Thursday, February 12, 2009

Urgent Alert from the Alzheimer's Association CEO

It is possible that there has never been a moment in America with so much potential to either advance or diminish Alzheimer's research and care. Our nation faces unprecedented times and, with that, comes an unprecedented opportunity to seize this moment and insist our leaders make a greater investment in finding ways to effectively treat, cure, and prevent Alzheimer's disease.

There are an estimated 5 million people who already have Alzheimer's. As many as ten million people care for them. The disease has risen to the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. Millions more will experience the devastating effects if we don't stop Alzheimer's now. Components of the stimulus package and health care reform could benefit them.

From March 23-25, the Alzheimer's Association will take its fight to Capitol Hill for its annual Public Policy Forum.

It is critical to our mission, to the people we serve, and to society at large to make this Public Policy Forum louder than ever. We need advocates from every state and from every congressional district. We need people with the disease, their caregivers, health care professionals, business leaders, and scientists to raise their voices and educate our policy makers so they know that an investment in Alzheimer's is an investment in the economic health of the nation and the personal health of millions.

The volunteers and staff of the Alzheimer’s Association are working hard to make as much noise as possible about key Alzheimer's issues and to make it as easy as possible for people to attend the Forum. Early-bird discounts and group discounts are available.

Please seize this moment and take an extra step this year by attending the Alzheimer's Association Public Policy Forum in Washington, DC, March 23 - 25. Our elected leaders need to hear your voice.

Never before has so much been at stake nor has time to help families and advance science been more precious. We need to demonstrate both in numbers and in facts why Alzheimer's matters. I look forward to seeing you, and all the others you'll recruit, in Washington.

Harry Johns
President and CEO
Alzheimer's Association

Please contact the Alzheimer's Association at

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Transcending Life as a Flowerpot

Today's post is a beautiful article written by Phil Bolsta. Thank you, Phil, for sharing this with me.

On a recent Thursday night, my dad slept in his own bed in his own home for the last time. He just didn’t know it. He probably never will. He was to spend Friday night—and surely the rest of his life—in a nearby nursing home.

His memory had been failing for at least a decade but it wasn’t until a warm September evening six years ago that I truly became alarmed. In my mind, it was the night he veered off the main highway of life and began weaving erratically down Alzheimer’s Avenue.

He had headed the stats crew for University of Minnesota football games for forty years, and as was his custom, he was going to sleep over at my metro-area townhouse after the game rather than drive an additional seventy miles to his home in St. Cloud. I didn’t expect him until after midnight; at a quarter to one, the phone rang. He was lost. He was calling from the Hopkins House Hotel a couple of miles away. I cheerfully told him it was no problem, that all he had to do was head east on Highway 7. He said he didn’t know which way east was, which startled me. I then heard five words that sent a chill up my spine. In a soft, sweet voice, he said, “I’ll never make it, hon.” I paused for a moment, then said, “I’ll be right there.” I drove over and he followed me home.

It was another couple of years before he stopped driving altogether. A year after that, my mom began bringing him to the St. Cloud Veterans Administration Medical Center for adult day care. it was a godsend for both of them. He loved the staff, loved to swim and exercise and, best of all, loved to while away the time working on arts and crafts projects. My parents’ house is filled with these little treasures. A pink ceramic piggy bank he painted stares happily down at me from a shelf as I write this.

He was very happy at the V.A. until just a couple of months ago. When he no longer could follow simple instructions and began needing one-on-one attention even to color a picture, the staff gently told my mom it was time. At home, when he was unable to shower in the morning without help, my mom knew she had run out of options. With a heavy heart, she drove him to the nursing home Friday morning.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a man named Roger Delano, who contracted a rare and incurable condition called transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spine that causes paralysis. Delano, who recounted his experience in Self-Realization magazine, said he was unfazed when a doctor told him he would never walk again. Indeed, thanks to his unshakable faith, he was able to walk out of the hospital under his own power nine days later. Here’s what he wrote:

I knew that everything that was happening to me was up to God, that He was the only healer. I felt safe, knowing I was surrounded by the overarching mantle of His perfect care. Whatever God brought to me, I wanted. Even if I retained all of the mobility of a flowerpot, it didn’t matter. I was still the same, the vehicle of expression had changed, that’s all. A flowerpot can still hold a beautiful flower.

Some would say that my dad’s slow descent into oblivion—into flowerpothood—is an unspeakable tragedy. I prefer to view it as the natural unfoldment of a divine plan, the details of which I am not privy to. As Richard Bach so eloquently stated ,”The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

As my dad slips ever more deeply into his cocoon, I know the glimmer of recognition in his eyes will soon begin to flicker and fade. But that’s okay. With a hug, a kiss on the cheek and a shoulder rub, I can still communicate with him through the language of the heart. Besides, I will know who he is—and that he will forever be who he always was.

And when the day comes that the changeless, eternal essence of who he is bursts forth, free to soar once again, I will hit my knees and thank God for giving me the gift of being my father’s son.

Phil Bolsta is the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything and writes a wonderful blog called Triumph of the Spirit

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

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