Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tough Conversations

Dear Friends,
Alzheimer's and dementia pose a lot of great challenges for families. In the beginning stages of the disease, some of the greatest challenges are the tough conversations that have to happen. It is time to stop driving; maybe we should talk to the doctor about not remembering; how are we going to pay for care; there might be a time you wander away from home and get lost.

Not to mention family is tough. You know what I am talking about!

These tough conversations are the inspiration behind a new workshop we created called, Conversations About Dementia. The workshop covers three of the toughest conversation you might have as a family, and how to navigate through, as well as options and resources to ease your decision making.

We will be offering this workshop in Charleston on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and in Morgantown on Wednesday at 11 am. For more information call, 800.272.3900.


Le Quiche
The egg and egg associated dishes are synonymous with Easter. And, since my mom had all of Easter dinner covered (including my favorite - deviled eggs), I offered to make brunch. 

Well, except that I don't really know how to make any brunch type food. Fortunately, my only reading material at home is a plethora of food and lifestyle magazines full of Easter brunch recipes. So, I landed on Quiche, until we were at the grocery store, and W says, "I hate quiche. I had it in France, and I hated it." Well, bad word. Well, I said back, too late now - this quiche train is leaving the station. 

There is really nothing heartier, and you can make it healthier - but why ruin a good thing? 

I tried to be a hero and make my own crust, my advice - don't be a hero. It was a lot of headache - so the below recipe is just for the filling - you are going to have to be responsible for finding your own crust! 

As it turns out W really liked my quiche - he had seconds! So maybe mine was better than France's? I like to think so. 

2 Green Onions (leeks or ramps are also good substitutes)
1/2 lb of crispy bacon
1 cup of Gruyere cheese (really, don't sub out the Gruyere, - it is a special occasion, make the investment)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
pepper to taste
light salt (there is plenty in the bacon)
1/4 tsp. of chili powder
1 1/4 cup of milk or half and half

Preheat oven to 375. In a pre-baked pie or tart shell, layer bacon, green onions and cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and seasoning. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve with your favorite egg topping (avocado, hot sauce, salsa...) Then tell everyone it is better than France's. 

Until next week! 

Laurel K.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Complacency will get you nothing

Dear Friends,
Greetings from inside the beltway (Washington, DC)! Our group of advocates descended upon the city Monday for the Alzheimer's Association Advocacy Forum. Depending on your perspective it is the culmination or launch of a year of advocacy work (or both). 

Sometimes our volunteers tell me that advocacy work seems ambiguous or intimidating. The slow turn of democracy also makes your efforts sometimes feel futile. 

This is my 5th year of attending the advocacy forum. My first year attending in 2008 I was overwhelmed with the crowd of 400, this year there are nearly 1,000 advocates in attendance! This advocacy thing is really catching on. 

To put it simply, we have to make our lawmakers understand the growing crisis of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is THE most expensive disease in our country, with costs only expected to skyrocket. This year, Alzheimer's cost more than $200 billion! 

What is this going to cost me is one of the most common questions we get at on the Hill. And one advocate said it best: 

What is my mother worth?

Don't we owe it to our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, grandchildren to raise our VOICE?

Congressman Tonko from NY said it best:

Complacency will get you nothing. Advocacy will get you everything. 

Follow our journey to DC at: #AlzForum or Facebook.com/AlzheimersAssociationWVChapter

Award Winning Memorable Mac&Cheese
As you know our Charleston office rallied to support the Childhood Language Center's Mac&Cheese cook off on Saturday. We came together and built a recipe using each of our favorite parts of our personal Mac&Cheese recipes. I know it sounds gross but it actually came our amazing! We stole the stove top stuffing topping from Kaarmin, fire roasted tomatoes from Jennifer, I offered up my love for spicy Mac&Cheese, and Kelsey's healthy version didn't really fit the bill but her selection of noodles was key. 

You won't believe this, but WE WON!!! By ALOT!!! People were calling their friends to come down to the cook off to try our Mac&Cheese! We even beat the restaurants! SO, without further ado our AWaRD WINNING Memorable Mac&Cheese!
1/2 pound Cavatappi
1/2 pound Mezzi Rigatoni
1lbs- Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 8 oz. White Cheddar Jalapeno Cheese 
1 c. butter
1 c. flour
1.c half and half
1.c milk 
Palm-full and a half of Tony Chachere's Canjun Seasoning
Half palm-full ground mustard
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
1 can fire roasted tomatoes 
3/4 package of Cornbread Stuffing, crushed with hands or pan
Boil pasta according to package directions. Remember, your pasta water should taste like the sea! I would also recommend pulling the pasta out just shy of al dente because pasta will soak up the cheese and continue to soften just a bit while in the oven. While pasta cooks, add crushed stuffing, half palm-full of Tonys and some cheese together. Set aside. In separate pot, melt butter. Add flour and stir together until combined. Let cook for a couple minutes so that the raw flower taste can cook out. Add milk and half and half and stir to combine. Allow sauce thicken. Once thickened add mustard, Tony's and pepper and stir to combine. ONce combined, add cheeses a little at a time, giving each addition time to melt into the sauce. A little more salt and pepper may need to be added, depending on taste.  

After all the cheese is melted and the sauce is a delicious, velvety dream, add to pasta, along with fire roasted tomatoes. Stir. Add topping and bake, 375 for about 20 minutes or until top is golden brown. Try not to eat the whole pan in one sitting!!

See you back in Charleston next week! 
Laurel K

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Caregiver University Preview

Dear Friends,
Our first Caregiver University of the year is happening next Friday in Belpre, OH. Over the next three months we will host Caregiver University events across the state. Caregiver University is a one-day mini-conference for family and professional caregivers. This year will mark the third year for Caregiver University, we've seen tremendous success over the past two years and look forward to really successful events this year! 

Since this is the third year for Caregiver University, we looked back at our previous two years of feedback from participants and made a number of tweaks and changes. Namely incorporating more time for discussion, questions and activities. 

Here is a preview of the topics: 

Behaviors Revisited: An ABC Approach
This workshop will incorporate your challenges as a caregiver with meaningful discussion and interactive activities to practice the easy to implement communication techniques. This workshop will address challenging behaviors, bridging the communication gap with your loved one, and how to incorporate activities into your daily routine. 

Legal and Financial Considerations
Back by popular demand Senior Legal Aid's Cat McConnell will walk us through the maze of legal and financial issues you may face as a caregiver. Her easy to understand advice makes these complex issues a little less daunting. Our Ohio CU events will feature one of the most well respected elder attorneys in the Mid Ohio Valley region, and even the state, Gerald Townsend. We appreciate both of their time and dedication to Caregiver University.

Caregiver Cafe
A number of our events will once again feature Dr. Shirley Nietch and the Caregiver Cafe. He practical advice to coping with your family through caregiving is a session you don't want to miss. Dr. Nietch links you with not only practical caregiving advice, but how to de-stress and resources to help you through your journey. 

Understanding and Coping with Care Transitions
This is a new addition to Caregiver University and will be featured at Belpre, OH; Romney, WV; and Bridgeport, WV. The focus of this workshop is looking at the transitions in care that often accompany Alzheimer's and dementia. From home to long term care or hospice, this workshop will give you the tools to plan for the future. 

Safety & Preparedness with Persons with Dementia
Wandering, driving, hospitalization, kitchen appliances, family valuables - the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease increase safety risks for persons with the disease and those who care for them. But, when you plan ahead you will be able to better cope when incidents happen. You will leave this interactive workshop with plans to cope with a variety of potential safety concerns. 

In Other News! 
Follow us at the forum! Next week a group of advocates are headed to Washington, D.C. to meet with West Virginia's Congressional delegation on the crisis of Alzheimer's disease and how they can support efforts to help caregivers and researchers. Follow our journey on Facebook or Twitter! You can also follow the hashtag: #alzforum or #endalz

Pimento Cheese!
In our activities training we talk about how even the simplest of activities can activate memories from the brain. Often cooking is one of those every day activities that can be a great reminiscing activity with your loved one. From smell, to taste to touch and the physical actions can trigger favorite memories. Classic recipes, like pimento cheese, are perfect for these type of reminiscing activities.
One of my earliest memories of my dad is his love of pimento cheese. For some awful reason I HATED pimento cheese as a child, but lately my mom has been whipping up a homemade version that I can't get enough of. So, when we were grocery shopping for our Mac&Cheese Cook off supplies last week, I got the cheese bug and whipped up the best tasting pimento cheese on the planet! 

Side bar: Yes! Mac&Cheese cookoff! We really love food at our office and jumped at the chance to support the Childhood Language Center here in Charleston. Our team was featured this week in the Charleston Daily Mail! BUT, the cookoff isn't until Saturday - so stay tuned for our winning Mac&Cheese recipe next week! 

Back to the pimento cheese!

It doesn't last long!
1 8 oz package of cheddar cheese (shredded)
1/4 8 oz package of jalapeno cheddar cheese (shredded)
Diced pimentos or other type of roasted pepper to your liking
1 tsp. Worcershire 
1 cup of mayo 
1 tbs. finely diced or grated onion

Directions: Dump into food processor and blend! We determined it was tasty with the pretzel chips, but they were too breakable. Old fashion club crackers won out on the taste testing, second to bagel chips! So easy, so homemade, a true walk down memory lane! 

Until next week! 

Laurel K. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

MoneyMoneyMoneyMoney. Money!

Dear Friends,
Last week the Alzheimer's Association released the 2014 Alzheimer's Association Facts & Figures. The first F&F was released the year I joined the Alzheimer's Association in 2007. We realized there was no compilation of data - actually no one was actually really looking at Alzheimer's statistics as a whole - especially not law makers. Through Facts & Figures we have not only had data, we have also been able to drive data collection, which is so important when trying to understand the impact a single disease has on an entire nation.

Even as a novice advocate I learned quickly the first question will always be, "What is this going to cost me?" I am naive sometimes, always have my rose color glasses on - but in our dog eat dog world I've had to come to the realization that sometimes it is truly all about the Benjamins. Answering back with, you would be saving millions of lives by increasing research funding, by passing the HOPE Act you would make the process of diagnosis, care, hospitalization for millions of families 1,000 times easier.

SO, last year at the Advocacy Forum we came up with the best answer yet, "Here is what it is costing you by ignoring/under funding the future solution." (see picture to the left - yes they had to blow up the picture of the research funding because it was so small compared to Medicare/Medicaid spending)

As we prepare for the 2014 advocacy forum in just two short weeks, I am beefing up my money talking points. For example: 1 in 5 Medicare dollars are spent on Alzheimer's and dementia care; $220 billion is the value of unpaid care provided by friends, family & neighbors; As a country, Alzheimer's disease costs us $214 billion - including $150 in Medicare/Medicaid costs.

Don't worry, for those of you unable to make the trip to D.C. we will have a virtual visit set up so you can tell your Congressperson not to ignore Alzheimer's disease and dementia.


  • Dancing Through Time was AHAMAZING! You should have been there - actually we were pretty much at standing room only!! HUGE thank you to our generous sponsors, dancers, committee, volunteers and everyone who attended!!! Can't wait for next year, want to join the committee? Email Kim, kmatras@alz.org. 
  • Investigating the Research: The Newest in Alzheimer's Studies is a free, open to the public workshop THIS Friday, being hosted in Morgantown and Charleston. Visit the community calendar for more information.
  • Calling all Marketing Gurus! We are looking for a Marketing Chair for our Charleston & Wheeling Walk to End Alzheimer's!! For more info email Kaarmin, kford@alz.org. 
  • Caregiver University! Register Now!! Our best year yet, we have a full day of fun (yes, I said fun!), learning and interacting!! Click here to find an event near you!  
TLC in a Bowl (AKA Chicken Pot Pie)
This past week a great friend of mine had a beautiful baby! I was out of town over the weekend, so I knew the moment I got back I wanted to whip up a ready-made meal for her and her husband. On Monday, W had a really tough day so I knew we needed some comfort food to cure our case of the Mondays. 

One of the questions we are asked frequently at speaking engagement is, my neighbor is caring for her mother and I want to help but don't want to be too intrusive. Preparing a ready-made meal is one way you can always help a family in a caregiving situation. 

That is why this one is the WINNER of all. It produces enough for your dinner AND someone else! (There is no real recipe so I will just walk you through this one)

  1. Roast chicken - literally any cut, or if you have one of those handy rotisserie chickens, even better! I happened to have breast halves in my freezer. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast at 350 until temperature reads 180. 
  2. In a dutch oven or large pot, over medium heat melt 3-4 tbs. of butter (or 1 tbs. of butter and 2-3 tbs. of olive oil). 
  3. Add an entire onion, diced. Followed by 3-4 carrots, 3 cloves of garlic, 4-5 celery stalks (all diced) (any other vegetable you happen to enjoy in pot pie!)
  4. When the onions turn translucent, sprinkle 1/4 cup of flower (or more if you have more vegetables - they should all be coated) Add in 2 tsp. of thyme and rosemary, ample salt and 1 tbs. of pepper. 
  5. Stir in 1 carton of chicken stock (low sodium please! we have to watch the blood pressure)
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then it is your discretion - if you like a runny sauce in your pot pie, turn of the stove. If you like it a little thicker, keep it simmering for a few more minutes. Remember, the sauce will thicken in the oven. 
  7. Remove the chicken from the oven, shred then add to vegetable mixture. 
  8. PAUSE -> if you would like to make your crust by hand, I highly recommend this one from Martha Stewart. Sometimes hand made crust doesn't travel well when you are delivering - so store bought pie crust or even better a roll of crescent rolls is just as delish on top!
  9. Fill a pie pan or individual ramekins about 3/4 way to the top. Don't bake the dish you are delivering (or put the top on) go ahead and pop that one in the freezer, so it can be used when your neighbor sees fit! 
  10. For your dinner pot pie - top it with an amazing crust (be generous with the crust) and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 or until crust is slightly browned. 
WARNING - it is really hot, and smells amazing, don't try to eat until cooled slightly. Sincerely, my scorched tongue.


Until Next Week, 
Laurel K.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

101 Activities To Do With Your Loved One

Dear Friends,
In a few weeks we are helping a church do a short training for a group of church members who are starting a shut-in outreach. While some of our training will be about the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's disease, a big focus will be engaging activities during a visit.

With that in mind, I wanted to share a GIANT list of activities you can do with your loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia. Keeping a loved one engaged with daily activities can ease anxiety and agitation, and most importantly help maintain independence and motor skills. If you have other favorite activities you would like to suggest to other caregivers, feel free to add them in the comments below.

Click here for 101 Activities!


  • There are a few spots left in our training on Thursday, Alzheimer's Disease: Basics of Best Care. This training meets the 2-hour dementia care training requirement for long term care staff. The training will be held in Charleston, to register call 800.272.3900 or email wvinfo@alz.org
  • Dancing Through Time THIS WEEKEND!! WOHOO!! We can't wait, dancers have been hard at work practicing and raising funds!! There are still tickets available, click here to order online OR call 800.272.3900.
  •  2014 Alzheimer's Association Facts & Figures will be released on Wednesday, March 19. This is the Association's annual compilation of statistics about Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for important updates and new statistics. 
  • Caregiver University is right around the corner! Click here for a list of events happening near you AND to register! 
  • Walk to End Alzheimer's Corporate Sponsorship: We are in the process of finalizing our corporate sponsorship for the 2014 Walk to End Alzheimer's season! Corporate Sponsorship is a great way to support an important cause, while getting your name/logo on thousands of t-shirts, posters, post cards and events across the state. For more information contact, Kaarmin Ford, kford@alz.org or 800.272.3900. 
Old Standby
Each week I share a recipe with you as a reminder to take care of yourself. For me, cooking is my favorite de-stresser. However, there are some nights that it is more stress than I can handle. And that is when I lean on my favorite ingredients to make a dull weeknight meal a little bit more special. 

So, this week I thought I would share my FAVORITE weeknight spicer-upper. Rendezvous Famous Seasoning. I can still remember my first trip to Rendezvous, up the alley from the Peabody in Memphis, TN. Rendezvous seasoning once was only found at the famous rib shack - but now through the wonders of the internet you can order it right to your doorstep. The seasoning is not just great on ribs but, adds spice to burgers, chicken and pork chops! It sure made last night's pork chops seem like a weekend gourmet! 

Until next week! 

Laurel K.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

NEW: I Have Alzheimer's Page

Dear Friends,
We can not say, you are not alone, enough. Over the past year our national program staff, early stage Alzheimer's advisory members and web developers created a website for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Here is the opening video:

Here is the link to the I have Alzheimer's page: http://www.alz.org/i-have-alz/i-have-alzheimers-dementia.asp

You are not alone.

Please share!


One Pot Wonder: Jambalaya
When you travel the country, and even around the world you discover that even though each culture has different names for favorite dishes - there so many common themes. For example, the easy to take to work meal - in the West Virginia coal mines it was the pepperoni roll, in the cotton fields of Mississippi it was the tamale - small, portable, one-handed consumption and delicious. Jambalaya is no different, every culture has a "throw what you have on hand to make and inexpensive meal" dish. Jambalaya happens to be the one I grew up with. It is so easy to make, it will become a week night favorite. 

This is a list of my favorite ingredients, but you can sub out whatever protein & vegetables you have on hand. This recipe fed four hungry people.
  • 1 large chicken breast (cut into bite size pieces)
  • 2 links of chorizo (Andouille is my fav, but other types of smoked sausage is also very delicious)
  • Olive Oil for pan
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 celery stocks
  • 1/2 bag of okra
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • Bay leaves
  • 1 tbs. Creole Seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp (or more) hot sauce
  • 3/4 c. rice (or quinoa is tasty too)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 12-15 peeled shrimp
How To
Heat a large saucepan to med/high heat. When the pan is hot pour in 1-2 tbs of oil, and add chicken. Allow the chicken to brown, then add sausage to brown. A lot of people take the meat out at this point. But...I think it tastes better if you just make it all in one pot. Add the onion & garlic followed by celery and okra. When the onions begin to turn translucent, add the diced tomatoes - including the juice. Add bay leaves, creole seasoning, salt and pepper, Worcestershire & hot sauce. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Then add rice and liquid, bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is soft. (Warning, if you use brown rice, it will have to cook FOREVER!) At the very last moment add the shrimp and allow to cook until the shrimp turn pink! Serve with a heaping slice of cornbread. 

Until next week, 
Laurel K. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Watch This, Now Add Your VOICE

Dear Friends,
Advocacy is no longer calling in or meeting with your legislators. We have to deploy a variety of methods, sometime all at the same time to ensure we are building pressure to make things happen. From in person visits, to emails, to phone calls, to social media. Last week we orchestrated one of the most effective advocacy efforts - the Congressional hearing.

As you probably saw on TV, radio, Twitter - Seth Rogen testified at a Senate appropriations committee. But, what you may not have seen is the whole testimony from a variety of experts. Dr. Francis Collins brought a team of experts from the National Institute of Health to talk about the latest advancements in research and Congressman Dennis Moore testified about living with Alzheimer's disease and the challenges he and his wife faced after his diagnosis.

You can watch the entire 2 hours by clicking here. 

We learned from Dr. Francis Collins about the latest advancements in Alzheimer's and dementia research - but most importantly we learned what the extra $100 million in research funding will fund. Exciting and cutting edge science that otherwise would not happen.

This team of experts has now set the tone for the next team of experts - YOU!

You are the critical lever of our advocacy force. We are hard at work scheduling our meetings for the Advocacy Form in Washington, DC and our meetings before and after the forum to meet with in-district staff. If you would like to join us on these meetings, email wvinfo@alz.org or call 800.272.3900. We need your VOICE to tell Congress, address Alzheimer's disease now!


  • Living with Alzheimer's POSTPONED. Due to incredibly terrible weather we are postponing our Parkersburg and Charleston Living With Alzheimer's events until next Monday at 2 pm. For more information call 800.272.3900
  • Caregiver University ONLINE Registration is OPEN! Register now for a Caregiver University near you! Space at a number of our venues is limited, so register early! 
  • Dance to END Alzheimer's! Join us for Dancing Through Time, March 22 at Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown! This fun event raises funds to support our mission! You can vote for your favorite dancing star and buy tickets online! 
  • Calling all Marshall's shoppers! Marshall's is once again collecting donations at their cash registers to support the Alzheimer's Association! Visit your nearest Marshall's store between March 2 - 15, and be sure to thank the cashier for supporting our important cause! 
  • Alzheimer's Disease: Basics of Best Care on March 20! This 2-hour training meets the OHFLAC annual dementia care training requirements and includes social work or nursing continuing education. Space is limited, pre-registration required! Email wvinfo@alz.org or call 800.272.3900
Bring the Chile Back

Something about apocalyptic storms makes me crave a giant pot of chili. Let me tell you, it was probably my best pot yet. I will post the recipe next week. But, I want to offer up my secret ingredient. Which, if you have been following this blog for a while you know know the answer.

Leaving Texas, I found that the chile is no longer the base of chili. Most recipes call for chili powder - which is good. But you lose so much of the rich and complex flavors of real chiles. I make what I call chili paste as the backbone of my chili (which it isn't really paste at all, more of a liquid) but you can use this for all kinds of things. Pour over your taco meat, base of enchilada sauce, spice up your boring chicken breast. So yesterday I made a little extra to keep in the freezer. My favorite bi-product of making chili paste is the chili water. It adds so much flavor and a little bit of heat to any soup our stew you are making.

You can buy a number of different kinds of dried chiles at your local grocery store, yesterday I used New Mexico chiles, they offer a slow burning after heat that is perfect for a spicy chile. So try different ones to see what kind of flavor you like best.

In a medium sauce bring 3 cups of water and 5-7 chiles to a boil, covered. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Depending on your time frame you can go ahead and blend your chiles now, or you can let them soak for as long as you want. When you are ready to blend, remove stems (I keep the seeds, but you can also remove the seeds) and place in a food processor or blender. Add at least 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the chile water. BLEND! You want to blend until the mixture is smooth. Use what you need in your recipe and then freeze the rest.

Then IMMEDIATELY WASH YOUR HANDS! A step I often forget and my lips or nose burn the rest of the day!

Until next week!

Laurel K.