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.