Supporting Veterans Living with Dementia: Understanding Risks and Providing Care

As we honor the brave men and women who have served our country, it’s crucial to recognize the unique challenges some veterans face even after returning home. One such challenge is the increased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, particularly for those living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Dementia is a condition characterized by a decline in memory, thinking abilities, and daily functioning. While age and genetics play significant roles in dementia risk, veterans are exposed to additional factors such as PTSD and TBI, which can further elevate their susceptibility.

PTSD, often stemming from traumatic experiences during service, is more prevalent among veterans and has been linked to nearly double the risk of dementia compared to their non-affected counterparts. Moreover, PTSD is closely associated with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a group of disorders affecting specific regions of the brain responsible for various cognitive functions.

Similarly, TBI, whether resulting from direct impact or indirect forces such as explosions, poses a significant risk factor for dementia. Even mild concussions can lead to long-term consequences, with moderate to severe injuries further amplifying the risk. Recognizing signs of TBI, such as confusion or difficulty in remembering events, is crucial for early detection and management.

For veterans and their caregivers, understanding these risks is the first step towards proactive management. Seeking medical attention upon noticing any changes in cognitive function is imperative. An early diagnosis not only facilitates access to treatment but also enables individuals to participate in clinical trials and make necessary lifestyle adjustments.

Caregivers play a vital role in supporting veterans living with dementia. As symptoms progress, behaviors such as anxiety, depression, or aggression may manifest, necessitating tailored care strategies. Creating a safe environment, free of potential hazards, and providing emotional support are essential components of caregiving.

By fostering awareness and providing resources, the Alzheimer’s Association aim to empower veterans and their caregivers in navigating the complexities of dementia. From educational materials to practical caregiving tips, these resources offer invaluable support throughout the journey.

As a community, let us stand in solidarity with our veterans, honoring their sacrifices by ensuring they receive the care and support they deserve. Together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by dementia, guiding them towards a future of dignity, compassion, and understanding.

Paint the Night Purple: record-breaking fundraiser for Alzheimer’s

On the night of Friday, February 9th, the atmosphere at Morgan MFG was electric as the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter Junior Board hosted their annual Paint the Night Purple fundraiser. This year’s event shattered previous records, raising an astounding $165,000 in support of Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. With over 500 guests in attendance, the evening was a true testament to the community’s dedication to combating this devastating disease.

The event was emceed by Violeta Podrumedic from the Morning Mix 101.9, whose energy and passion set the tone for an unforgettable night. Guests were treated to an incredible lineup of entertainment, including music and dancing to the beats of The Boy Band Night and DJ RIEL.

The evening’s mission moment served as a powerful reminder of the importance of the Alzheimer’s Association’s work as well as recognizing how this disease impacts even the very young members of our community. Kris McCabe (@lifewithgrams) shared her personal journey of being called upon 7 years ago, when she was only 29, to begin caregiving for her dear Grandmother.

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors. A heartfelt thank you goes out to our Gold Sponsors: Affirm Cares, The Aspen Dental Group, and the Malone Family. Additionally, we extend our gratitude to our Silver Sponsors: the Becker Family, in memory of David Morrow, Jenner & Block, and Kaufman Hall, as well as all our Bronze Sponsors and In-Kind donors. Your contributions have made a tangible difference in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Founded in 2011, the Illinois Chapter Junior Board comprises a passionate group of young professionals dedicated to supporting the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission. Many members have been personally affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia, whether through the loss of a loved one, caregiving responsibilities, or professional involvement in the cause. Despite their diverse experiences, they are united by a shared vision of a future free from the grip of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

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To learn more about the Junior Board and how you can get involved, visit alziljrboard.org. Whether through fundraising, volunteering, or advocacy efforts, there are countless ways to make a difference in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

As we reflect on the success of Paint the Night Purple 2024, let us carry forward the spirit of unity and determination that defined the evening. Together, we can paint a brighter future for all those affected by Alzheimer’s.

For those who were unable to attend the event but still wish to contribute, we invite you to make a donation at PTNP24.givesmart.com. Every dollar raised brings us one step closer to a world without Alzheimer’s.

Cherishing Love – Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Alzheimer’s

Valentine’s Day is a time for celebrating love and connection, but for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, it can bring a mix of emotions and challenges. Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects memory, cognition, and behavior, making it difficult for those affected to remember or fully engage in holiday traditions. However, with understanding, patience, and creativity, Valentine’s Day can still be a meaningful and enjoyable occasion for both the individual with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones.

Caregivers play a crucial role in ensuring that their loved one with Alzheimer’s feels valued and included on Valentine’s Day. Creating familiar and comforting experiences can help evoke positive emotions and memories. This could involve listening to music from their past, looking through old photo albums, or engaging in activities they enjoy, such as baking cookies or taking a leisurely walk.

For couples navigating Alzheimer’s together, Valentine’s Day can serve as a reminder of the enduring strength of their bond. While the progression of the disease may alter the dynamics of their relationship, the love and companionship they share remain unchanged. Simple gestures of affection, such as holding hands, sharing a hug, or exchanging heartfelt words, can foster a sense of connection and intimacy, even in the face of memory loss.

” Adapting Valentine’s Day traditions to accommodate the needs of someone with Alzheimer’s is key to making the day enjoyable for everyone involved. Simplifying activities, minimizing distractions, and maintaining a calm and structured environment can help reduce stress and anxiety for individuals with Alzheimer’s. Caregivers may also consider incorporating sensory experiences, such as aromatherapy or gentle touch, to enhance their loved one’s sensory stimulation and emotional well-being,” said Hadi Finerty, Sr Manager of Education & Community Volunteers, Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter 

In some cases, celebrating Valentine’s Day with Alzheimer’s may involve embracing the present moment and finding joy in the little things. Whether it’s sharing a heartfelt conversation, watching a favorite movie together, or simply enjoying a quiet moment of companionship, the true essence of Valentine’s Day lies in the love and connection shared between two people.

It’s important for caregivers to practice self-care and seek support from friends, family, or support groups, especially during holidays like Valentine’s Day. Taking breaks, practicing mindfulness, and acknowledging their own emotions can help caregivers navigate the challenges of caregiving with compassion and resilience.

Ultimately, while Alzheimer’s may present unique challenges on Valentine’s Day, it also provides an opportunity to celebrate love in its purest form – a love that transcends memories and endures through the highs and lows of life’s journey. By embracing each moment with patience, understanding, and unconditional love, Valentine’s Day can be a cherished occasion for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers alike.

The Alzheimer’s Association is available with information and support for families as they navigate the disease and related research. For more information, visit alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

Navigating financial challenges and managing finances while impacted by Alzheimer’s

Living with Alzheimer’s presents unique challenges, and managing finances is often among the most daunting. However, with careful planning and support, it’s possible to navigate this aspect of the journey effectively. Here are some strategies to help individuals and families manage finances while impacted by Alzheimer’s:


1) Early Planning:

  • Plan and organize finances as early as possible after diagnosis.
  • Consider creating a financial plan with the help of a trusted financial advisor or attorney.

2) Power of Attorney:

  • Designate someone to act as Power of Attorney for financial matters.
  • This individual can manage finances, pay bills, and make financial decisions on behalf of the person with Alzheimer’s.

3) Automatic Bill Payments:

  • Set up automatic bill payments for recurring expenses to ensure they are paid on time.

4) Simplify Finances:

  • Consolidate accounts and streamline financial affairs to make management easier.
  • Close unnecessary accounts and cancel unused subscriptions or services.

5) Monitor Accounts Regularly:

  • Keep track of bank accounts, credit card statements, and investments regularly.
  • Look out for any unusual or unauthorized transactions.

6) Protect Against Scams:

  • Educate yourself and your loved ones about common financial scams targeting seniors and individuals with dementia.
  • Be cautious of sharing personal or financial information over the phone or online.

7) Long-Term Care Planning:

  • Explore options for long-term care insurance or Medicaid planning.
  • Consider consulting with a financial planner specializing in elder care to discuss options for funding long-term care needs.

8) Legal Documents:

  • Ensure that legal documents such as wills, trusts, and advance directives are in place and up to date.
  • Consult with an attorney specializing in elder law to address any legal concerns or questions.

9) Seek Support:

  • Don’t hesitate to seek support from family members, friends, or support groups.
  • Financial advisors and organizations specializing in Alzheimer’s and dementia care can also provide guidance and support.

10) Review Regularly:

  • Regularly review and update financial plans and documents as needed, especially as the disease progresses.
  • Stay informed about changes in financial and healthcare laws that may affect planning and benefits.

Managing finances while dealing with Alzheimer’s requires patience, diligence, and support. By implementing these strategies and seeking assistance when needed, individuals and families can navigate the financial aspects of Alzheimer’s with greater confidence and peace of mind.

A Life of Harmony and Compassion: Debi Shandling’s Journey with Alzheimer’s

I’m Debi Shandling, a 70-year-old woman who cherishes life’s melodies and embraces the beauty of family, hobbies, and community. Married since 1980 to my music school sweetheart, we share two children, three grandchildren, and a passion for bike riding, ballroom dancing, and savoring meals together. In 1980, I founded our family business, “Debi’s Piano Tuning and Repair Service,” which my son Trevor later joined.

As retirement beckons, my days off are dedicated to nurturing my love for quilting, gardening, and relishing moments with my grandchildren. For the past 24 years, I’ve volunteered as a horticulturist at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, contributing to the sensory and circle gardens. My commitment extends to my congregation, Makom Solel Lakeside, where I sing in the choir, serve on the gardening committee, and engage in the librarian’s book group.

My connection with the Alzheimer’s Association stems from a personal journey. My sister Laura, two years my senior, faced the relentless grip of Alzheimer’s in her late 40s. I have always been compared to her, with her being smarter and prettier…When she stopped caring about her appearance and was staring into space a lot…I didn’t put it together. Once I asked her if she was going to do a duet at her daughters’ recital. Her response was “I forgot how to play the piano!” She was an English teacher and loved school. Once she was diagnosed her husband had to take away her car driving privileges, get a caregiver and drastically change their plans of traveling together. I would visit my sister in the evenings so her husband could go bowling. When she still could talk, she said “don’t forget about me!”

Witnessing her cognitive decline, from forgetting piano chords to losing the ability to talk and read, was heart-wrenching. Laura lived seven challenging years with Alzheimer’s, each day worse than the last, until pneumonia claimed her life.

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Motivated by Laura’s struggle, I advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness. Companies and organizations must engage with the Alzheimer’s Association because addressing this pervasive issue can make the world a better place. Personally, my involvement has softened my heart, offering solace to my 92-year-old mother NOW suffering with memory loss.  Advocating for getting involved in the Alzheimer’s Association allows me to make a positive impact in memory of my sister, Laura Laney.

Alzheimer’s is slow, mean, and unforgiving. It impacts lives indiscriminately, leaving no room for escape. Through my experiences, I implore others to be unwavering in their support for loved ones facing this relentless disease. As I navigate life with my mother, who often doesn’t recognize me, I find strength in participating in the Memory Walk and fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association. Together, we can strive for a world without Alzheimer’s.

Together, we can make even greater strides for the individuals and families navigating this journey. We hope you’ll join us again for a Walk to End Alzheimer’s near you. Register today to continue our momentum toward a future without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia! Click here to find your walk.

Shining the Spotlight on Alzheimer’s Research with Carol Shaw Burns, Ph.D

Honoring Trailblazers who are making an impact this Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, Board member of the Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association Carol Shaw Burns, Ph.D, a leader in the field of senior care and dementia research. With a background as a licensed nursing home administrator and certified dementia practitioner explains disparities with African Americans caregivers.

Dr. Burns’ expertise spans various aspects of senior care, from independent living to skilled nursing, but her passion lies in understanding and addressing the challenges faced by dementia family caregivers, particularly within the African American community. Dr. Burns shed light on the significant stressors experienced by these caregivers, with coping with dementia-related behavioral symptoms emerging as a particularly daunting task.

Her research has uncovered alarming statistics: dementia-related behavioral symptoms afflict up to 92% of cases and contribute to a staggering 30% of all dementia-related costs in our communities. For African American caregivers, the burden is exacerbated by racial disparities, as increased frequency of these behaviors leads to heightened strain and upset compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts.

She highlighted the “double jeopardy” faced by African American caregivers, who not only spend more time in the caregiving role but also have less access to formal support and resources. “This chronic stress, coupled with health disparities, underscores the urgent need for targeted interventions and policies to support these caregivers.”

Guided by the stress process model, Dr. Burns’ groundbreaking research aims to unravel the complexities of caregiving experiences among African American caregivers. “By exploring racial differences in stressors and resources, as well as their impact on mental health outcomes over time, we hope to inform the development of more equitable and supportive environments for all caregivers.”

Dr. Burns also serves as board member of the Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, where she serves not only as a board member but also on the DE&I committee, that supports education and awareness for diverse elders and their family member caregivers.

Dr. Burns also serves as the Co-Chair for Illinois Women Conquer ALZ (IWCA), a group dedicated to engaging more women in the fight against Alzheimer’s. To learn more about this inspiring group or women or to join, visit ilalzwomen.org.

As we celebrate Black History Month, let us honor the invaluable contributions of individuals like Dr. Carol Shaw Burns, whose dedication to improving the lives of others is truly inspiring. Through her pioneering research and advocacy. She is not only advancing our understanding of caregiving in diverse communities but also making a tangible difference in the lives of countless families affected by Alzheimer’s and all other dementias.