Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Greatest Gift

Dear Friends,
Last week my friend Carol arrived at the dementia unit of the Veteran's nursing home in Clarksburg in true Santa fashion. Over the previous few weeks she shopped, raised funds from her friends and collected gifts for the entire dementia wing of the nursing home. From pajama pants to sweet treats, and even a special care package for families, everyone will have something to open on Christmas morning.

This season is so beautiful, because we are surrounded by people lifting each other up. The greatest gift you can give is to ease the burden of another, to make another feel less alone on their journey. The great beauty of the human condition is our shared experience.

What we find when we give so selflessly, whether we help an elderly neighbor clear their driveway or donate our time, we begin to heal the tender places in our own heart.

Our work is surrounded by giving, people giving themselves completely to care for another, volunteers who offer a few hours each month to host support groups, to those who give their financial resources and many more.

I consider myself to be the luckiest girl on the planet, because we wake up each day - and our sole purpose is to serve others, to lighten the load of those carrying the heavy burden of Alzheimer's or dementia. Whether we are serving individuals with the disease and their caregivers, doctors and other professionals, or researchers who work tirelessly for prevention or a cure - simply put, you are not alone.

But we don't do it alone. You selflessly give to us to keep our work moving forward.

As I reflect over the last six months of my journey, there are so many who have eased my burden and lifted me up. From kind words and encouragement to our amazing Walk to End Alzheimer's volunteers and team captains and participants and many, many more.

You have been my greatest gift. Thank you.

No matter what holiday you are celebrating this time of year, make sure you stop and love somebody.

Wishing you warmth, peace and light,

Until 2014,
Laurel K.

P.S. Looking for a really great last minute gift for the caregiver in your life? Check out this great holiday coupon book!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Uber Cool Calendar

Dear Friends,
Last week Kelsey made my dreams come true! Actually, it was an incredible culmination of efforts from our program staff, and Kelsey was able to put the technology into action!


But, more than a community calendar - we have six months of educational events on our community calendar, our support groups, our early stage Alzheimer's activities, Caregiver University, and our regional nursing home 2-hour OHFLAC training. If you didn't click on the link above to check it out - DO IT NOW!!

O.K., so you may not be as excited as I am. But, it has been my dream to have a one stop place for people to find ways to learn about Alzheimer's, caregiving and support.

It isn't just the calendar. It is more about the content. I am so proud of the educational and support content that we have planned - and we are adding more everyday. We are building events months in advance so you can also plan to attend. We also to hear from you! Want us to add a workshop where you live or work? Give us a call - we are all about taking our message on the road! (800.272.3900)

But, we need your help! Please share our education and support opportunities with your friends, neighbors, co-workers, Facebook friends, church community - anyone in your circle!

Now to make my next dream come true...online video education & support! Stay tuned!


  • Charleston - Early Stage Alzheimer's PotLuck on Wednesday at 4 pm. This is an event for individuals in the early stage of Alzheimer's, this is a great opportunity to meet others who are also facing the Alzheimer's or dementia journey. For more information call, 800.272.3900
  • Morgantown - Conversations About Dementia workshop at 10:30 am. This great workshop will cover Driving, Diagnosis and Safety. For more information call 800.272.3900
  • Support Group Changes - due to the holidays a number of support groups will be changing their date/time in December. Please check our calendar for changes! 
  • Holiday Hours: Our offices in Charleston, Parkersburg and Morgantown will be closed on Tuesday, December 24 & 25 in celebration of Christmas. Our offices will also be closed on Wednesday, January 1 in celebration of the NEW YEAR! 
  • Throughout the ENTIRE holiday season our 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) will be available. 

Loaded Baked Potatoes
I went to the grocery store tonight and came out with two potatoes, sprinkles, bananas and breakfast bars. Absolutely nothing that makes a meal! Do you ever go to the grocery store and just kind of wander around? There is something about that place that makes me completely lose all rational thought - sprinkles? Really?

Normally I would just make it a cereal night, but I was also responsible for feeding W - and he isn't too keen on the cereal for breakfast like us single-for-a-really-long-time gals are. When it is cold there is nothing better than steaming hot vegetable soup, but what makes this recipe so easy is how you serve your soup! This recipe is a great empty the freezer meal. This is also a great meal for when you don't know exactly when you will need dinner ready. The soup is great to sit and simmer on the stove and will heat up the potatoes as soon as you pour it over them.

There is no real recipe, so here is the how to:

  • Bake your potatoes for an hour at 350 degrees or until a fork will easily pierce them. 
  • While your potatoes are baking, brown stew meat in a large saucepan or stockpot. Depending on how many people you are feeding. For W and me, I browned about 1/2 pound. 
  • Add 1/2 can of tomato paste. You really want this stew to be think since you are going to spoon it over your potato. Season the meat and tomato paste mixture with onion powder (add onions and garlic if you have them on hand!), salt and pepper (a lot of pepper). 
  • Fill the pot until there is about 1" of water over the meat. Then add your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables. On hand I had carrots, corn and green beans - but any combination will work. 
  • Add your favorite herb combination, I chose rosemary and thyme. And then of course for a little heat added a gulp of Humphrey's! 
  • Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer the better! 
  • When you are happy with the consistency, open up your bake potatoes and pour in the soup! 
Until Next Week, 

Laurel K. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

On The Road Again

Dear Friends,
At hour 24 of travel /:
I am home. Finally. Only 17 hours after our scheduled arrival. Last night at 2 a.m. listening to the United Airlines hold music, I didn't think I would ever make it here. But, the trip to be a part of my sister's wedding made all of the headaches worth it. This is the time of year for travel, to visit friends and family, to celebrate the holidays with those you love. But getting there can often be overwhelming, unpredictable, exhausting, disorienting and infuriating.

However, just because your loved one has Alzheimer's or dementia does not mean they can't travel, it just means you need to do additional planning and make additional arrangements. Visit our Caregiver Center for a full list of travel tips. But here are a few to get you started:

  1. To travel or not to travel. Travel can be very overwhelming, a few things to take into consideration: disease progression, complexity of the trip, and mode of transportation. Know that is o.k. to decide not to go, if you need help explaining why to your friends and family, call us - we can help. 
  2. Be safe. Even in the early stages of the disease, your loved one is at risk of wandering. Programs like MedicAlert + Alzheimer's Association SafeReturn, ComfortZone and Project Lifesaver are necessary precautions when traveling. Click here for more information.
  3. Knowledge is power. Educate your family and friends you are visiting and your travel companions about Alzheimer's disease and dementia. And, how they can help you with your care responsibilities. Check our Facebook page for printable business cards that explain an Alzheimer's or dementia diagnosis to strangers you may encounter. 
Travel can be extremely stressful under any circumstances. But, often the moments of joy at the end of a travel rainbow can be worth the stress. We are here to all through your entire journey, 24/7. (800.272.3900)


  • West Virginia Advocacy Days Announced! Join us at the West Virginia State House on, January 23, February 5 and February 18 to add your VOICE for individuals and families facing Alzheimer's and dementia in West Virginia. For more information or to RSVP, call 800.272.3900 or email wvinfo@alz.org. 
  • December 17, Caring Through the Holidays workshop at Charleston office at noon. Lunch will be served! RSVP, 304.343.2717 or wvinfo@alz.org. 
  • December 18, Conversations About Dementia workshop in Morgantown office at 10:30. Call 800.272.3900 for more information. 

Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce
The best meal ever is the first meal you eat when you come home from a trip! After eating out every meal, every day it is nice to have a home cooked meal. Except, that usually you don't have any food in the house! Lettuce wraps are a fun and easy finger food that can be prepared in just 30 minutes. And, the peanut sauce adds an extra layer of yum!

Peanut Sauce
Whisk together: 1/2 cup of peanut butter, 2 tbs. of low sodium soy sauce, 2 tbs. of rice wine vinegar or lime juice, 1 tbs. of minced ginger, 1 tbs. of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of water (more or less depending on your desired consistency). And that is IT!

Lettuce Wraps
For the two of us, I cut two chicken breasts into bite size pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper then dropped into a pan over medium-high heat. You can garnish your lettuce wraps with just about anything in the fridge, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro, celery. Tonight, I just had carrots and green onions. Quarter a head of lettuce. Peal off a layer of lettuce and build your wrap just like a taco!


Until next week,
Laurel K.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Learning from the Pursuit of the Golden Egg

Dear Friends, 
Thanksgiving Day for me is not just about family and food - it is about crushing Ole Miss in the annual Egg Bowl. This year's team and this year's Egg Bowl was legendary. Our team faced a lot of adversity, but each challenge the team and our fans came together stronger and better. Watching the Egg Bowl you couldn't not think about team spirit - and not just the cheerleader kind. The no "I" in team kind of team spirit. I won't recount the emotion associated with this game, (but you can read an awesome account here.) The game got me started thinking about team spirit and caregiving and the correlation between the two.

Our staff gets weary every time I use a sports analogy (which is a lot), but for those of us who grew up in sports, watch sports or jut love sports - the sports analogy is an effective way to relate to the world. A few years ago we partnered with the famous Coach Frank Broyles to create a caregiving "playbook," designed to help male and female caregivers navigate their way through Alzheimer's and dementia challenges. In all seriousness, you will find on this blog and in all of our materials, we often try to share the same message many different ways. For you sports lovers out there who are caregivers or are looking for ways to help out a caregiver you love, this one is for you. 

5 Caregiving Tenets We Can Learn from the Pursuit of the Golden Egg

  1. In order for you to make a touchdown on 4th & 3 in OT, you don't just need you - you need you PLUS a few really big and talented offensive linemen who can make a hole and punch you right through to the goal line. Your ability to be a strong caregiver depends greatly on the strength of your team and your ability to use their strengths! Think about the players you need on your team, from medical to financial to caregivers to support, and put a caregiving team together that will help carry you through.
  2. Nurture and teach your back up quarterback and your backup to the backup quarterback, because you are going to need them, probably in a moment of pressure or crisis. Train a number of people to help you with your caregiving duties in case of emergencies, and for those times you just need a few minutes to catch your breath on the sidelines.
  3. Your teammate will miss a game-winning 30-yard field goal seconds before the end of the game, sending you into OT, two games in a row. But that is o.k.
    3.a. People are going to drop the ball, do things wrong, accidents are going to happen -but you can't write people off, yell at them or hate them, because you are going to need them down the road. Like to kick the extra point after a game-winning touchdown! And, I promise you, they are kicking themselves enough - and will come back next time stronger and better because of the experience.
    3.b. DO NOT FREAK OUT! Nature tends to kick in when we freak out, sending all of our blood to our arms and legs - NOT to our brains. To be a good caregiver, you need your brain to be steady as a rock, especially in stressful situations!
  4. The best offense is a good defense. Knowing that we were down to our backup backup quarterback our game plan was to hold Ole Miss to as few points as possible, the winning strategy was up to our defense! And, boy did our defense step up!! When it comes to caregiving you have develop a defense, as in create plans ahead of time for a variety of situations - like going to the emergency room or if your loved one wanders. By keeping a strong defense as caregivers, we are ready for anything.
  5. Don't discount the important roll of the fans. Mississippi State is famous for our fans and our cowbells, the combination is deafening on the field. Visiting offenses can't even hear themselves think let alone hear their play calls. When Dak Prescott  put on his helmet and trotted onto the field in the 4th quarter, the sold-out crowd went wild, sending him the clear message - we've got your back (read this to find out why this was such a big deal)! I am pretty sure you could hear the cowbells all the way to Tupelo. Friends, family, church friends, and neighbors have your back; the Alzheimer's Association has your back;  support group members have your back. It is important to recognize who is in your fan base and let them cheer you on, and drown out those that don't. Caregiving is really hard, and it is easy to lose morale and get down - so when you are facing 3rd and 10 just make the call to your fans - MORE COWBELL, PLEASE! 


Here are a few things happening in the month of December! 

  • December 1: ANGEL'S PERCH is available on cable on demand, iTunes & Amazon! Click here for more details! 
  • Caregiver Stress Workshop, December 4, 2 p.m., Bible Center Church, Charleston
  • Living with Alzheimer's Holiday Potluck, December 11, 6 p.m., Alzheimer's Association, Parkersburg *For individuals in the early stage of Alzheimer's and their caregivers
  • Caring Through the Holidays, December 17, noon, Alzheimer's Association, Charleston *RSVP requested as lunch will be provided
  • Living with Alzheimer's Holiday Pot Luck, December 18, 4 p.m., Alzheimer's Association, Charleston *For individuals in the early stage of Alzheimer's and their caregivers
  • Conversations About Dementia, December 18, 10:30 a.m., Alzheimer's Association, Morgantown
  • December 24 & 25 - Alzheimer's Association offices closed, however our 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) is open throughout the holiday.

Caramel Coat

What is it about this time of year that gets me in the mood for snacks? My mom's house is chock-full of sweets this time of year, and I am a sweets vacuum! I especially love caramel covered anything! This recipe is a Paula Deen FoodNetwork recipe, for her original version click here. The recipe is actually for caramel popcorn, but I have found you can coat just about anything in this east to make caramel sauce. Sunday I chose pretzels and nuts to mix into my Chex Mix, for a little sweet to my salty. And when I say easy, I mean fool-proof: 

1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 cups popped popcorn

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Over medium heat, combine first 4 ingredients and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Stir well. Pour over the pop corn, nuts or whatever your heart desires. Stir to coat well. Bake in large roaster or pan for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on waxed paper to dry.

Until Next Week! 

Laurel K.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Change is Coming

Dear Friends,
This week marks the beginning of the non-stop excitement of the holiday season. A season defined by family and tradition. I have an extraordinarily strong bond with my immediate family. Moving around created our tight knit clan, intensely protective of our family and our traditions. The one constant in my life growing up was our family, and our holiday traditions.

My younger brother was the first to break ranks, as a young chef he wasn't able to make the cross-country trek home for Thanksgiving a few years ago. I felt hurt and betrayed, as if Thanksgiving was the last thing that held our family together. When ESPN moved the Egg Bowl from Thanksgiving to the Saturday after Thanksgiving I was irate - that isn't their tradition to mess with! The first year I went to W's parent's home for Christmas Day, I cried the whole way to Williams Mountain, even though I spent the morning with my mom and dad and would be back in time for Christmas dinner. A few weeks ago I was asked how W and I split Thanksgiving with our families, why would we do that I asked back? Thanksgiving without my parents? As if! 

This weekend the reality finally set in that my sister Emily would be on the other side of the country for Thanksgiving. I moped around all Sunday, heartbroken. Not even the promise of Turducken could cheer me up. 

It is often our family traditions that make the chaos in our lives make sense, make us feel normal and right, even when everything is going wrong, renews our sense of self. All of these things make changing our holiday traditions hard, even when life demands change. This is one of the reasons the holidays are so challenging for caregivers - the stress of trying to maintain old traditions or coping with the grief of losing favorite family traditions, or other family members' inability to accept changing traditions. 

The tradition does not define the family. As our lives change we have to continually remind ourselves it isn't tradition above all else - it is family above all else. This season is more about celebrating gratitude and cherishing those we love than our annual meal of appetizers on Christmas Eve. 

As you plan for the upcoming holiday season and are facing challenges or changes, please know that you are not alone. We have a number of tips on our website about making the most of the holidays when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia. Our 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900)is available throughout the holidays, help and support is just a phone call away. 

From your family here at the Alzheimer's Association & my family, we wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving! 


Al Roker's Sweet Potato Casserole: My Thanksgiving Favorite 
This recipe joined our family line up one Christmas at our Kirksey family get-together at my grandmother's house. The Kirkseys are a gregarious, food-loving, wine-drinking, over the top kind of crowd. I know, it is hard to imagine that I fit in... 

Anyhow...my dad saw this recipe on the Today Show and this recipe produces an immense amount of sweet potatoes, which we need to feed our family. We thought we would have a ton left over - but it was so delicious that the entire pan was gone by the end of the afternoon! I may or may not have eaten half...I demand this sweet potato casserole at all holiday gatherings, i.e. I make it then make everyone eat it. I wish I had pictures to share...but it is time to dig in! 


  • 6 large sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup crushed pineapples, drained
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 bag large marshmallows
Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the sweet potatoes until they are soft. Peel the skin off of the sweet potato and place into a bowl with all of the ingredients, except the marshmallows. Dump into a large Pyrex dish and bake for 30 minutes. Then add the marshmallows on top, turn the heat up or the broiler on and bake until the marshmallows are brown. Then make sure you serve yourself first! 
Happy Thanksgiving! Until Next Week! 
Laurel K. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

What Should I Expect?

Dear Friends,
Recently, a friend of mine asked me about resources for a friend who is caring for his wife with younger-onset Alzheimer's. My friend related all of the things his friend is facing - when should I retire? When can she no longer be alone? What can I do to keep her safe? My friend could tell his friend was feeling lonely, exasperated and exhausted.

He said to my friend, I just don't know what to expect, and I don't know what I need to do next.

This is my ultimate heartache - what keeps me up at night. The thought that there are people who don't know about our resources and support. The thought that families are out there facing this disease alone. So, I thought I would share a brief description of our Care Consultation program in hopes that you will share this amazing, valuable and FREE resource with your friends, family, church family, co-workers, Facebook friends - EVERYONE!

Care Consultations can be over the phone or in person, and can involve one person or an entire family. We have even conferenced in family members from across the country. Care Consultations help you and your family understand the disease and what to expect. Most importantly, care consultations can help you plan and know what to prepare for as the disease progresses. We often help families come to a consensus around care plans and how to best care for a loved one. While we wish we had a magic wand to fix all problems, we can provide tools and knowledge. And most importantly an understanding and supportive listening ear. Free and confidential, you can make an appointment or just simply give us a call at 800.272.3900.

Please, always know - you are not alone.


  • Our Parkersburg and Morgantown offices will be closed on Tuesday, November 19. Our staff will be at our Charleston office for our November all staff meeting.
  • Next week our offices will be closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in celebration of Thanksgiving. However, our 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) will be available throughout the holiday!
  • Stay tuned to our Community Calendar this week, we will be posting a whole list of Community Workshops for the upcoming months. 
  • We are on Instagram! You can find us @fightalzwv http://instagram.com/fightalz
  • LGBT Outreach Project: We are in the planning stages of an outreach project specifically targeted at LGBT caregivers and building awareness about Alzheimer's and dementia and available resources within the LGBT community. The tools developed will be a part of a national toolkit. We are working to get a baseline through a survey and would greatly appreciate your help distributing the survey. Click here for a link to the survey. 
Sriracha Popcorn
I am a home-made popcorn addict. I will pass on the movie uber buttered junk any day, but put me in front of a homemade bowl - it will be gone in an instant. I had some left over popcorn from a batch of caramel popcorn I made for our tailgate a few weeks ago - and just happened to run across this recipe. Who doesn't love Sriracha, the controversial chili sauce that goes with everything! I do feel slightly guilty eating it, I feel for all of those citizens who live near the Sriracha plant...but.... Not to mention if ever forced to choose, W would for sure choose Sriracha over me. 

The recipe I found called for 4 cups of popcorn, but I would say closer to 8 or 10 cups. You want enough popcorn so the sauce evenly coats the popcorn without making it soggy. My other piece of advice, don't put the caramel popcorn in the same basket as the Sriracha popcorn. Our friend grabbed a giant handful and popped it in her mouth without looking...it wasn't pretty! 

8 cups of popcorn (1 tbs. oil)
2 tbs. butter
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. Sriracha
1tbs. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. garlic powder

In a large pot over medium heat pour in a tbs of oil and add 3 kernels of corn. As soon as the kernels begin to pop, pour in 1/3 cup of kernels. Cover and keep the kernels moving across the bottom until all of the popcorn is popped. This produces 4 cups of popcorn. Repeat process to make 8 cups. 

In a sauce pan melt the butter in olive oil over medium heat. As soon as the butter melts add the rest of the ingredients and cook until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour over popcorn and mix well! You want to make sure the sauce coats the popcorn evenly and there aren't any soggy pieces at the bottom. Enjoy with a cold beverage to cool your soon to be on fire mouth! 

Until next week! 

Laurel K.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Woman on a Mission

Dear Friends,
Paula Wolfert,5 time James Beard award winner and cookbook author is on a mission to fight Alzheimer's disease and the stigma of the disease by speaking out about her own diagnosis. Watch here, the first entry in her video blog, as she talks about recognizing Alzheimer's disease in herself, and coping with Alzheimer's disease. Click here if the video doesn't appear below.


  • Monday is the second workshop in our three part Living with Alzheimer's education series for people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. We just selected the next series of workshop dates for March, and will be hosting on set in the eastern panhandle.
  • Thinking about the holidays? The best way to cope with the holidays and Alzheimer's or dementia is to plan. We are adding new resources to our website everyday. If you have questions, we are available 24/7. Click here to read more.  
  • We also are putting the final touches on Caregiver University dates and locations! Look for the date announcement here next week! Locations will be: Charleston; Logan; Clarksburg; Hampshire County; Huntington; Princeton, WV; and Morgan County, Ohio. 
  • Walk to End Alzheimer's Photos are HERE!
Beat Texas Red Chili 
O.K., I will admit it - I am a closet Texas fan. Which has never been a problem, until WVU joined the Big 12! As many of you may know I spent a good portion of my childhood in Texas. We were in 6th or 7th grade and my BFF, Sarah Howard was celebrating her birthday with a weekend in Austin, culminating with a trip to see the Longhorns play! We even got to light the tower upon Texas' victory! So I can't really cheer against them...

So, when planning for our tailgate at this weekend's WVU vs. Texas game, I couldn't think of a more fitting recipe than Texas Red Chili. The burnt orange color is perfect, and the deep smokey taste is lovely on a cold football day. 

The color of the chiles is really what makes this recipe- but be careful, it stains everything! 
You can't beat tailgate cooking! The steam smelled amazing! 
Be sure to have plenty of snacks on hand, this recipe takes a little time!

7-8 Dried New Mexico chiles (if you can't find New Mexico, don't fret - any of the common dried chiles work!)
2 - 1.5 pounds of stew meat, cut into quarters (you want them to be pretty small pieces)
1 tbs. of olive oil
1 yellow onion (sweet onions work well too)
3-4 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno (optional, depending on how hot you like it and save some for garnish!)
2-4 cups of chiles liquid
1/2 beer
First Spice Dump
2 tsps. cumin 
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Second Spice Dump
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tbs. brown sugar

Reconstitute the dried chiles by soaking them in hot water for at least 1 hour. After the chiles are soft, remove the stem and seeds then place them in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the liquid. Don't dump the rest of the liquid! You want to lightly season the chiles before blending with a pinch of salt and cumin. Then BLEND! You don't want to see any remnants of the skin, about 5 minutes of blending. 

Dice the onion and jalapeno and mince the garlic cloves. You want to cut your stew meat into smaller pieces, generally 1/4 of original size and trim. 

Place your stew pot or cast iron pot on a medium-high burner, and add 1 tbs. of olive oil. When the pot is hot and the oil begins to smoke, add the beef and brown on at least two sides. Add the onions, followed by garlic, then jalapeno. As soon as the onions begin to sweat, add the first spice dump. Continue to cook until onions are translucent and the spices are evenly mixed throughout. Add the chili paste (wear an apron, this stuff stains!), mix thoroughly and allow to cook for a few minutes (goggles recommended!) Be sure to strain out any seeds from your reconstitution liquid and add to the chili. I like to add in at least 1/2 beer as additional liquid, then water if more liquid is needed. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for at least an hour. At this point, hard core Texas chili enthusiast should stop reading. Waller LOVES beans in his chili, so who am I to force him to go without! I add 1 can of black beans, make sure they are the low sodium variety! 

I like to serve up with sour cream, a little cheese, jalapeno and corn chips! Enjoy! 

Until next week! 

Laurel K.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thank you! Thank you!

Dear Friends,
I took last week off from a lot of things, including Director's Dish, in order to recover from the last few crazy months of Walk to End Alzheimer's.

I am still overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion. So many people work so hard, beginning all the way back in March, to make Walk day a success. Our volunteer planning committees, team captains, Walk day volunteers, our corporate sponsors and the many other businesses that support team fundraisers. I would surely miss so many if I began to recount the thousands of people that work to make Walk happen.

When Walk day comes and goes, we all do feel a little bit of sadness and it takes us a few days to rewire our work days.

But, the actual day after a Walk to End Alzheimer's is not an ending to an event, it is the beginning of a movement. Walk to End Alzheimer's is a rallying point in our fight against Alzheimer's - an annual meeting of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. A moment to renew our resolve and recharge our batteries to continue the fight against a disease that has taken so much. Walk day is a celebration of the progress that we have made over the past year, and an honest look at the promise of a future. Walk day is also our opportunity to recruit new voices to our fight, and boy did we see that this year, with record numbers coming out to join our fight.

Last week wasn't the end, last week marked the launch of a beginning.

While there are so many to thank, I can not even begin to tackle that list here. I would like to take a moment to celebrate our staff's hard work, and especially our fearless Walk leader Kaarmin Ford. Every person went above and beyond the call of duty to make Walk happen. And, that is actually truly an understatement - our amazing staff tackles Walk to End Alzheimer's with heart, love, passion and enthusiasm. I am so lucky to have such great colleagues.

Finally, in the thank you category, I have to say thank you to our families. Most of whom join in the Walk efforts as Walk day volunteers, team members and cheerleaders. You cope with our crankiness, absence at family functions and late working hours - but don't complain, only ask how can we help. You even drive four hours to pick up a cell phone from the side of the interstate and clean our house. We owe you big time!


  • Living with Alzheimer's starts tomorrow! Living with Alzheimer's is a three-part education series for individuals in the early stage of Alzheimer's or dementia and their caregivers. For more information, call 800.272.3900
  • November is National Alzheimer's disease Awareness Month. Started 31 years ago, by President Ronald Reagan, NADAM is an opportunity to educate your friends, family and co-workers about Alzheimer's disease. Interested in offering a Know the 10 Signs workshop? Call 800.272.3900 or email wvinfo@alz.org.
  • New gene variants identified: New study results, published online by Nature Genetics, reports  11 new genetic “areas of interest” in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. They identified as many new Alzheimer’s-related genes in this one study as have been found in the last 15 years combined. The collaborative effort, spanning universities from both Europe and the United States, combines the knowledge, staff, and resources of four groups that conduct research on Alzheimer’s disease genetics. Pooling resources through, the collaborative team collected 74,076 participants (including people with Alzheimer’s and controls) from 15 countries. The researchers say that one of the more significant new genetic associations plays a role in the immune system and inflammatory response. This region has also been associated with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, suggesting that the diseases where abnormal proteins accumulate in the brain may involve a common mechanism.   
  • Dancing Through Time! The Dancing Through Time planning committee is getting started planning this year's event, to be held on March 22 at the WVU Alumni Center! If you are interested in joining the planning committee, send a note to Kim Matras, kmatras@alz.org
Chicken & Biscuits
This is going to be a really busy week, meaning not a lot of time for cooking this week. I thought I would cook a whole chicken, then use the left overs the rest of the week. And what goes better with chicken than biscuits!

Instead of a whole chicken, I found this package of a chicken broken down. 

Place the parts in the chicken, skin side down in a skillet, then pop in a pre-heated oven at 350. 30 minutes into cook time raise the temperature to 400. 15 minutes later flip the chicken skin side up and cook for 30 more minutes, or until the the temperature in the chicken reads 180 degrees. 

For the biscuits! Start with 2 cups of flour (I cheat and use food processor)

Add in, 1 tsp. of sugar, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 tbs. of baking powder.

Drop in 8 tbs. of cold butter. and blend until it it looks similar to cornmeal. 

Crumbly, cornmeal looking. 

Add in 3/4 cup of milk, or until the dough starts to come together, but not too gooey. 

Roll out the dough, the biscuits are taking shape! Bake for 12 minutes, hopefully they rise! 

Ok, I ate a few bites before the photo. But, I have plenty more in chicken where that came from...what to make tomorrow!! 

Until next week!

Laurel K.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Leave No Stone Unturned

Dear Friends,
I am going to go ahead and apologize ahead of time, I am distracted! It is Charleston Walk to End Alzheimer's week! I love this week, even though it is bananas! Seeing everyone on bank day, obsessively refreshing our Walk registration page, last minute media interviews, move-in day on Friday, the anticipation (and anxiety) on Friday night, and then suddenly it is Saturday morning and people are pouring through the gates of the ballpark. I am soo excited!! (Think Jessie Spano excited!) W is threatening to take my phone away, I can't stop checking our Walk registration page!

To use a sports metaphor, we are leaving it all on the field, let no stone be unturned, no single person not know about Walk to End Alzheimer's!

Our goal is to raise $140,000- and we need your help to get there - so join our forces and help us leave no stone unturned!


We are at war against Alzheimer's, and Walk to End Alzheimer's is our Sherman tank. Together we are a FORCE against Alzheimer's & dementia. 

Can't wait to see you on Saturday morning!! EEEK!! REGISTER HERE!


  • BANK DAY = Registration E-Z Pass! Calling all Charleston Walk to End Alzheimer's Team Captains, come to bank day to pick up your Registration E-Z pass! Bank Day is Wednesday in our office in Charleston (1601 2nd Avenue, Charleston, WV 25387), from 11 am - 6 pm. Pick up your t-shirts for your team and your event-day registration wristbands so you AND your team can bypass the registration table on Walk day! Don't wait in line, come to BANK DAY!
  • Living with Alzheimer's Tent - This year we are hosting a special place for individuals attending the Walk who have Alzheimer's disease or dementia. It is a place to meet others who are facing Alzheimer's or dementia, and a place to escape the crowd without missing any of the action. For more information call 800.272.3900
  • Walk to End Alzheimer's pictures - stay tuned to our Facebook page for Walk to End Alzheimer's photos! 
  • Living with Alzheimer's Education Series - Starting Monday, November 4 we will host a 3-part education series for individuals with early-stage Alzheimer's and their caregivers. For more information call, 800.272.3900 or email wvinfo@alz.org
  • We are making final plans for Caregiver University 2014! We are finalizing our topics as well, and if there is a topic that you would like to see in our Caregiver University 2.0 series, email it to wvinfo@alz.org. (We are also experimenting with themes, and our imagination has gone wild!) 
  • Monday, October 28 - Our offices will be closed, and our staff will be in their pajamas all day (or at least I will be)! Saturday marks our final Walk and we need to take a breather and refill our inner cup! Our 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) will be available. (We are living our mantra of taking care of yourself message!) 
Taco Chili 
I guess it is time to finally accept the fact it is fall. The cold weather on Saturday and beautiful crisp, but sunny Sunday put me in the mood for something hearty & warm. And easy! This weekend wore me out! I love making chili (or anything with beans) because it brings out W's best pull my finger jokes! (Why I love that guy, he keeps me laughing!)

Start by browning 1 lb. of lean ground beef in a large pot. After the meat has browned dump it onto a paper towel- lined plate to drain the excess fat.

In the same pot dump in an onion, diced - over medium heat. (Ok, so I cheated, too lazy to dice)

Let the onions sweat until they become translucent. Add in 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chiles - I like it hot!!

Followed by a can of regular diced tomatoes

Now for the beans!

This is going to sound weird...but add in 1 packet of taco seasoning and 1 packet if ranch

Add two cans of water, and turn the heat up to medium-high and let it simmer for at least 30 min. This is one of those recipes, the longer it sits the better it gets!

Now it is time to add your favorite toppings and dive in! 

Until next week!

Laurel K.

Monday, October 14, 2013

IT IS Rally Time!

Dear Friends,
On Friday night I felt as threadbare as our hotel room. Like a build-a-bear pulling apart at the seams- stuffing coming out everywhere. It was 11 pm, I'd spent the better part of the night at Wal-Mart tire center, there was no heat, I was on day 13 of a 14-day work week, and of those 13 days, 11 of which I was up before 5:30 (which is early for me!).

Over the past two months I am down a toenail, worked all but 5 days, spent more nights in hotels than in my own bed, singed a large portion of my hair, lost a cell phone, recovered said cell phone from I-64 (well W did actually), lost a computer & make-up bag, found computer and makeup bag, logged 3,000 miles driving and 15 running, 1 flat tire, eaten more fast food than Morgan Spurlock, I look like wolf-boy - since I haven't waxed my eyebrows, my roots are at least 2", nearly threw away a credit card, tracking Walk goals and numbers, innumerable meetings and at least 20 presentations... The thought of the impending 5 a.m. wake-up call, felt like an elephant standing on top of my chest. But, as all of life does - it came.

We groggily arrived at Wheeling Park at 6:30 a.m. Instantly, an intense flood of love and joy washed the elephant away. The storm inside me, replaced, literally, by a rainbow of hope.

This is the moment, these are the hours that make it all worth it - that make me love every mile traveled - every early morning and every late night. To be a part of providing a place for people to take their anger and grief, love and pain - to come together to honor, remember and celebrate. To have a place to fight a disease that robs us of everything. To fight for a better future, a future without Alzheimer's disease - protecting our children and grandchildren. For a few hours each year, we are one big family - sharing our struggles, our moments of joy. The hugs, team pictures, promise garden, donuts, frosty mornings, registration, volunteers, tears, laughter, COFFEE - all of it.

But unlike most moments, these are not fleeting. There is an underlying current of electricity that connects all of the Walks across the state and nation together. It is our building momentum against Alzheimer's disease & dementia - this momentum carries us through the entire year. We carry that power with us, spreading the word and growing the cause. So in those moments we are threadbare, worn down by this insidious disease - I rely on Joe, and Ann, and Keely, and Carol, and Becky, and Debbie, and Molly all of these powerful people and powerful moments from Walk to keep the power on in me. For that, I thank you.


  •  IT IS RALLY TIME!!! Charleston Walk to End Alzheimer's is in 2 weeks!! We are not leaving a stone un-turned. BUT we need your HELP!! We have posters, wickets, postcards - share us via email, facebook, twitter (soon instagram)! Every person registered, every penny raised pushes our mission forward! Help us get to $140,000!! 
  • TUNE INTO V100 Tuesday morning to catch me on the Steve & Jenny Show at 8:20 a.m.! They are not only great media sponsors - they are great partners in our cause!! 
  • Stay tuned to our Facebook page for Walk promotions all week - your chance to win great prizes and help us promote Walk to End Alzheimer's! 
  • Bank Day E-Z PASS! Be sure to join us on Bank Day to not only pick up your team's t-shirts, but pick up event-day wrist bands so you and your team members can BYPASS registration and head straight to the Walk Day Action!! 
  • If you are walking in honor or memory of someone, add their photo to our Why We Walk slide show that plays at the ballpark. Email your photo to wvinfo@alz.org. Each year this moving tribute continues to grow and inspire us to reach farther. 
  • Living with Alzheimer's Tent, this year at the Charleston Walk to End Alzheimer's we will be hosting a Living with Alzheimer's Tent, a special place for individuals with Alzheimer's to stop by, or take a rest from the action. If you would like more information, email wvinfo@alz.org or call 800.272.3900
  • Living With Alzheimer's education program for people in the early stages of Alzheimer's or dementia and their caregivers will start in November. Click here for more information. 
  • Research News: Last week there was a lot of media surrounding research released regarding a compound that stopped cell death in mice with prion disease. Every research lead that opens up, needs to be pursued - however, there is a lot more research that needs to happen between mouse studies and human studies. Watch Dr. Maria Carillo, Alzheimer's Association Vice President of Medical and Scientific Affairs, on CNN talk about these research findings.  
Easy Chicken Soup for the Soul
This time of year we all end up coming down with the crud. Scratchy throat, ear ache, sinus pain - just a part of the change of the season I suppose. But nothing makes you feel better than a little homemade soup. This soup is a piece of cake, the ingredients are interchangeable depending on what you have on hand. This recipe made enough for W and me, plus 3-4 bowls of leftovers. 

Start by placing 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a Pyrex, fill the bottom with water, coverand bake at 350 until chicken is done. (30-40 mins)

I only had red onion on hand - while not ideal, it actually turned our to be really tasty. I used about 1/2 of the onion. Throw into a pan over medium heat, with olive oil and 1 tbs of butter.

Chop carrots and celery to your preferred size 

Chop the garlic! I like at least three cloves, more or less depending on taste.

Pull out of your cabinet some core spices. I like this com I action for a hearty fall soup! 

Add the veggies and garlic followed by seasonings to the pot with onions. Let the veggies sweat, but you don't want them to cook all the way through. Finally add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tbs of pepper.

Add 1 boc of unsalted chicken stock - depending on how soupy you like your chicken noodle - add 1/2 carton - 1 full carton of water. 

Bring the ingredients up to a simmer and add 2-3 cups of your favorite noodles.

Your chicken should be done about this time - make sure to let it cool for a few so you don't burn yourself. Cut chicken up into small pieces then add to the soup. 

Allow the soup to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Last thing to do is add the peas! They on,y tale about 1 minute to cook. Be sure to season with extra pepper 

I was so hungry, I forgot to take a final picture! 

Until  next week!

Laurel K.

Monday, October 7, 2013

37 Years in the Making

Dear Friends,
I am writing to you on the drive back to Charleston from the Morgantown Walk to End Alzhiemer's. Don't worry, NASCAR Kim is driving, not me! We had an amazing day today as well as yesterday in Lewisburg! Kaarmin and I have had a marathon 48-hour Walktober. We are completely wiped - and simultaneously so energized from all of the teams that we have walked with this weekend - all walking with one mission and one vision with love and passion. 

This past week marked a pretty big milestone in the history of my family. Last Wednesday my parents celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary. 37. As in 37 years. That is a really long time.

I have learned so much from my parents individually (most of which remains a work in progress) tenacity to tackle challenges, true sense of community, love of the journey, how to make pancakes and how to eat them with an egg on top...

But, what has shaped my life the most, my parents taught me together. You see, you don't get to 37 years out of simply luck or by default. Over the years our family has faced enormous challenges. Challenges that in the world today anyone would say it is ok to quit. But they didn't. My mom and dad built their commitment to each other and our family on a backbone made of love. So, when the going got tough, they were bound together by much more than just their wedding rings or vows. When the going got tough, their love for each other and our family got tougher. 

Over the years I have watched my parents sacrifice individually to protect each other and to protect our little family. In a world in which the word "selfie" is actually in the dictionary, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of that kind of love. 

I am not naive enoughto think my parents like each other every minute of every day. But, what my parents have sacrificed for each other in tough times, they have gotten back 10-fold in 37 years of joy, adventure, love, laughter, ME, Emily & Chris.

I look at our family, now expanding to envelop W, Liz & Audrey, I can clearly see, THIS is the true meaning of life. 


  • WalkTOBER continues! We can't wait to see you this weekend in Bluefield and Wheeling! W & I are headed to Wheeling! (Rumor has it we are having dinner at Undo's the night before! Gotta carbo-load right?) Just a reminder Bank Day is Wednesday! 
  • If you are in the Charleston area on Saturday join in on the Party in Purple Zumbathon! The event benefits Walk to End Alzheimer's and will feature a variety of Zumba instructors, snacks and door prizes!! Kids are welcome too! Click here for more information!
  • Thursday we are partnering with our friends at AARP and the Blanchette Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute to present caregiving tips and resources at WVU's Money $mart Conference. We love working with these great partners! 
  • This week we are also setting up a booth at the Senior Center Director's meeting. Senior Centers are vital to our communities, and they are great partners of ours! They play an important role in our outreach efforts about Alzheimer's and caregiving. 
  • We are finalizing our Caregiver University locations for next fall - if you are interested in helping us host Caregiver University in your community, give us a call at 800.372.3900
  • We are going to be rolling out some changes to registration at the Charleston Walk! While the details aren't finalized - you will want to make sure your Team Captain gets to Bank Day so you can bypass the registration line ENTIRELY!! (AH-MAZING!) Details to come! 
  • Find your Walk pictures HERE! 

Throwback: Broccoli Salad
Post-gameday we usually have a variety of food leftover from our tailgate, including veggies! After last game, we had a TON of broccoli. Which worked out perfectly, because we had a little cookout with my parents and my sister before Mountain Stage's 30th birthday concert! What goes perfect with outdoor eating? Broccoli salad! 

Start with the sauce: Mix 1 1/2 cups of mayo (I prefer the olive oil based mayo), with 2 tbs of white vinegar, 2 tsps. of black pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Mix and let the flavors meld together while you put together the salad part. 

In a large bowl mix together broccoli and any combination of veggies you like! This week I went with carrots and peas.

Dice a red onion and cheese! You can use shredded cheese, but there is something wonderful about chunks of cheese! 
For the piece de resistance, sprinkle in chopped bacon (or in my case, bacon bits!) and raisins. 

Mix in your dressing, making sure to thoroughly coat everything!

Last but not least! Enjoy! 

Until Next Week! 
Laurel K.

Monday, September 30, 2013

On a Roll, Cabbage That Is

Dear Friends, 
Don't tell anyone, but I am afraid of the dark. As in petrified, paralyzed by fear - I would actually put my fear of the dark in the classification of a phobia. It's been on my mind lately, as I have been traveling a lot - in hotel rooms....alone - barely able to sleep for the soft glow of the TV, but unable to let go of that comforting light. At home I am not able to put anything on my night stand, except my trusty lamp. I wake up in the middle of the night, panic stricken - flailing for relief from the suffocating darkness. After so many broken candles, tumbled over books and magazines, you learn your lesson. I blame my intense fear on an early childhood viewing of the horror movie, "Pet Cemetery." (Might also be connected to my fear of toddlers) (BTW my mom is either laughing or crying or both right now - after 18 years of her hall light on all night)

A thought occurred to me last week when W caught me ridiculously sprinting from the dark kitchen to the safe light of the hallway. 

What if I lost my ability to communicate the fear that drives my bizarre flailing about at night, darting across rooms, or anxiety at turning out the final bit of light before I am safely asleep. How odd I would look with no context to my behavior. 

I share this embarrassing insight into my psyche as a reminder. We all have our fears, loves, hates, odd quirks and strange (to outsiders) rituals. These bits and pieces that make us who we are, don't disappear after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or dementia, and can sometimes be amplified. The one thing about our loved one with Alzheimer's that is guaranteed to change is his or her ability to verbalize all of this to us as caregivers.  

Next time you are faced with a challenging caregiving situation, imagine me diving through a dark hallway, like a running back straining for the touchdown, reaching for the saving grace of the light switch. First, I hope you laugh a little at this mental image, but most importantly, remember, what is my loved one trying to communicate - what fears, loves, quirks, rituals would illicit this kind of reaction? Or diffuse a challenging situation. 


  • Early Stage Programs: In November we will begin a new educational series - Living with Alzheimer's - designed for individuals in the early stage of Alzheimer's and their care partners. It is a 3-part series, that people can jump in and out of as needed. We will be hosting these workshops in our Charleston, Morgantown and Parkersburg offices. For more information call, 800.272.3900 or email wvinfo@alz.org
  • Support Groups This Week: Click here to see a list of support groups happening near you. 
  • WalkTOBER: I can't wait to see everyone in Lewisburg and Morgantown for Walk to End Alzheimer's!! There are already 49 teams registered for the Morgantown Walk!! Fingers crossed for beautiful weather! If you haven't registered your team, it isn't to late! Visit, alz.org/walk
  • CMS Decision on Amyloid Imaging: This week the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) handed down their long awaited decision on the use of amyloid imaging in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease. They disappointingly upheld its earlier preliminary decision to only cover brain amyloid imaging under the "coverage with evidence development" (CED) policy. This means CMS will not cover the cost of brain amyloid imaging, except in the context of approved trials. The Alzheimer's Association and a coalition of scientist and physicians have been at the table with CMS, working tirelessly to gain ground on their earlier decision. While this setback is disappointing, this technology is not going away, and we will continue both our scientific and advocacy efforts to connect families with the best in diagnostics. Read our full statement here.
  •  Angel's Perch screenings in West Virginia! Friends in Marlington, Bridgeport, Lewisburg & Martinsburg get your tickets now - Angel's Perch is coming your way!! I also happen to be privy to some very exciting info that will be announced about the film in the next few weeks!! Stay tuned! 

On A Cabbage Roll
If you are new to the Dish, each week I include a recipe as a reminder to take care of yourself, whether it is cooking, going for a walk or a few minutes of meditation - take care of yourself.

I know you've been there before - 1lb of ground beef, staring at you, nagging...use me today or I am going bad. Generally the ground beef nag turns into easy tacos. But, tonight I got a wild hair. Wonder how hard it is to make cabbage rolls? 

So I researched recipes, and I didn't really have all of the ingredients for any of the recipes - but I had most of the ingredients for most of the recipes. They turned out pretty darn tasty, not to mention plenty of left overs! I can't wait to try this recipe again, but hide more vegetables in the filling (similar to my meatloaf).

The Sauce: Start with a glub or so of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. Add in tomato puree, I had frozen puree on hand, but 1 can would work great as well! 

Add in 1/2 of a yellow onion, 1 can of crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, 3 tbs of brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until thickened.

Prep the cabbage! Cut out the core (carefully, knives are dangerous people!)

Place the entire head in a big, tall pot of boiling water. 

Filling Time: Start with the pound of nagging ground beef (or 1/2 pork, or chicken, or vegetables would be good too!) Add 1/4 cup of rice, the other half of your onion, 1 tbs of thyme, salt, pepper and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes. And two eggs.

Followed by breadcrumbs (I use 2 pieces of wheat toast, ground), add a few big spoonfuls of your sauce. (Hint: add the sauce after you have mixed everything! Holy how it is hot when you put your hand in there!) Mix by hand (more like mix by squishing it all together)

It is amazing, the leaves of the cabbage just peal right off! 

The assembly turns out to be a piece of cake. Add a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of your mixture into a cabbage leaf, then fold one side over. 

Fold it again!

And again!

Neatly tuck all of your cabbage rolls together, like they love each other! The cover it all with your saucy goodness!

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees - then dive in!

Until next week!
Laurel K.