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Diane VanceDiane lives in Richmond, Kentucky and is retired from the Eastern Kentucky University Chemistry Department.

How long have you been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association?

I began volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association in the spring of 2015. However, I’ve been involved with Alzheimer’s disease since the early 1980s, when I did research related to the disease as part of my PhD work at University of Kentucky and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. Dr. William Markesbery, first director of the center, was one of my PhD preceptors.

In what way(s) do you volunteer?

I am a community educator and give presentations on a variety of topics in a variety of places. I also represent the Association at health fairs and help with other events as needed.

Why do you support the Association? (How has Alzheimer’s disease personally affected you?)

My husband was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia and I was his only caregiver for several years. I felt very alone during that time and was not well-prepared for the day-to-day work of caring for a person with dementia. It never occurred to me to look at Alzheimer Association programs because he didn’t have Alzheimer’s. After he passed away I found out that the Association can also help people dealing with other types of dementia-causing disease. So, I hope that the presentations I give can provide information to help people cope with the difficult journey through Alzheimer’s and other dementias. 

What impact do you feel your work with the Alzheimer’s Association has on the community? 

I hope that my efforts can provide information that might help people cope with the difficult journey through Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, and other dementias. I also try to raise awareness that there are multiple causes of dementia and that the diseases do not all have the same symptoms.

What else are you involved in within your community? 

Lewy Body dementia involves both Parkinson’s disease and dementia, so I also volunteer with the Lexington Area Parkinson’s Support Group. I have presented talks about the different dementias at a few regional conferences and I teach a variety of courses for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at University of Kentucky. One of these was called “Forget-Me-Not.” I worked with a retired researcher from Sanders-Brown to develop and teach this 8-hour course that discussed Alzheimer’s, Lewy body, frontotemporal, and vascular dementias.

Why would you encourage others to support the Association?

Anyone who has had personal experience dealing with Alzheimer’s understands how devastating this disease is for both the person with dementia and for the family and friends of the person. Supporting the Alzheimer’s Association helps provide funding for more research and local support for people “in the trenches” living day-to-day with dementia.

Is there anything else you would like us to include or know about you?

Volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association is one way I honor the memory of my husband. He touched thousands of lives during his 56 years of working in education. I like to think I can continue to do this in a very small way. A segment of a poem by E.E. Cummings may be the best way to summarize this: I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart) I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)

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