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In My Community
Fall 2009 Newsletter
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To read the newsletter in its entirety, click here.

Highlights in this issue:

 

 

From the Executive Director

This edition is filled with many offerings of education programs and opportunities to support those diagnosed, their families and professionals who are coping with the array of challenges Alzheimer’s disease creates.  Our fall caregiver seminar brings back to our chapter an old friend, Andy Crocker, whose past presentations have been consistently well received.  Our new friend, Bill Bridgwater, is likewise returning at our request.  His personal story is moving and inspirational.  If you are in the Fort Worth area anytime between September 24 and October 23, be sure to seek out our Memories in the Making® art exhibition.  What a treat to showcase the remarkable creativity of these artists!  Read about all of these happenings and much more in this newsletter.

Also, join thousands across the country in September and October when we walk toward a world without Alzheimer’s disease.  Our chapter’s Memory Walk®s will be held in Abilene, Arlington, Fort Worth, Grapevine, Waco, Weatherford and Wichita Falls!  Memory Walk®s bring together people to share a sense of community, support, caring and hope that one day we will conquer Alzheimer’s disease.  No other event makes a greater impact locally or nationally on the advancement of our mission.  Please help make this our most successful Memory Walk® season to date with your support. 

You may learn more about our chapter services and support us through any of our seven Memory Walk®s online when you follow the links throughout this article and the other highlighted articles from this edition of the newsletter.  See you at Memory Walk®!

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Why We Walk: Theresa Lambert's Story

 
 
 Teresa Lambert (right) is joined here by National Public Radio reporter, Joseph Shapiro.
Teresa Lambert is one of the nearly half million people under age 65 who have Alzheimer’s disease.  The 55-year old Abilenian is unfortunately no stranger to the disease - her father, Donald Smith, recently passed away from the disease.  Alzheimer’s disease has also claimed the lives of her grandmother and great-grandmother.

Teresa served as the honorary chair of the 2008 Abilene Memory Walk® and has an active 2009 Memory Walk® team gearing up for the upcoming walk.  Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, she is a member of the Early Stage Support Group, which provides people with mild memory loss an opportunity to meet with others who are experiencing similar challenges.

Teresa is a tireless advocate for Alzheimer families, meeting with media to raise awareness of the disease and elected officials to inform them of the needs of families who are living with Alzheimer’s disease.  In July, National Public Radio aired a segment she talked about her journey with Alzheimer’s.

Teresa said, “When I first contacted the Alzheimer’s Association, it was to get information to help my father.  Since that time, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  The Association has been very helpful providing information about the disease, referrals and support for me and my family.”

Teresa and Mike, her husband of 37 years, live in Abilene and have two adult children.  In August, Teresa became a grandmother.

Has Teresa's story inspired you?  Join us to walk this fall!  Find a Memory Walk® near you.

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An Art of Me: Paintings by People with Dementia

 
 

Five Tweety Birds by Vivian, who lives at Oak Hollow in Bedford, is one of 50 paintings that will be part of the upcoming exhibition opening September 24

In February 2009, our chapter introduced Memories in the Making®, intending to bring the joy of creative expression to people suffering from dementia.  Naturally, some beautiful paintings would come out of this specialized art program, but it was more about process than product.

By June, when Memories in the Making Coordinator Lisa Buck looked at hundreds of watercolor paintings that had been created at seven different care facilities, she saw an exhibition that had to be done.  The paintings were as individual as the people who made them, and many stood on their own as fascinating and unique works of art.  There were flowers and birds and fish, circles, lines and squiggles, each a poetic expression of self.  An Art of Me: Paintings by People with Dementia showcases the range of expression to emerge from the program so far, from paintings that tell stories of long ago to serene abstractions from the hands of people who no longer speak

Tanglewood Oaks, the first site to host Memories in the Making®, offered a perfect exhibition space and a festive opening reception.  An Art of Me: Paintings by People with Dementia opens Thursday, September 24, and will be on view through October 23.  The 50 paintings in the exhibition have been donated to the Alzheimer’s Association by the artists and their families and are not for sale. 

Tanglewood Oaks is located at 2698 South Hulen Street in Fort Worth.  The public is invited to the opening reception, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Thursday, September 24.  Plan to attend the reception or stop in later to see the exhibition.  Contact Lisa Buck at 817.336.4949 for more information about the exhibition and Memories in the Making®.

 

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Support Groups Light the Way for Caregivers

Before he developed Alzheimer’s disease, Vern Ellerd had a longtime career as an accountant, but now he can no longer even balance his own checkbook.  As Vern’s remarkable mind began that slow decline which is typical with dementia, his wife Penny, a retired R.N., realized that she was going to need more help and support in her role as a caregiver.

In the beginning she felt depressed whenever she talked about his condition, but knew that it was important for her to reach out to others.  She now attends two of our support groups, and Vern attends our early stage group.  Penny said that being able to share her emotions and daily challenges with others in her same situation is like “deep breathing, it helps release some of the stress in their lives.  Getting support from other caregivers has helped me be more patient, and it is a relief to know others will understand you and not be judgmental.  I have also made new friends who I feel safe with when I confide my worries about the future,” Penny added.

A study done by the Central New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association found that despite the many benefits, some caregivers are reluctant to attend a support group.  There is a touchy-feely stigma that discourages some from attending who could gain from the experience.  Others are in denial that a problem exists and refuse to seek help.  “Going to a support group would be admitting a problem exists,” said a family caregiver, “and you have no idea what is going to happen.”  However the fear is unwarranted.  At family support groups, contribution to the discussion is optional.  Participants are not pressured to share their emotions or even to speak at all until comfortable.  “Usually somebody else in the group has gone through what you are going through, and advice means a whole lot more when it is coming from another person, not a healthcare professional.”

Caregivers may also benefit from support groups that “normalize” the emotions that surface while watching the dementia of their loved ones worsen.  They can be taught decision making and caregiving skills and learn positive ways to increase pleasurable activities which promote self-care.  Studies have shown that while people who take on the caregiving role tend to be healthier than those who do not, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is difficult in the best of circumstances and can take a toll on a person’s health.  Preserving the health of caregivers through family support networks also benefits the person with dementia, as caregivers who are in poor health are more likely to have difficulty providing good care for their loved one. 

Our chapter offers support groups free of charge in a variety of locations at different times to accommodate those who wish to attend.  For those who prefer participating from home, a telephone support group is also available.  Use the following links to find more information about upcoming topics, locations in our 40 county service area, online message boards or for more personalized information, please contact Judy Budlong or any of our chapter offices at 800.272.3900.

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Alzheimer's Association

Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's
Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.