Archive | October, 2015

Why I Walk Wednesday with Katie Stanley

28 Oct

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I’m walking to honor my Grandma Sidonio who passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2012. She was a real spitfire, though not quite five feet tall, and lifelong New York resident. She used to say, “I may be small, but I am mighty, and girrrrl can I eat!” Speaking of which, she made the world’s best gravy (Italian New York term for spaghetti sauce) and loved her kids and grand kids unconditionally, and with such fearless tenacity, and most of all when they didn’t love themselves.

Through a life full of challenges and tragedies, she was the brightest light in the room, the one who always knew what to say to put a smile on everyone’s face, and she never ever missed a birthday or Christmas with family. She was strong and sweet and beautiful from the inside out and I miss her every single day.

She taught me to never ever settle and always move forward. Now all I have left is the memory of her, and knowing she left us without memories of us is the saddest thing.

So, I am moving forward and walking in her memory and for her memory, and to defend and preserve the memories of so many others I have grown to know and love who suffer from this awful disease.

Katie Stanley
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Atlantic Shores Retirement Community

Why I Walk Wednesday with Ashby Franklin

21 Oct

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I had never heard the word Alzheimer’s when I was growing up. In my community, people usually lived to a ripe old age, unless they had something like cancer. My first experience with this disease was about 30 years ago when my grandmother began failing. Her mind could not communicate what her body needed to do. It was our family’s way to care for her in our own home, and we did so to the best of our ability.

When my mother Lorraine started suffering symptoms about nine years ago, we brought her to Johns Hopkins and some of the best doctors. Their diagnoses confirmed that Alzheimer’s had once again woven itself into the fabric of our family’s life. That’s when I began to learn that this is an actual disease, with things that contribute medically, and symptoms that can be identified and tracked. It can come on unexpectedly, or show itself in a variety of stages. It can move fast, or be slowly debilitating.

As with my grandmother, our family has pulled together to care for my mother in the same home where we cared for my grandmother. My father and sister look after her daily. And even though our family has experience, this level of care is hard. Essentially, every member of the family suffers collateral damage. If you’re not trained and prepared to deal with the constantly changing needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you won’t realize what it takes to be a primary caregiver.

Most people don’t understand the scope of this disease, or how many people are suffering directly and indirectly from it — until they become personally affected. The heartbreak they’ll experience as they see a vibrant person who used to remind them about important things, who now isn’t able to remember those things for themselves. The care choices they’ll need to make, and the financial decisions that put you between a rock and a hard place.

And then there are the people with this disease who are left to fend for themselves. Because my mother now has a tendency to roam, I’m reminded of when I lived in Washington DC, and the city issued “gray alerts” when older persons were reported missing and needed to be found. Sometimes that was the first time their families realized the severity. It’s disconcerting to think that you might also be in that place someday.

Since moving to Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach, more than two years ago, I’ve had the time and conviction to try to make a difference in the fight against Alzheimer’s. I walk for all the families out there who provide primary care for their loved ones in their homes. For education on how to recognize the signs before it’s too late. And for research that targets the causes, provides the best ways to treat, and ultimately eliminates this debilitating disease.

Ashby Franklin
Resident, Atlantic Shores Retirement Community

Why I Walk Wednesday with Miranda Rodriguez

14 Oct

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I walk for my Grandma Watson. As Community Liaison at Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach, I witness the sadness of Alzheimer’s regularly. Wife of over 65 years, Mother of 7, grandmother of 14, Great Grandmother of 18 and Great Great Grandmother of 2, Grandma Watson has always been the gate keeper of family information and the teacher of so many trades.

If I needed to know Uncle Tom’s age, birth date and phone number, she could tell me off the top of her head. The time I was lost driving home from my first big girl job in Chicago, without hesitation (or technology) she was able to successfully and safely navigate me home. She taught me how to sew. She taught me how to play cards. She taught my oldest cousin Jason how to box to defend himself against school bullies (when he was in 7th grade-true story).

But most importantly, she taught us to never stop learning and to never stop having fun! At age 70 she was going to the water park and riding down all the slides! I walk to honor my Grandma Watson, the woman who had the sharpest mind and smartest wit of anyone I knew until Alzheimer’s stole it away.

Even in her memory care unit now, she has been known to escape for a short walk to McDonald’s, “just to get out and do something.” So, today I will get out and do something for her, and for all others whose mind and spirit have suffered because of Alzheimer’s disease.

Miranda Rodriguez
Community Liaison/Realtor
Atlantic Shores Retirement Community

Why I Walk Wednesday with Jennifer Chavez

7 Oct

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Everywhere I go, I run into people who have a personal connection with Alzheimer’s disease. While I am certainly more aware of the disease these days having now been employed with the Alzheimer’s Association going on 7 years, it wasn’t always this way.

I’ve always had an affinity towards seniors as my own maternal grandmother; my Lola, helped to raise me. I love the stories. The way their eyes sparkle when the memories that they have for what adventures they played a part in came flooding back in when you are in conversation. She was the only living grandparent left when I was born. Her presence in my early life has played a huge part in how I live my life today.

I first experienced this horrible disease in 2006 when a member of my ex-husband’s family was diagnosed. That coincided with me starting a new career in the senior healthcare field.

As I tried to navigate both the new job and the part I would play in my extended family’s plight, I soaked in the information given to me and was led to a support group held in the same facility that I started work in. I came across the spouse of a resident in my facility that led that support group. He was and continues to be an integral part of the Alzheimer’s Association. Through that connection, myself and my extended family became a user of services; services that were a lifeline in the sea of uncertainty and grief when you feel alone and proud; not wanting to ask for help.

As the years went by, we lost quite a few members of that generation in my ex’s family and I learned later that several members of my own family have had diagnoses of dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Today, I am grateful that I have the knowledge and the background, a wealth of services and people to call on when I am faced with challenges in activities of daily living.

Many people I run across in the community or even old friends who learn what I do for work think that I walk to end Alzheimer’s just for work; because it’s a line item in my strategic goals. While that may hold true for others, here are the reasons why I walk to end Alzheimer’s:

I walk for my family. I am an only child and I want the legacy I leave to make an impact.
I walk for families who feel pressured by cultural restraints and don’t know that we are here and how much (we) the Alzheimer’s Association can help.
I walk for people who have been diagnosed without families to care for them.
I know that we are closer than we think to something that will break open the way we treat, prevent and possibly cure Alzheimer’s in the next few years. That’s huge.

Bottom line, I walk for my family and yours. We are all in this together. Memories are all we have of one another. Let’s make this a good one.