Fort Wayne Caregiver Conference
November is National Family Caregivers Month, and the Alzheimer’s Association is inviting family members and professionals to attend our Fort Wayne Caregiver Conference on Thursday, November 14, at the Fort Wayne Holiday Inn, 4111 Paul Shaffer Drive in Fort Wayne.
Keynote presenter Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle, a writer, therapist and teacher, taught in the field of Behavioral Medicine where she pioneered how to incorporate mediation, yoga and cognitive therapy to treat stress-related chronic illness. Her talk will include personal stories from caring for her husband with Alzheimer’s, teachings and positive perspectives that helped transform her difficult journey. Presenter Mary G. Austrom, Ph.D., will discuss effective communication strategies for both family members and professionals when caring for an individual with dementia.
The conference will begin with registration at 8:15 a.m. and finish with door prizes at 2:30 p.m. The registration fee is $25 for family members and $60 for professionals, which covers break service, lunch and conference materials. Three CEUs are available for social workers and health care facility administrators. Refunds will be provided only for cancellations received five business days prior to the conference.
You can register online here, or by calling 800.272.3900. For more information, please email Kristi Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we are born, we need to be loved and nurtured. We instinctively trust those who care for us, feed us and keep us safe. If we are lucky, we have parents who do just that, and it is done out of unconditional love. They love us, for us; nothing more, nothing less. We do not come out of the womb caring what color someone’s skin is. We are not worried about what brand of jeans our parents wear or what type of car they drive. We learn what love is through our experience of being loved.
As we grow, we are taught about sacrifice. We are taught compassion. There are lessons on patience and kindness. These lessons continue throughout our childhood. But when are we taught to dislike something that is different or someone who is not like us? When are we told that what we don’t experience or understand is something that is bad or wrong?
For some there is an easy answer. They may have had personal experiences that they remember and pinpoint the time when they understood that certain people cannot be trusted. Perhaps a family member or a friend taught them that some people are not as good as others. But sometimes it is not so straightforward. Maybe it was the simple act of your parents locking the car when driving through a certain neighborhood that somehow registered in your brain and made you think that the people who lived there were dangerous and were to be feared.
While I was in the Alzheimer’s unit visiting my mother, I looked around at the diversity of people who live there. All of them were well cared for, no matter what their state or what stage of disease they were in. The women’s skin, all of them make-up free, was a palette of different colors and shades. Their skin showed wrinkles and spots, but each of the women was beautiful just as she was.
The people were in all types of clothes, no brand names anywhere. Men wore their best pajama bottoms paired with their best polo shirts. People were sleeping, mumbling, yelling, singing, and rocking baby dolls. The nurses were busy helping people go to the bathroom, getting them ready for lunch and making sure they weren’t getting out of their wheelchairs. Some may see this as cacophony. That day, I saw it as a symphony.
I was hit with the notion that again, in this stage of their lives, what they need is the same type of love that we needed as newborns. They needed help getting dressed, using the bathroom and bathing. They needed someone to help keep them safe. They needed help eating. They also needed compassion, tenderness and connection. They were almost back to square one. Yet, as I sat there looking around, I didn’t see shortfalls in care and compassion, what I saw was love. The nurses, staff and family members were giving exactly what was wanted and needed.
As the effects of Alzheimer’s disease become more severe, the victims tend to lose their filters. This means that sometimes a person will say or do things that don’t seem to go along with the personality of the person you once knew. They may curse although they rarely did before. They may push or yell when they don’t get what they want. But as these filters disappear, so do the prejudices, judgments, falsities and hatred that we have learned throughout our lives.
None of these people care about the pigment of another’s skin. They do not care if you are carrying a Louis Vuitton purse or are wearing lululemon yoga pants. They do not care if you are gay or straight, tall, short, fat or skinny. Do you go to church? They don’t know. They don’t care. Their determination of whether you are a good person comes down to a few simple facts. It comes down to how you treat them when you are with them, how they experience you as a human being. Do you greet them? Do you smile and take the time to talk with them and maybe give them a pat on the arm or a hug. Really, it comes down to whether you are acting out of love, plain and simple.
All the silly stuff we learn and seem to find important in our everyday lives, means nothing to them. Things, material things, are obsolete. Someone who treats them with respect and values them as human beings, are who matter. People of all colors, shapes and sizes are friends. They sit together and talk. They dance and sing together. They don’t see the colors or the fat or the age marks or care about the nonsensical things you say. In the locked down Alzheimer’s ward there is little judgment. Instead the people there see and experience love, because everyone deserves to love and be loved. Everyone.
Molly Godby lives with her family of four in Zionsville, Indiana. In 2007, her mother, Lee, was diagnosed with dementia with probable onset of Alzheimer's. Molly has been caring for her since. Molly is a stay-at-home mother of two. She enjoys writing, doing CrossFit and spending time with her family and friends. She also has a personal blog that you can read at www.abundantlyawesome.blogspot.com.
Family Business Unites to “Be One for Betty”
“Nobody made a piece of toast quite as tasty as Grandma!” Flipping through the “Be One for Betty” cookbook, one will find similar notes on Betty Zurcher’s personality, love and friendship at the bottom of each recipe. The cookbook, personalized with an honorary tribute and photographs throughout, was created as a fundraiser for the “Be One for Betty” Fort Wayne Walk to End Alzheimer’s team.
Betty Zurcher is a well-loved wife, mother, grandmother and former employee of Zurcher’s Best-One tire company in Monroe, Indiana. Her husband, Paul, founded Zurcher’s Tire Inc. in 1948, now Zurcher’s Best-One Tire & Auto Care, which serves 250 locations across the Midwest. Her devotion and support for her husband’s company, which has grown into a multigenerational family business, carried over many years and affected many lives – even after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease nearly seven years ago.
“Many of us will always remember her as our devoted daily mail-opener, and the whiz of her letter opener from back at her desk,” said Lindsey Beer, Betty’s granddaughter and Zurcher’s Best-One employee. Betty handled accounts, sent monthly statements, communicated with partner locations and sorted in-coming mail. Even after her diagnosis, Betty made daily visits to the post office to sort and open large stacks of deliveries.
Betty continued to sit at her desk every day. The disease progressed, and she slowly decreased her job responsibilities. It was a safe place, and all employees – many of whom carry the Zurcher name – kept a protective eye on Betty. Vendors and partners also followed her journey with Alzheimer’s. “Our whole family and locations have been involved,” said Lindsey. “Everyone pitched in and helped watch out for her.”
In October 2012, the Zurcher family made the decision to transition Betty into a dementia care unit at a local nursing home. During that time, Zurcher’s Best-One was planning their annual not-for-profit initiatives for the next year. Lindsey said that selecting the Alzheimer’s Association was a “no-brainer,” and “quickly compounded into fundraising and forming a team to walk in her honor.”
Zurcher’s Best-One reached out to employees and spouses from all 250 locations, as well as vendors, partners and family members touched by Betty’s acts of service. Hundreds of recipes were submitted as a result of their effort, and a cookbook in her name was born. “It was a way to raise funds in Grandma’s honor, but also a way to pay tribute to her,” said Lindsey. “She was a huge piece of our organization’s success.”
The Zurcher family encouraged participation in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s within the first pages of the cookbook along with information about Alzheimer’s disease and its warning signs. As a result, 80 employees, friends and family joined together as “Be One for Betty” on September 21 at the Fort Wayne Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The team raised $15,000 toward Alzheimer’s care, research and support.
“Grandma isn’t going to realize what we did for her,” said Lindsey after showing Betty cookbooks and photos of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “She’s never going to put two and two together. But if she knew what we did in her honor to raise money so that others might not have to go through the same thing, I think she would be blessed.”
Betty Zurcher is one who has touched many lives, and the overwhelming support in her honor is evident. “We did this all because of her.”
The Indianapolis Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Sunday, October 13, at Military Park. Start or join a team today at alz.org/walk or call 800.272.3900.