You can also try more traditional methods, like chess, sudoku, or puzzles. While they’re not proven to fight dementia, they can help you maintain critical thinking skills.