Tag Archives: cure

Life in Grey Dementia

Vantage Point: A Glimpse into Dementia

“It only takes 20 minutes,” Melissa Knott, community relations coordinator for Highgate Senior Living in Wenatchee, told us as she invited Erin Cass, Mary Brandt, and me to participate in a sensory experience called the Virtual Dementia Tour.

Little did we know that the simulation, which helps family members and caregivers understand the overwhelming effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, would be an unforgettable and personally revealing experience.

Since I’d learned about the tour beforehand, I thought I knew what to expect as I was outfitted and given instructions, but I was not prepared for my brain to go into survival mode as I entered the room. I hunched as I felt my world shrink, and I tried to look purposeful, even though I’d instantly forgotten some of the simple tasks assigned to me. I felt no impulse to smile, interact with Mary or Erin, or feel anything but a narrow, tunnel-like focus.

It was hard to imagine that just the night before, I was riding a rocket of a horse in a community parade, outwardly waving and laughing. That extroverted person was gone, and in her place was someone who shuffled instead of walked, set the table with a towel instead of a tablecloth, and asked for help but ignored the answer.

Afterward, the facilitator went over how the simulation enhanced each of our unique character traits to give us an intimate, introspective glimpse into what our own life might look like if we were diagnosed. I realized the effects of the disease could make a once big world feel very small, and for someone who’s normally independent and active, how depressing that could become.

Thanking Melissa, the 3 of us started to leave, but Erin turned back. “I need to go see my grandma,” she said, and I wished I could hug mine, who passed long ago from the disease.

As a community liaison for Health Alliance, I have participated in both the Wenatchee and Moses Lake Walks to End Alzheimer’s that advocate a cure and honor loved ones. Much like my virtual experience, these events generate empathy, inspire, and give us the energy to make a difference.

It’s not too early to form a team for a walk in September. Visit alz.org/walk to find a walk near you. And for more information on the Virtual Dementia Tour in North Central Washington, please contact Melissa at Highgate Wenatchee at 509-665-6695 or Laurie at Summerwood Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Moses Lake at 509-764-1900.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

Parkinson's Awareness Month

Parkinson’s Awareness Month

It’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Parkinson’s disease affects more than a million people in the U.S. and 7 to 10 million people worldwide.

Losing motor skills from Parkinson’s can result in serious falls. Protect yourself.

Your Ultimate Guide to Fall Prevention

 

How do you make a difference in the fight against Parkinson’s?

Supporting a Cure

Educating Others

Spreading the Word

Raising Awareness

Walk for a Cure

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Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month

Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month

March is the first-ever Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month. Join us this week in taking the Red Tie Challenge and learn more about these disorders.

Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month

 

More than 3 million Americans suffer from bleeding disorders, like hemophilia, von Willebrand disease, or rare factor deficiencies.

Hemophilia is a bleeding disorder where your blood doesn’t clot normally and can be fatal in emergencies.

The Scope of Hemophilia

 

von Willebrand disease is a bleeding disorder caused by low levels of clotting protein in your blood.

von Willebrand's Reach

 

Join us and those across America taking the Red Tie Challenge and help start a conversation about bleeding disorders.

Take the Red Tie Challenge!

 

It’s the perfect opportunity to learn how to tie the perfect knot.

Tying the Windsor Knot
Image via Chattanooga Time Free Press

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Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma Awareness Month

This month is Glaucoma Awareness Month, which is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the U.S.

Glaucoma Awareness

 

Glaucoma affects more than 3 million in the U.S., and the National Eye Institute expects that to increase by 58% by 2030.

Glaucoma typically has no symptoms, and once your sight is gone, it’s permanent.

No Getting Vision Back

 

As much as 40% of your vision can be lost without you noticing as your optic nerve is damaged.

Loss of Sight

 

There is no cure for glaucoma, but medication or surgery can slow or stop vision loss.

Stop Vision Loss

 

Those over 60, of African, Asian, or Hispanic descent, diabetics, and the severely nearsighted are at risk for glaucoma.

Those At Glaucoma Risk

 

Early detection through regular eye exams is key to protecting your sight from glaucoma.

Glaucoma Detection

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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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Discovering Effective Alzheimer's Disease Treatments

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

This month is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Take the Purple Pledge to support people facing it today.

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The first trial that’s trying to prevent Alzheimer’s before symptoms start is happening now from BBC News.

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It’s important to know the signs of Alzheimer’s to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Intelligence Therapy

 

This touching story from the New York Times Magazine will remind you why we must end Alzheimer’s.

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Find facts and figures and resources, or find a walk to support a cure.

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Studies like this one are working hard to figure what exactly causes Alzheimer’s, from The Economist.

MRI Image Brain On Black Background

Doctors and scientists are getting close to effective treatments in the journey to end Alzheimer’s, from Forbes.

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The Scope of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis Education Month

March is also Multiple Sclerosis Education Month, so as we wrapped the month up, we gave you info about the disease.

MS is a disease of the central nervous system, which interferes with communication between the brain and the body, and anyone can get it.

MS affects approximately 2.3 million people worldwide, but the disease isn’t consistently tracked and reported in the U.S.

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MS causes pain, extreme fatigue, and hurts vision, balance, walking. memory, concentration, and mood, and can cause problems as serious as paralysis.

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There are medications shown to slow MS, but no cure. There isn’t even a one course of diagnosis, like a lab test.

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This is a pivotal time in MS that shows how far research has come. Learn more about the disease’s history.

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Make a donation, find an event, and advocate for change and make a difference in the fight against MS.

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Are you currently fighting MS? Get support and help by finding a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Chapter near you.

You'll never be without support

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