Why I Walk Wednesday with Jennifer Chavez

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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.

Why I Walk Wednesday with Jennie Thomas

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I walk in remembrance of Patricia Scott, or to whom I called “Nanny”. For as long as I can remember who was a funny, cheerful, a gardening loving grandmother, who loved to spoil her grandchildren. When I was in elementary school my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which took all of those qualities away from her. Slowly she lost her memory, then her balance and then later she could no longer walk, she lost everything that she was. At this point we had to put her in a nursing home. My mother and I took care of her for seven years, every day. My Nanny slowly began to get worse and worse and that’s when we started to go to the Walk To End Alzheimer’s in Charlottesville, we wanted to make a difference. We went to every Walk that the University of Virginia put on each year and still continue to do so. I can always remember walking down the downtown mall thinking that one day I would love to put on a Walk in remembrance of my Nanny. Now, today I am the Vice President of Philanthropic Service for Sigma Kappa Sorority, doing just that.

There are some memories that I have of her that I can remember clear as day and will always cherish. When she began to lose her memory and her ability to talk it was difficult to understand what she would be saying or doing. However, on October 23rd, my mom’s birthday, she sang “Happy Birthday” to my mom and began clapping, just like she would if she had not had Alzheimer’s. Everyone cried and laughed and this continues to be one of the favorite memories of my Nanny’s time in the nursing home. As time went on she got worse and it became more difficult for my family. Seeing as most days were just like the rest. She would eat, sleep and stare at the television screen, not knowing what was going on.

After seven long years of battling Alzheimer’s disease she passed away. After participating in the Walk To End Alzheimer’s over ten times, hours of planning, emailing, fundraising and tears later, this one is for her.

FREE Resource for Caregivers

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Family Access to Memory Impairment and Loss Information, Engagement and Supports
(A Program of Riverside ClearPath)

Family Access

The Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health is excited to offer The New York University-Caregiver Intervention for family caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s or other types of memory loss. This federally funded research program provides free counseling and support for caregivers over several months. There is no cost to program participants as funding is provided by the Administration for Community Living.

This program is designed to reduce caregiver stress and increase family support through:

  • Education about memory loss and how it may progress.
  • Developing a care plan for you and your family.
  • Respite care for loved ones during caregiver counseling sessions.
  • Assistance with finding local resources.

To determine if you are eligible for this program or to learn more, call Riverside Senior Care Navigation at 757-856-7030.

HOURS: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Available to residents of James City County, York County, Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson, Williamsburg, Gloucester and Mathews. 

The ENGAGE Study

29 Sep engage

“Do you know someone who has memory problems or trouble thinking clearly?
If so, you may be interested in the clinical research study called the ENGAGE Study. The ENGAGE Study is looking at the efficacy and safety of an investigational medication in people experiencing symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease, such as problems with memory or thinking clearly. The study will determine whether the investigational medication can slow progression of the condition. “ Or you can call 1.800.272.3900 and ask for TrialMatch®

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Why I Walk Wednesday with Casey Bartley

23 Sep WhyIWalkWednesday_blogCaseyBartley

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I walk for all those who can’t and for those who can’t speak and for those who before long will find out their loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and I especially WALK for one beautiful woman in particular, my mom Doris May. In May 2014, my sweet mama was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My 6 sisters and 2 brothers and my father we didn’t know what to do, how to help or where to go for help and it seemed as though the professionals didn’t know how to help much either. And so we just did the best we could with not having much knowledge on the disease we continued to press on. February of 2015 my precious mama was admitted to the hospital and from that point forward I began a journey to educate myself as much as I possibly could on ALZHEIMERS. 

By May I became a huge #GOPURPLE advocate and was posting information and statistics on the disease on social media. In early May, I went home to visit my mom who had now been transferred to an assisted living memory care home and spent the hardest week of my life as she was cognizant enough to know she wasn’t home but not capable of doing or remembering much of anything else and begged me day after day to take her home. My heart broke for this sweet woman and how helpless we all felt.

So hopeless because it seems no one really knows the best way to treat and help a combative Alzheimer’s patient and the only answer it seemed was drug induced complacency. Not a good answer at all. Upon returning home I began my #GOPURPLE campaign and one day was astounded by a fact I found. That currently 5 million Americans suffer from this disease… 5 million families were suffering as we were suffering. Slowly watching our loved ones minds, abilities and even personalities be robbed by this life sucking horrific disease. What a tragedy, an epidemic, 5 million people’s and family’s hearts and homes have been devastated by this disease. 5 million know exactly what we were experiencing and this knowledge became a huge burden to me and has propelled my fight, walk and pledge to #ENDALZ. On June 20, 2015, my moms journey with Alzheimer’s disease ended and she was taken to be with the Lord. And I am so thankful she is no longer tormented and she is at peace.

Alzheimers stole my sweet mom before she even passed and it is stealing so many loved ones! The disease infuriates me and the more knowledge I gain the more I am burdened. This disease has become my enemy and I have decided/pledged to wage war against it To walk, to raise awareness, to donate and to petition a cure, educate and offer support to those who find themselves scratching their head right alongside doctors not knowing really what to do . None of this will bring my sweet mama back but it will keep her glorious memory going and it is my prayer and hope to raise awareness, to get people thinking about the projected numbers of those who will be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and with all my heart, I Walk to #ENDALZ.

Casey Bartley, “Doodle May’s” Team Captain

Why I Walk Wednesday with Jackie Zalas

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Why I Walk is a totally different reason today than it was 8 years ago when my true friend, mentor and Mom, Clara, was diagnosed with the onset of Alzheimer’s.  This ugly disease took my close knit family’s life and turned it upside down.  How could this be happening to the one person who kept us all together?  Six weeks later, Dad (Izzy) passed away.  Mom was placed in a nursing home where we had relatives that worked and we knew she would be looked after.

It was difficult for me to leave but I had to come back to Virginia and care for my family here.  But decisions still had to be made long distance for Clara.  Even though there are 2 others at home, a brother, Willy and my sister, Susan.  It was Susan who took on the burden of the everyday laundry, visiting on her lunch breaks and 2-3 times a week in the evenings; taking mom home on weekends so she could get out of her apartment (as Mom has come to call it) as often as possible.  Guilt set in for me.  Each day I would phone my mom while she still knew who I was and could talk to me but that wasn’t enough for me.  I would speak with my brother and sister and of course my sister was most frustrated with all the running around she had to do.  I still try to go home 4 – 6 times a year to give Susan a break but that still isn’t enough.

Over the years Mom has changed, she repeats herself and can’t remember much of anything except growing up and we love to hear her stories as we find out that she did some pretty cool things herself.  We have to continue to tell her who we are and then she asks if she ever had children?  Lately she doesn’t want to leave her home anymore.

I still go home as often as possible but I feel like I go home more now for my Siblings to give them a break, especially Susan.  So now I walk for the families that live away from their loved one and have to feel the guilt as I.  Those who can’t seem to walk fast or far enough to raise the funds to get the research to find the cure before we have to place our loved ones in nursing homes and our siblings have to give so much of themselves to care for them.

Champions Club Wall

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Congratulations to all of our Champions Club & Grand Champions Club Members. Thanks to all of you for your hard work and dedication to help #ENDALZ #Walk2EndAlz #ALZSEVA



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