Why I Paint The Night Purple

By: Sydney Church

This will be my fourth Paint the Night Purple event I am attending as a board member. This event is so special to me because it is an opportunity to pay tribute to my loved ones who are, or were, affected by Alzheimer’s.

I got involved in this cause originally because of my grandmother on my father’s side. She passed away from Alzheimer’s when I was only 8 years old. Being so young, I was so confused by Alzheimer’s and dementia in general. I couldn’t understand how someone could not know or remember who you are, especially their own children and grandchildren. It was very traumatizing to me and extremely upsetting to our whole family. Even years later my family on my father’s side hasn’t quite been the same. I will never forget the way I felt after visiting my grandmother, we called her Nanny, shortly before she passed, and that was the main reason I vowed to one day get involved in this cause- not only to better understand it, but to help find a treatment or prevention to one day end this awful heart-wrenching disease.

Within this past year, my grandmother on my mother’s side has taken a turn for the worse. She has trouble remembering things, and it seems to be getting progressively worse. As she lives in Ohio and I’m in Chicago, I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like, but every time I go home I make sure to see her and my grandfather and help them with getting groceries, cleaning, or driving them to doctor’s appointments – whatever is needed.

I participate in the Junior Board and with this event because it’s one positive side of all this gloom and heartbreak. It’s also the biggest event the Junior Board puts on and our big night to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter, which goes to research and finding a cure to end Alzheimer’s once and for all. 

I love PTNP because it’s a seamless event. Everyone who has a hand in this event is so impressive and so hard working, and no one is doing it for the credit, but rather because this cause means so much to them and they want to do their part. Each and every year I’m more impressed by the event and so thankful to be a part of it. I’ve convinced many friends and colleagues to attend and each and every one of them has said they look forward to attending next year’s event and that they can’t wait. It’s also a fun excuse to dress up and drink champagne, while also doing good and giving back to the community.

Tickets to the Junior Board’s largest annual event can be found here

The Dangers of Cold Weather & Wandering: Tips for Winter Safety

Sixty percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease will wander at some point during their diagnosis. This is a significant safety concern for the more than 230,000 people living with Alzheimer’s in Illinois. A person living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia may not remember his or her name or address and can become disoriented even in familiar places. In cold temperatures and winter weather conditions, wandering can be dangerous – even life-threatening. As the weather becomes inclement it is important to keep your loved one with dementia safe by taking simple precautions to prevent wandering.

Alzheimer’s Association’s Tips to Prevent Wandering:

  • Carry out daily activities: Having a routine can provide structure. Consider creating a daily plan.
  • Avoid busy places: Shopping malls and grocery stores can be confusing causing disorientation.
  • Night wandering: Restrict fluids two hours before bedtime and ensure the person has gone to the bathroom just before bed. Also, use night lights throughout the home or facility.
  • Locks: Place out of sight. Install slide bolts at the top or bottom of doors.
  • Doors and doorknobs: Camouflage doors by painting them the same colors as the walls. Cover them with removable curtains or screens. Cover knobs with cloth in the color of the door or use childproof knobs.
  • Monitoring devices: Try devices that signal when a door or window is opened. Place a pressure-sensitive mat at the door or bedside to alert of movement.
  • Secure trigger items: Some people will not go out without a coat, hat, pocketbook, keys, wallet, etc. Making these items unavailable can prevent wandering.

When weather temperatures plummet and staying indoors is encouraged, planning ahead for your loved one can be crucial for his or her safety. The Alzheimer’s Association can help with activity suggestions, communication and how to identify confusion and the triggers that increase the incidence of wandering.

Planning Ahead:

  • Keep a list of people for the person with dementia to call when feeling overwhelmed. Have their telephone numbers in one location and easily accessible.
  • Ask neighbors, friends and family to call if they see the person alone or dressed inappropriately.
  • Keep a recent, close-up photo and updated medical information on hand to give to police.
  • Know your neighborhood. Pinpoint dangerous areas near the home, such as bodies of water, open stairwells, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops and roads with heavy traffic.
  • Know if the individual is right or left-handed. Wandering generally follows the direction of the dominant hand.
  • Keep a list of places where the person may wander, like past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a restaurant.

Should a loved one go missing, especially in colder temperatures, experts recommend calling 911 as soon as possible so that an Illinois Silver Search advisory or other public notification can be issued. For more information about the Illinois Silver Search program, visit silversearchillinois.org.

Keep Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s Safe in Winter Weather

Winter can bring about additional challenges for people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Snow, extreme temperatures and early darkness are just some of the season-related changes caregivers need to navigate when caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s.

“Winter can be an especially hard time for caregivers and people with dementia. It’s harder to get around which can lead to isolation, and cold weather and icy streets make wandering even more dangerous,” said Melissa Tucker, Director of Family Services for the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter. “Six out of ten people with dementia will eventually wander, and in severe weather, a wandering incident is even more frightening. Caregivers should consider increasing supervision whenever wandering is a concern. When traveling, make sure there is enough time to dress appropriately, and plan to go slowly when walking to avoid falls. We understand that increasing care or changing your routine can be difficult, and this is something we are here to help people with. Anyone who has questions about caring for a person with dementia or needs support with this can call our 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900.”

The Alzheimer’s Association offers these winter safety tips for those living with Alzheimer’s:

  • Be prepared. Check weather conditions regularly and have emergency plans in place.
  • Bundle up. People living with Alzheimer’s can be at greater risk for hyperthermia because they do not dress appropriately for conditions or cannot communicate weather-related discomfort. Make sure your loved one is dressed and prepared for winter weather conditions.
  • Avoid slips and falls. People living with Alzheimer’s may experience problems with vision, perception, and balance. Assume all surfaces are slick; assist the person by taking smaller steps and slowing down, so they can match gait and speed to a safer level.
  • Make daylight last longer. Shorter days during winter months can also increase the risk of “sundowning.” Monitor closely for agitation or restlessness as day transitions into night. Make daylight last by turning on indoor lights earlier, opening curtains or installing motion detector lights.
  • Prevent wandering. Wandering is a common challenge facing caregivers and can be extremely dangerous in colder conditions. As the weather becomes inclement it is important to keep your loved one with dementia safe by taking extra precautions to prevent wandering.
  • Ask for help with snow/ice removal, grocery shopping or other errands.

Additional safety tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers can be found by visiting alz.org/illinois.

Reduce Your Risk of Cognitive Decline in the New Year

In 2020, the most popular New Year’s resolutions among Americans will be focused on living healthier lives. In addition to achieving healthier bodies, the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter encourages people to strive to achieve healthy brains in the new year.

More than 230,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in Illinois. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, treated or cured. However, growing evidence indicates that people may reduce their risk of cognitive decline by making key lifestyle changes. Cognitive decline is a deterioration in memory or cognition that is, to some extent, expected with age. Normal cognitive decline is different from dementia in that it is not severe enough to interfere with daily life.

The following is a collection of tips to reduce one’s risk of cognitive decline:

Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.

Catch some Zzz’s. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.

Buddy up. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community, or just share activities with friends and family.

Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.

Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.

Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction.

Take care of your mental health. Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.

Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.

Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.