~AUGUST 2013~ ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION

I can hardly believe it’s the middle of August.  While winter drags on and on and on and on and ON, allowing me plenty of time to write my blogs and do my Good Things, summer just flies by, filled with so much to do and not enough time to do it all in.  I think it’s so much fun having my daughter home during the summer with me.  I love spending as much time with her as I can before hormones and peer pressure hit and she decides that I am the suckiest of all sucksters to ever exist in the history of parents 😉  I absolutely adore sleeping in (and I mean until 11 o’clock in the morning!) for 100 days straight!!  And I am so proud that my little girl joined me on Thursdays for the past six weeks to help deliver sack suppers for Kids Food Basket (my May charity) to churches and missions running camps and Vacation Bible Schools for low-income children this summer.

Image

Kid was sooooo proud to wear her official Kids Food Basket shirt around on deliveries ❤
Heck, *I* didn’t even get one of those!!!

But it’s time to get back to work.  I still have absolutely no clue where my blog post went from July.  As I type, the ‘Auto Save’ updates every 60 seconds to make sure I don’t lose anything…so I’m stumped as to what happened to make it disappear???  July was all about the American Cancer Society and cancer awareness, especially after I had a mole removed off my back that my doctor believed could potentially be skin cancer–it turned out not to be, thank God–and I had assembled a whole list of really, really important people whose cancer diagnosis has touched either my life or the life of someone I love.  I asked my Facebook followers to share photos and memories of their friends and family that have been dealt the incredibly shitty cancer card.  I wrote about how a wonderful follower of the page, Joelayne, enthusiastically agreed to my out of the blue request to join her ‘Making Strides for Breast Cancer’ team, even though she’d never met me before 😉  We have since met, and she is funny and smart and passionate about this cause.  I can’t wait to walk with her on October 12th!  My hope is that I can rewrite July’s blog once school starts again, when I have more free time to dedicate to my posts.  Although we raised $520.00 for the American Cancer Society, I will not officially be done with this charity until I have completed the ‘Making Strides’ event.

Until that gets here though, I have August’s charity Alzheimer’s Association to talk about!!!

Did you know that Alzheimer’s is the 2nd most feared disease in America, after cancer?

“Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.  Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years.  The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information because Alzheimer’s changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning.  As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.” {facts provided by alz.org}
Alzheimer’s is the 2nd most feared disease in America, after cancer.
Unless you’re me.
I am more terrified at the thought of developing Alzheimer’s disease than anything else in my whole life.  Cancer, if caught early enough (and many times even if it’s not), can at least give you options for treatment.  Attempts at recovery.  A chance at remission.  Alzheimer’s disease can not be reversed.  It cannot be stopped and contained at the point it is at.  It cannot be cured.  Even with all of the clinical trials and studies and research, the medications available for Alzheimer’s patients can do nothing but slow down the worsening of the dementia symptoms.  One of the things that peaked my curiosity and interest in Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease was a 5 part documentary put out by HBO in 2009 called The Alzheimer’s Project. <–click to watch any of the videos*
It was horrifying.  I bawled my eyes out.  I cannot even fathom not remembering my own child one day.  I can’t imagine having your spouse or significant other by your side the whole time and then thinking that they’re a complete stranger the next time you look up at them.  I have a complete, legitimate fear of something taking over my brain one day and allowing it to rob me of any and every important memory I’ve stored away in there in my entire life and I am completely powerless to stop it.  My heart is actually pounding as I sit here and type this.

Although Alzheimer’s Awareness month is in September, I chose August as the month to raise awareness for it because this is the month that I lost my grandma.

My "Gramsbear" and her sidekick, "Dude"  <3

My “Gramsbear” and her sidekick, “Dude” ❤

My Gramsbear was one of the strongest and most independent women I’ve ever known.  In fact, the only time she didn’t want her family to see her was after she had fallen down a flight of stairs trying to carry up a huge stereo system.  It had come crashing down on her at the bottom, and her entire face was swollen and bruised.  She had a closed head injury.  She had dried blood from the cuts everywhere.  We didn’t listen and saw her anyway, but she wasn’t happy about it!!  She loved working and making her own money.  She survived living with my grandfather, an addict with several vices, in order to raise her four children.  She was very involved in her church.  She was an AMAZING polka dancer!  She had an entire full-length closet filled with those flowy broomstick skirts that would swirl around her while she danced.  She was addicted to shoes and coats (and she had excellent taste…I was quite pleased that when I reached adulthood, we wore the same size in both 😉 )  She loved sparkly costume jewelry and fancy hats as well, and one of my daughter’s favorite rooms in Gram’s whole house was “The Pretty Room” where all of that stuff was hung from hooks on the walls.  She loved road-tripping to Shipshewana, Indiana once a summer to spend the day blowing her money at the giant outdoor flea market. It never failed that she would start the trip by singing “On The Road Again” and tapping her fingers on the dashboard of the car.  On her 80th birthday we got her a membership to the Red Hat Society~she loved the lunches and movie dates with those other ladies.  She loved her grandkids…she ADORED her great grandkids.  I remember when my daughter was born and she begged me to bring her to the restaurant she always had breakfast at before church so that she could show her off to all her friends {please note that my grandma attended church at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, which means I had to get the baby there at 6 AM!!!} Grrrrr.  You’re lucky I loved you Gram!!
It wasn’t long after that that we started noticing behavior changes.  Subtle, at first.  A lot of forgetfulness.  Not remembering to take medications.  And then she had a back surgery and it was almost like she never came out of the anesthesia induced fog.  She would go to the grocery store 1/4 of a mile away and forget how to get home.  She would put chicken tenders in the oven for dinner and then leave for a two hour walk with her dog, returning home to smoke pouring into the kitchen.  She would fall asleep in the afternoon, wake up at dusk and confuse it with dawn, and RETAKE all of her medications believing it was a new day.
The scariest moment I encountered with her was a day that I had stopped over to visit for a bit.  We were watching something on TV and all of the sudden she looked at me and said “Do you smell that?  I smell smoke.”  I sniffed the air and told her no, I didn’t smell anything.  But she was insistent.  She told me “He’s not fooling me.  I can smell it.  Run upstairs right now and tell Billy to put that cigarette out and get down out of that attic.  I know what he’s doing up there!”  She went back to watching TV like it was nothing.  I about shit myself because “Billy” is my uncle Bill, a grown man over 50 years old who had moved out of my grandma’s house when he was in his teens.  He was definitely not up there.
Me, my mom, her siblings, and my siblings had to start going over to keep an eye on Gramsbear a lot.  We had to hold onto her medications at our own houses and distribute them to her three times a day so she didn’t overdose herself.  She needed to be checked on constantly.  I know that my own mom was exhausted from the constant care of and worry for her mother, who was also her best friend.  “In 2012, 15.4 million caregivers provided more than 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $216 billion.” {alz.org}  We begged Gram to give up her driver’s license, both for her safety and the safety of others on the road.  We were trying to convince her to move to some kind of assisted living, or at least a home for seniors, so she wouldn’t be alone.  She told us the only way she was leaving her house was feet first.  She was becoming depressed and frustrated and losing her independence.  One day we couldn’t get a hold of her at all.  Almost every member of the family happened to be somewhere out of town.  When my aunt finally made it over at 11:00 at night, she found my grandma passed away.   It sounds completely disturbing to say this, but I am so thankful that my grandmother died from a brain aneurysm that took her suddenly and immediately, rather than watching her go through the long and winding hell that is Alzheimer’s Disease.  At her funeral there were two entire rows of her Red Hat friends lined up in the pews, dressed to the nines in red and purple, the signature colors of the group.  Gramsbear LOVED the beach.  It has always been her favorite place to be.  Our family let her ashes go in the sand near Lake Michigan.  It was all that she had ever wanted when it was time to go Home.

On September 14, 2013 some of my friends and I are Walking to End Alzheimer’s and raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.  There is $10 in there already from me.  I am looking for 9 other people to donate just $10 EACH to reach my goal for this month.  If you have an extra ten dollars in your account this minute, this week or this month, P*L*E*A*S*E consider donating to my Team My Sudden Attack of Conscience by clicking HERE.

Also, if you live in the West Michigan area, I am collecting donations for the Side By Side program, which gives caregivers a much needed break for the day by taking Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients into their beautiful facility.  The purpose of this program is to maintain or improve their physical and cognitive skill set, which in turn improves quality of life, and delays nursing home placement.  If you can donate any of the following items, please let me know and I will find a way to pick them up from you!!!

*Watering cans
*Vases for single flowers
*Individually packaged snacks (granola bars, cheese crackers, cereal bars, cookies–both regular and sugar-free– etc.)
*Art supplies (paint brushes, acrylic paints, large white paper for painting)
*Different sized and shaped small boxes (for painting)
*Decaf coffee, decaf tea
*Flushable wipes
*Kleenex or other brands of facial tissue

Thank you, as always, for your continued support. xoxo ~Liz

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