Nov 152017
 

It’s been nearly three years since my sister-in-law Angela called to inform me that my youngest brother Richard was heading to the Mayo Clinic to get a second opinion to confirm his Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. I remember it vividly; the news stunned my family. We had no family history and no connection to Alzheimer’s. ‘How could this be?’ I thought. ‘He’s only 53!’ A few days later, the phone call came from Rich, confirming the diagnosis. He explained that he had cried it all out and was going to take a positive approach with his journey. He was optimistic and shared that he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and prayers from family and lifelong friends. It was official: Rich was going to take it one day at a time.

Janice with her brother Richard.

Alzheimer’s has surrounded me for nearly three decades. As a human resources director for Brookdale Senior Living, I am all too familiar with the disease from the training we’ve provided our associates over the years. I’ve seen many residents face the illness and have watched as the faces of their family members become unfamiliar. The idea that my own family is going to realize this is heartbreaking.

Ironically, during the timing of this news, I had been asked by my executive director to lead the charge in working closely with the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter to organize a team for the upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s. More passionate than ever, I jumped at the chance. My community involvement through the years had been extensive, and fundraising for various charities had always been something that came easy to me. Networking and raising awareness for a cause that I believed in was a no-brainer, especially when it involved a family member.

Our committee came together and we planned our first fundraiser: “Brews & BBQ.” The committee members were my Brookdale family. The event was held at a local beer pub where my daughter worked on weekends. We asked a friend who had a barbecue business to cater the food, and discovered he, too, had ties to the  disease.

When we asked for silent auction items, no one said “no” to our requests. We were stunned to find that so many of these small business owners had a connection to Alzheimer’s as well. The event had a great turnout and we raised nearly $4,000!

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s team.

We ended up having one of the largest teams at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, raising nearly $5,000, and we were recognized as one of the top teams. The results fueled our committee to raise even more money this year. Our second annual Brews & BBQ moved to the barbecue owner’s venue, and live music was provided by friends who were musicians; we raised $7,000! Our Brookdale community associates held monthly fundraising luncheons, bringing our total to $10,000 – and halfway to my personal goal.

This past June, my brother, who lives in Colorado Springs, came to visit my family for three weeks. At first glance, you wouldn’t really notice any changes. He was in good spirits, conversational and enjoyed one of our luncheons where we had raised over $400. He was proud to see my involvement with our local Alzheimer’s chapter, just as I was proud to help lead the charge in his honor.

But the signs are there. Rich is learning to navigate the daily tasks we all take for granted. He asks for help when he needs it, like making change at a convenience store or packing his suitcase. Rich is enjoying a visit from his daughter who recently moved to Germany, and her son (his first grandchild) who was born last December. This past year he’s traveled to Mexico, Washington, D.C. and to visit his oldest son who’s in the Navy and stationed in Japan. Our dad, who talks to my brother daily, notices the slight changes with every phone call. But, again, Richie is determined to live his life and take it one day at a time.

In August, Corpus Christi was in the path of Hurricane Harvey. The Coastal Bend area was greatly affected by the storm, as was most of Southeast Texas. This caused the Walk to End Alzheimer’s to be rescheduled for December 3. The impact of the storm has affected our fundraising efforts as well. We had planned our first annual “A Shoot to Remember” – a sporting clay event in November when we were hoping to raise another $10,000. The committee decided to postpone, so we are looking forward to making this event a reality in 2018.

Like my brother, I don’t quit. I’m determined and will continue to raise awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association so others can live their lives to the fullest, too. I quickly learned that once you’ve been personally impacted by this disease, a team effort best enables us to pursue the fight against Alzheimer’s. We are taking it one day at a time…and we are all in it to end it.

About the Author: For the past 30 years, Janice Cagle has had a front-row seat when it comes to seeing the impact of Alzheimer’s. As a human resources director at Brookdale Trinity Towers in Corpus Christi, Texas, she knows how the disease can affect both those living with it, along with their loved ones. Now, she’s seeing it even closer as her brother has been diagnosed with the disease. Now, Janice is even more determined to make a difference through the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

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Sep 202017
 

I learned about the concept of teamwork from my grandfather when I started playing youth football in 1992. That year our team was awful, both on the offensive and defensive lines; we went winless the entire season. This made me miserable. I was the biggest and fastest kid on the team but wasn’t even playing in a featured position.

My granddad went to every single one of my games, as he lived just five minutes from where we played. One day he gave me life-changing advice: the oldest and wisest. “You guys need to start working as a team. If the opposing team has the ball, swarm the carrier as one unit!” He saw what needed to be done, and that advice changed the course of my life.

Granddad passed away of complications from Alzheimer’s last year, on my 32nd birthday. On September 24, I am walking in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Chicago in honor of him and everything he taught me.

Im excited about getting involved with the Alzheimer’s community face to face, and connecting through this shared experience. It’s not a situation any of us chose, but it’s very powerful to share Walk to End Alzheimer’s with so many people from different walks of life and know that we will all walk with the same common footing. My own team will be with me – my children and my wife. I expect the day to be humbling and very poignant.

My granddad’s sense of hard work stemmed from his professional career as a homicide detective in Pittsburgh. When he retired, everything slowed down for him.

He was used to working in a very disciplined manner, focusing on process and getting results. Naturally he tried to instill those concepts and life lessons in me as well. He was constantly using his brain when he was part of law enforcement, but as a retiree, he wasn’t as active. In 2012, the first domino fell. I would hear him repeating questions and comments, but I didn’t know what that meant – I knew nothing about Alzheimer’s disease.

Things took a turn for the worst in a four-month span of time. His household was a far cry from what I knew growing up, where I spent every day of my childhood. The man who was once so active, proud and strong was now living in a completely different state of health. Once he went to doctor and the diagnosis came, I put it all together. In a way, it was a relief to make some sense of his words and his actions, since I didn’t know the warning signs. Since that time, I’ve been learning more about the Alzheimer’s Association and all of its resources for families and people living with the disease.

When you love a person who has Alzheimer’s, it can be frustrating.

One thing I’ve learned through personal experience is that caregivers are a critical component of this disease. Like all caregivers, my grandmother had an astounding amount of commitment, empathy and patience. She and my granddad came from a different generation, and not everyone knows how to plan for this disease. She lived with a man for 50+ years, and she knew him to be one thing: her partner, someone to lean on. What must it have been like when he was a shadow of his former self? That’s particularly difficult to grapple with when you are the same age as the other person. Human nature must have taken over. She must have looked at him and thought “Can this happen to me?”

I have two young daughters, and in their lifetime, I want to see more awareness – and empathy for the elderly and all those living with the disease.

I am so glad that my family will be with me on Walk day joining in the experience. To others, I implore you: Be inquisitive. Be proactive. Be vigilant. Living in the information age we live in, the resources you are seeking are readily available at your fingertips.

Most of all, don’t dismiss signs of Alzheimer’s simply as “old age.” I’ve seen the elderly population being cast off or written off; there isn’t as large a focus on their health or their wellness. Although I am not part of that population, they are very important to me, and should be to all of us. I’m interested and fully invested in finding a cure for this disease.

So let’s start now. It’s time to get the ball rolling.

You can help change the face of this disease – and ultimately help end it. I played in the NFL for eight years, and that time flew by. Losing my granddad to Alzheimer’s on my 32nd birthday made me realize that in eight years from now, I’ll be 40. God willing, I will live to be 80. And I’ve never been more motivated and excited to seize every day.

About the Author: Ryan Mundy, a native of Pittsburgh, is an eight-year veteran of the NFL. He attended college at the University of Michigan and West Virginia University and recently finished his MBA studies at The University of Miami (FL). Drafted in 2008, Ryan spent five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XL Champion), one season with the New York Giants and two seasons with the Chicago Bears. Ryan is now Chief Strategist at Techlete Ventures and CEO of 12AM Holdings Co.

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Aug 142017
 

Amazing how a simple three-letter word provides an instant impact to Charlotte Jackson’s quest to help end Alzheimer’s.

Ask.

“The worst they can say is no,” Charlotte says of her simple strategy to build a bigger support group. “I learned how to ask at the very beginning, and so many people have come through for me.”

Charlotte’s husband Bill – today “a young 70,” Charlotte says – was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. In 2012, once Charlotte retired from her retail management position and was able to devote much more time to raising both funds and awareness for Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Team Bill was formed.

“It’s been a really incredible journey, as well as a not-so-great journey because of what I’m going through with Bill. But it certainly makes it a lot easier when you have people who support everything you are doing – not only financially, but also emotionally.”

Charlotte’s pursuit began simply enough – a post on Facebook, asking friends for modest donations.  Charlotte tracks much of her family’s journey – and Bill’s health updates – on Facebook. At first, she received comments like: “I never thought Alzheimer’s was like that. I thought it was just a memory disease.” Thanks to the power of social media, people were learning the truths of the disease, and nearly $6,600 in donations later, Charlotte was hooked – and floored.

“We thought, ‘Oh, my gosh – that’s so much money!’” Charlotte says. “We were so excited, so thrilled over it. I didn’t realize it was going to get bigger and bigger; I was blown away by $6,600! Since then, it’s truly progressed.”

Progressed, indeed. In 2015, Team Bill pulled in $13,000 in donations and in 2016 netted $16,000. This year, Charlotte set the bar high, aiming for a team record of $20,000.

“I thought I was being a little aggressive,” Charlotte says, “but I want to see what it feels like to reach it.”

In her third full year of fundraising, Charlotte introduced an ice cream social – “Freeze out Alzheimer’s” – for which she secures an ice cream donor and signs up local businesses as sponsors: Triple Scoop Sponsor ($750), Double Scoop Sponsor ($500) and Single Scoop Sponsor ($250). She typically holds this event in June, just before vacation season is in full-swing.

The $5-per-ticket event gets a bit bigger every year and Charlotte adds different amenities, like a balloon artist who makes animals for the kids, and a fun photo booth for families to enjoy. The 2017 edition of “Freeze Out Alzheimer’s” raised $5,000 “and there’s still money coming in.”

Team Bill’s sixth Walk to End Alzheimer’s is set for September 17 in the North Andover, MA area. Through July, Team Bill has raised nearly $14,000, amassing about 70% of its ultimate goal.

“The first year, I did most of the planning and work myself,” Charlotte says of the ice cream social and Team Bill’s participation in Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “Then I got smart. The last two years I’ve had a committee and we work together to make the events a success.”

Charlotte often invites a member of the Alzheimer’s Association to speak at her fundraising events, along with setting up a table with information packets to create awareness and education; she and her two sons speak to all the people who come out to support the cause.

“These are very incredible, emotional days,” Charlotte says. “When I look out and see all these people who have helped me in so many ways, I realize that they’re always there for me. I can pick up the phone and say, ‘I’m lonely today,’ and they’ll tell me to come on over.”

After all, it never hurts to ask.

Just ask Charlotte Jackson.

 

About the Author: Together with her family and friends, Charlotte Jackson is participating in Walk to End Alzheimer’s with “Team Bill.” You can visit Charlotte’s personal Walk page here.

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Nov 172016
 

My experience with Alzheimer’s started in 2001. My grandfather (my father’s father) died of what was first described to me as senility. I was in my early 20s and thought nothing of it; people in their 80s just forgot things.

It was not until 2009 or 2010 that I started to pay closer attention. We later discovered that my grandfather had had dementia. That’s when I also learned that my grandparents on my mother’s side of the family – both my grandmother and grandfather – also had a form of the disease. My living grandfather has early stage Alzheimer’s. My grandmother was diagnosed with senior dementia.williamwalk

This cause is important to me not only because my grandparents have the disease, but also because I am a financial advisor with Edward Jones, and I work with families currently living with this disease. Over the years, Edward Jones has helped many families work toward their financial goals, many of whom have dealt with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

It wasn’t until January 2016, when Edward Jones announced it was stepping forward to become the National Presenting Sponsor of Walk to End Alzheimer’s, that I learned about the many resources provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, including educational and outreach programs right here in my own backyard (Reno). I now actively share this information so that members of my community are aware that the Alzheimer’s Association is in local communities and here to help them!

Getting involved was surprisingly simple. When Edward Jones asked about helping with local outreach at Walk to End Alzheimer’s, I responded immediately. They put me in touch with my local Alzheimer’s Association chapter and offered me a position as a volunteer for our local Walk. In addition to helping the Alzheimer’s Association, this also gave me the opportunity to learn more about the resources available to help my grandparents and my clients.

As part of my personal commitment:

  • I’m now the mission chair for the Reno Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
  • I serve as the Edward Jones Northern Nevada regional coordinator for the Walk partnership. I’m proud of Edward Jones’ $4.7 million commitment over two years to support the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association. As part of that commitment, the Alzheimer’s Association will work with Edward Jones to create the Edward Jones Alzheimer’s Research Fund, a targeted effort to advance research toward methods of treatment, prevention and, ultimately, a cure at a quicker pace. The Alzheimer’s Association will provide education programs to associates at Edward Jones, and will work to ensure Edward Jones associates are equipped to share the resources of the Alzheimer’s Association with their clients.
  • I volunteer with the Community Foundation of Western Nevada Caregiver Support Initiative.
  • And, I volunteer with AskSara, a free contact service for individuals facing life changes, such as caring for aging parents.

Photo courtesy BMW Photography

I want my family to be safe and sound, and I want to tell my clients – many of whom have become friends – that to know that they aren’t alone when facing this disease. Thanks to what seems like fate, I’m proud to say I work with this great organization and plan to continue until there is a cure.

About the Author: William Palmer is an Edward Jones financial advisor in Reno, NV and mission chair for the Reno Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Group photo courtesy BMW Photography.

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Nov 102016
 

2016 marks the 5th year I have walked in Walk to End Alzheimer’s. This year, I was lucky to walk with friends and family, but there is one person I wish could walk with me – and I simultaneously realize that if she was here, I wouldn’t have the same compelling reason to walk. That person is my mom.

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When I was 15, my mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50.

The once bold and fiercely independent woman I knew quickly became a stranger to me. At first it was the little things, like forgetting to pick me up from school, or getting confused on a drive home from the airport. Then one day when I was 16, she looked me in the eye and asked: “What’s your name again?”

The day of my graduation, my mom refused to get ready, insisting that the clothing my dad had laid out for her was “for children.” At the last minute, she changed her mind and decided to join us. On our way home, we decided to stop to get some dessert to celebrate. As we made our way to the table to sit down, my mom started yelling at my dad: “I’m not going with him! He hits me! I am not going with him!” A moment of silence followed as we decided what to do.

alexmomWith Alzheimer’s, there is this inclination to hold onto what is “normal.”

That night after graduation and all throughout my mom’s fight with Alzheimer’s, my family and I fought the battle of how to maintain “normalcy.” That night, normalcy was having dessert with my family, because if my mom could make it through dessert, then maybe things would be okay. We could do what “normal” families do. Unfortunately, there is nothing normal about what Alzheimer’s does to a person.

We didn’t have dessert that night. 

My family could feel the eyes of the restaurant guests on us as my mom continued to yell out, and all we could do was smile a little with tears in our eyes as we reassured her: “It’s okay. We’re going to home, and it will be okay.”

On October 3, 2011, my mom passed away.

After her 10-year battle, she finally got to rest. Although I can’t change the fact that my mom isn’t here  –  and I can’t help but be glad that she’s no longer in pain or scared – I refuse to accept that her fight is over. I am now the one who has to fight. One way I choose to fight is by walking to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research.

So why do I fight? Why do I walk each year, and look forward to future Walks?

I walk in honor and memory of my mom. I walk because I don’t want to have to walk for my friends…and I don’t want them to have to walk for me.

alexwithfriendsI also walk because I long to see the first survivor at a future Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Although I feel energized as I meet other people who are as committed to eliminating Alzheimer’s as I am, I wish we didn’t even have to think about Alzheimer’s as a threat.

The only way we’re going to get there is if we continue to raise money and awareness to end Alzheimer’s for good – and keep fighting. This year’s Chicago Walk is over, but I’ll be back next year; I will keep walking, and I hope you will too.

About the Author:  Together with her family and friends, Alexandra Magiera participated in Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Chicago, Illinois. You can visit Alexandra’s Walk page here.

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Oct 132016
 

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I was a healthcare professional working in assisted living. I didn’t have much personal experience with dementia or first-hand knowledge of what it would be like to walk with someone on this journey. Suddenly, it became my mother’s journey and, eventually, my story as well.sheila-1

My sisters and I bought every book we could find about this terrible disease. “You read these three, I’ll read these four.” We felt desperate to learn as much as we could to help our mother. The books, along with the Alzheimer’s Association’s website and blog, were so helpful to us! I remember reading about the stages of the disease, and I could see my mother’s path in front of me.

That path led us to Walk to End Alzheimer’s. How wonderful to have an actual event to share with others on this journey! Whether you’re a person living with Alzheimer’s or family members representing and supporting loved ones, Walk is a place where you connect with people who truly understand the challenge and heartbreak of this disease. You feel less alone when you realize you aren’t the only one fighting this battle. True strength in numbers!

In 2010, my sister, Pam Lindsey, and I gladly volunteered to be on the publicity committee for Walk and the annual fundraising banquet. Pam documented Walk in a special video, as well as a song that I wrote for my mother and performed at the banquet. We felt it was a special way to honor her and all the other families struggling with Alzheimer’s.

After going on this journey with my mother, I knew I wanted to help others who were on this same daunting path. I was grateful for the opportunity to come to work at Brookdale Senior Living’s Belle Meade location, where a true continuum of care for those with dementia is available. I’ve now joined my co-workers as part of Brookdale Senior Living’s National Walk team. I’m very proud to be part of a company that is so involved with a great cause.

sheila-2It’s both exciting and comforting to attend an event that renews everyone’s passion for this rapidly growing cause. Every day I remember the devastation that Alzheimer’s disease has brought to my family in losing my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and her mother as well. I am grateful to the Alzheimer’s Association for all they do to help so many.

I know my mother would be happy to know that our story helps others. I have her photo on my desk so that those I help can see the woman who inspires me to do this every day. I lead two monthly support groups to help families deal with the loss, grief and unmerited guilt that comes when they realize that they can no longer care for their loved one at home. I try to help them understand that in getting professional help, they are not doing this to their beloved, but for them. For those fighting Alzheimer’s disease, there is still a life to be lived while focusing on what they still can do, instead of what they can’t.

As I remember my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, I remember her courage, strength and bravery which set my life on a path I could have never imagined. That path is to help as many families who struggle with the disease as I can. Her fight continues through me.

About the Author:  Sheila Uselton is the director of sales and marketing at Brookdale Belle Meade in Nashville, TN. Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Nashville is on October 15.

Sep 292016
 

The memories of our grandmothers – and the urgent need to protect our own parents from this disease – propelled our family to join the Alzheimer’s Association in Walk to End Alzheimer’s. We walk because it is our greatest hope that, in the near future, no one else will have to experience this disease the way our family has.grandma-and-nanny

Our family grew up on Staten Island, New York. Surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, we were lucky to live no more than a few blocks away from any given family member. This also meant that both of our grandmothers were very often at the dinner table with us.

When Grandma and Nanny were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their presence at those meals became the after-dinner trip to the nursing home, our family began to experience what so many describe as “the long goodbye.”

For a few years after Nanny and Grandma entered nursing homes, we were able to bring them home for Sunday dinners, holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. We were just happy to have them close to us, spending precious moments together. But as the years went on and the disease progressed in each of them, removing Nanny and Grandma from their familiar day-to-day routine became detrimental to their well-being. It became increasingly clear that the women we loved and missed were with us physically, but perhaps no longer in spirit.


img_0859-1We did not despair, however. We shifted gears. Every celebration now began or ended with a visit to the nursing home.

Some of our most precious moments – both joyful and heartbreaking – happened there. Kate told Nanny about her engagement and saw a glimmer of recognition in her eyes; Paula sat with our mother as Grandma took her last breath; and our entire family surrounded our Nanny as she left us behind.grandma-and-horse

It has been almost three years since we lost our Grandma and under a year since we lost our Nanny.

While we felt the pain of their loss deeply, no one felt it more acutely than our parents, aunts and uncles.  We will never forget their daily dedication to their mothers, the profound sadness when their parent could no longer speak their name or the unbelievable joy when our Grandma or Nanny said a few words, held their hand and knew who they were.

It felt like our family had reached the end our long goodbye, but then we began to worry about the future, to the time when our parents, once the caregivers, might become the next diagnosed. That is why we walk. We walk for hope and for one more happy memory. We walk for Nanny and Grandma, our parents and millions of other families. We walk so that we will see a day without Alzheimer’s.

About the Authors: Kate Satin, Paula Caruselle and Paul Caruselle are siblings who lost their maternal grandmother Betty (“Grandma”) and paternal grandmother Anna Maria (“Nanny”) to Alzheimer’s disease. Along with Kate’s husband Russell, they are walking in Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Manhattan on October 28.

 

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Sep 092016
 
steedwalk

Marilyn in Scotland

My mother Marilyn was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her late 60s, but I recognized that something was wrong in her mid-60s. She had been displaying signs of nervousness and was more forgetful than usual. She had always been a very outgoing and confident woman who dressed very fashionably. One day I noticed that her skirt hem was hanging and that she wasn’t taking the same care in her appearance.

My mother succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease one year ago. She was 82 when she died.

Now I am in my mid-60s. After experiencing what happened to my mother, I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through what she did. When she began wandering and leaving their home, my stepfather couldn’t keep up with her, and she was moved to a memory care facility. While there, she broke her hip. That led to three years in bed, never walking or talking again.

Every story about Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking.

We all have to watch someone we love slowly disappear. My family wasn’t even given a respite. One year ago, my stepfather too was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Our family’s first reaction was: “Oh no, not again!” It seems like almost no one we know is unaffected by this disease in some way. That is why I walk.

I have walked in Walk to End Alzheimer’s for eight years and have raised over $35,000.

I am an artist and have put on shows in which I have donated 100% of the proceeds to the cause. I collect for Forget-Me-Not Days and traveled to Springfield, Illinois this year to implore legislators to procure more funding for the Alzheimer’s Association. I never knew that raising funds for Alzheimer’s would become my passion. I walk because my mother was my best friend. I walk because she couldn’t walk for herself. I walk because I know she would have done the same thing for me.

It feels like we have rounded a corner. It seems like Alzheimer’s is finally getting the attention it deserves.

I have faith that a cure will be found. That takes a lot of funding and research, but I believe that if everyone who has any connection to Alzheimer’s would walk and spread the word by advocating on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association, the cure might come faster. I have rarely met anyone who hasn’t been touched by this memory-robbing disease. We need to fight for all those people who can no longer speak for themselves, like my mother and so many others. We must walk.steed

About the Author:  Together with her family and friends, Judy Steed is participating in Walk to End Alzheimer’s with her team “Marching for Marilyn.” You can visit Judy’s Walk page here.

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Sep 012016
 

I’ve been a proud team captain for Walk to End Alzheimer’s for five years. I walk for all those living with Alzheimer’s, including myself.

I started having trouble with my memory in my 40s. I worked in a doctor’s office as a nurse and suddenly I forgot how to calculate inches to feet in height. Then, I couldn’t remember what shots were given at what age. Eventually, I forgot how to spell the doctor’s name.Walkimageblog

My family doctor performed a mini dementia test and referred me to a memory center, where I was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. I thought of my daughter – am I going to see her get married, or see any grandchildren grow up? I’m 56 years old, and my mom is my caregiver. That is one truth I never thought was possible.

My sister reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association and I was connected with someone at my local chapter. I saw that there was a need for people who are in the early stages of dementia to meet and talk so I started the first Memory Cafe in Lancaster County. I’m also a mentor, speaking to people who are newly-diagnosed, and I raise awareness in the community by fundraising. One of the biggest ways I fundraise is through Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

I enjoy watching Walk to End Alzheimer’s continue to grow every year. Seeing donations come in that will support caregivers and those living with the disease means so much to me. Every step taken during Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a step closer to a cure, no matter where you walk. I’m lucky to use some of the skills I used as a nurse to encourage others to join me and to educate the public. And I’m not only helping them – they are helping me.

Here is what I know: Alzheimer’s is not just an old person’s disease. Alzheimer’s is not funny. Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain, not a mental health issue. Alzheimer’s doesn’t care who you are or what you do. Alzheimer’s affects us all.

Alzheimer’s diagnosis doesn’t mean you have to stop living. You still have a lot to offer to the community and a voice (and feet!) to help bring awareness to the disease. This is why I walk to end Alzheimer’s.Mary Read 2015 ESAG Headshot

 

About the Author: On September 24, Mary Read will walk in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research, care and support resources for local communities. She encourages people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to enjoy life every day. You can visit her team page here

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Sep 012016
 

image001Family, fitness and faith are all at the center of my being. I was a caregiver for 13 years for two of the most important men in my life – my fathers. Like many caregivers, I experienced the joy and heartbreak of caring for my parents. It was a journey that sometimes made me laugh and sometimes made me cry.

When my father was diagnosed with dementia after suffering from two strokes, I was concerned about his quality of life, so I moved him into my home and hired nurse assistants to help me take care of him. Eventually, God sent me an angel named Lenell Wyatt who moved into my home and took care of my Papa as if he was her Papa.

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It was a blessing to have Dad at home with me. We had a beautiful relationship. Every morning it was like waking up to sunshine.

There were many ways dementia changed my Dad, but I made sure he was always physically, mentally and spiritually stimulated. To help him develop a new norm, I took measures to focus on his wellness daily. We kept busy with senior church programs, bingo and movie nights, field trips, aquatics, art classes and tennis. We also had date nights once a week. Papa loved to go salsa dancing…well, he stood in one place snapping his fingers while the pretty girls danced around him. Every single day was full of these sunny moments.


I believe everyone can live their best life, and this includes people with dementia and Alzheimer’s – and their caregivers.

With more than 25 years in the fitness business, I have seen firsthand how having a purpose, the right mindset and setting goals can help create change. To continue the legacy of my father, I’m educating, inspiring and empowering people about dementia, whether it’s about caregiving, the emotions that come along with the disease or the financial impact it has on families. I would like to support families who have loved ones living with this disease and keep the lines of communication open so that other people don’t feel alone in their fight.
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That is why I am walking in Walk to End Alzheimer’s this year.

My Dad passed away last June. I put my head on his belly, and saw him take his last breath. He was surrounded by those that he loved, and he was ushered into glory with the lead singer from the praise and worship team singing “Amazing Grace” and “Precious Lord.” It was the greatest honor to take care of him and he lived his best life.

For my Papa and millions of others like him, I continue to work to make sure my story is heard.

I know my passion and purpose is to connect with families and friends at Walk to motivate and reach their souls! Our shared goal is a world without Alzheimer’s. Let’s put strategies in place to make that happen. Let’s walk.

 

image004About the Author: Donna Richardson is an international lifestyle and fitness expert, author and talk show host. She has starred in award-winning videos for Nike, ESPN and Beachbody, the best-selling “Buns of Steel” and now her own “Old School Dance Party Workout.” She has served on the Women’s Sports Foundation Board, the LPGA Foundation Board, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Board and as an Advisory Board Member for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. She is an Ambassador for the “Let’s Move” initiative, has taught at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls and is the founder of Grow Green Get Fit, a nutritional, physical and environmental curriculum for school-aged children taught at YMCAs across the country.  Donna is the only member to serve on both President Obama’s and President Bush’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN). She was inducted into the Fitness Hall of Fame and named “One of the Most Inspirational Women in America” by Essence Magazine. Join her at the Walk in Dallas, Texas.

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