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... 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
  • 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 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
  • 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,
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.