Torn between two lives

By Jamie Saunders

Many people in their 20’s are focused on their careers and possibly building families. Most are not thinking that at any minute they could become a caregiver for a parent or grandparent, but it is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society. According to the AARP, of the 40 million caregivers in the United States, one-fourth of them are millennials. Many of them are spending an average of 21 hours per week taking care of a loved one.

This category of millennials is commonly referred to as the sandwich generation. They are stuck between caring for their elders and their own families. It is a highly stressful situation that is extremely hard to plan for, and can often have long-term unintended consequences. It takes a toll on performance at work, relationships, and self-care. Many find themselves like, Wendy Beatty, torn between two lives.

At 21 years old, Wendy Beatty never imagined becoming a full time caregiver for her grandmother, Geraldine Creech. After divorce, she moved into Geraldine’s home in Thomasville, GA. It wasn’t long before Beatty began to notice something wasn’t right, especially later in the day.


A longtime member of Eastside Baptist Church, Creech was known to be kind to family, friends, and strangers. Family was the most important thing to her. She and her four sisters all settled in South Georgia and made sure to stay in contact regularly.

When Creech began acting out of character, others chalked it up to aging. Beatty felt it was more than that. Creech began burning dinner and getting angry, turning up the air conditioner to 80 degrees in the summer, getting her meds mixed up, and destroying the remote to the television. One afternoon, on a routine trip to the grocery store just 2-3 miles from her house, everything changed.

“Although she was confused “sometimes” she was still driving and would go and get her hair done on Fridays like many ladies in South Ga. It didn’t really seem like a big deal for her to be driving around her small town. Until she t-boned a family and severely broke her ankle. Everything changed that day,” says Beatty. 

From that day forward, Beatty became her grandmother’s full-time caregiver. By that time, Beatty was 23 years old with a boyfriend and a full-time job. She had to find the time for bathing, dressing, cooking, medicinal management, laundry, household chores, and keeping her grandmother presentable with hair and make up. There were many sleepless nights and scary falls before something had to change.

Says Beatty, “At age 23, I was exhausted! I can’t imagine what it would be like later in life with a spouse as many people experience this. I started to become isolated, I tried to break up with my boyfriend, and I didn’t want to go out with my friends. No one really understood what it was like. Don’t get me wrong I would not take this chapter of my life back for anything in the world but… it was HARD.”

Beatty eventually hired a caregiver and then inevitably moved her into Camellia Gardens nursing home. “There was no question that she was going to Camellia Gardens. My grandmama went back to school in her early 40’s and became a nurse. She worked at Southwestern State Hospitals Rose Haven unit until she retired in 1996. Even after retirement, she worked as needed at Hospitality Care (now Thomasville City Health and Rehab) and Camellia Gardens,” explains Beatty.

“When dementia began to rob her of her memory, she decided that’s where she wanted to move. I think that due to her work there, she knew what was happening to her better than our family. We honored her request. My mama, Wanda Crew was dedicated in visiting her daily and making sure that all of her needs were met. My sister, Amanda McRae was always available when needed. My grandmother loved us all dearly and we her,” Beatty continues.

“She lived at Camilla Gardens for 6 years until her passing. During my visits, I observed and learned a lot about dementia and seniors in general. I gained many new grandparents, it lead me to my career path, and to new volunteer opportunities,” comments Beatty. Beatty is now a Community Education Coordinator at Archbold Northside Center for Behavioral and Psychiatric Care, for Signet Healthcare. She volunteers often as a community educator and speaks to Senior Centers, assisted livings, nursing homes, and any other organization where she can advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness.

But her passion is participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, representing “Team Thomasville”, in the Thomasville, GA walk location. Here she can both honor her grandmother’s memory and raise awareness for the disease. “I want to continue to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s in our community. On the day of the walk, I love to see people come together and share their stories. The relationships and connections are beautiful to watch form,” says Beatty.

Finishes Beatty, “It’s really important that people know about the resources available to them through the Alzheimer’s Association. I wish that I had known about the association when caring for my grandmother, especially the support groups. That would have been so helpful to me.”

Don’t struggle alone. The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way toward ending Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. Our 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) is available around the clock, 365 days a year. Through this free service, specialists and master’s level clinicians offer confidential support and information to people living with the disease, caregivers, families and the public. 

Want to learn more about participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s near you? Families facing Alzheimer’s and all other dementia need us now more than ever — and with your help, we can be there for them. Every dollar you raise through Walk to End Alzheimer’s allows the Alzheimer’s Association to provide 24/7 care and support while accelerating critical research. Register today to help those in your community and beyond.

We salute the health care professionals and long-term care staff who are dedicating themselves to tirelessly serve the Alzheimer’s community. You are making a difference, and we stand with you in this fight. Join us.

My Mom and our journey through Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s and dementia takes a major toll on families as they watch their loved ones slowly slip away. For many of us, this is or was our reality for a period of time. But for Dublin, Georgia resident, Pace Tyson, this has been his reality since he was 14 years old and has continued throughout his life. 

“My Dad was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. He was 53 years old.” A year later, his brother, Wendell who was only 57 years old was diagnosed as well. 

Pace’s Father Kelvin and Uncle Wendall – both later diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

Because of his father’s fast disease progression, his father forgot how to do his job in which he loved.  He was also showing signs of sadness and irritability. Pace’s mother made sure he received the care he needed and helped him retire by selling his business.

A few years after Pace’s father passed away in 2011, Pace and his family noticed changes with their mother. She was repeating herself, lost interest in day to day activities including personal hygiene and was no longer able to handle the finances. After a visit to her primary doctor, he determined she had a form of dementia. In 2017, a specialist officially diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Pace and his Mom Marsha

“In a million years, I never dreamed that both of my parents or my Uncle would get diagnosed with such a terrible disease. I was personally in denial because I had already dealt with this with my Dad and my Uncle”.

Growing up in Georgia, Pace’s father was a well respected CPA and his mother was a contractor for the federal government. They traveled, attended church and attended many of their children’s school activities. The summers were spent at the families pool. 

Pace with his parents at a young age

“My parents were happy, loving, and driven people. Life really changed for my Mom and I after my Dad was diagnosed. I went from my Dad taking care of me to slowly learning how to take care of my Dad as he progressively got worse. My mother struggled with helping me have a normal teenage life while caring full time for my father”. 

Pace with his mom, sisters Heather and Holly along with his nieces and nephews

Many families are faced with visiting their loved ones through windows, FaceTime and other virtual ways to just see their face and get some sort of assurance they are safe during this difficult time. It’s been over 7 weeks since Pace and his sisters have physically seen their mother. Pace gives most of his comfort to his wife as he has broken down because he is missing his mother

Shamrock Nursing Home has been so helpful in letting us FaceTime with my Mom. To see her smile through the phone has meant the world to my sisters Holly and Heather. Holly, Heather and our Aunt Christi have been super thoughtful about my Mom’s well-being at Shamrock. They are always thinking of ideas like hanging pictures or refilling her bird feeder outside her window to make her stay even more fun”.

As Mother’s Day approaches, many families are planning events around the COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing practices. “We plan to get a banner to hang outside her window to wish her “Happy Mother’s Day!”. We still want to practice social distancing to keep her safe so we will not physically be with her, unfortunately. 

Pace along with Mom attending a family wedding

Pace and his sisters are grateful for their friends, family and church during this difficult time. They have been overwhelmed with support, love and guidance during this second Alzheimer’s journey. Pace also gives credit to the support of the Alzheimer’s Association through his local support group and alz.org/georgia for all the resources including understanding legal situations, stages of the disease as well as online training. 

“The support group here in Dublin has been a wonderful tool to just talk and understand more about the disease. Mott Smith (Alzheimer’s Association Program Director, Central Georgia Service Area) has been so amazing to me over the years and I always learn so much from her whenever we get together”. 

When asked, what do you want people to know about Alzheimer’s disease, he said, 

“If you have a loved one dealing with Alzheimer’s, take each day like a new adventure. Some days are tougher than others. Celebrate small victories like when they remember something that they may have forgotten before or when their mood is happy. You are not alone in dealing with this disease. Please utilize the resources of the Alzheimer’s Association and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every day with your loved one is a blessing. Every day we wake up is a blessing. Everyday we get to wake up and spend another day with our loved ones is an even bigger blessing.  Cherish your time with your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, because you don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”. 

Pace’s Dad and Mom

For more information about Alzheimer’s Association care and support services in your area including virtual support groups, education programs and early stage social groups, please visit alz.org/georgia or call 1-800-272-3900. 

For information on how to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s during COVID-19, please visit COVID-19 Caregiving Tips.

GEORGIA CHAPTER BOARD MEMBERS REFLECT ON THEIR YEARS SERVING ON THE BOARD

With a combination of 22 years volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter,outgoing Board of Directors Kris Bakowski and Joanne Truffelman reflect on the last 22 years of seeing organizational changes, the impact the organization has made and the impact they have individually made to the organization. Both volunteers have a different lenses on how they look at Alzheimer’s disease and have worn many volunteer hats, but one of the many things they have in common is their deep rooted appreciation and love for the Alzheimer’s Association.

When did you start volunteering and what roles have you had?

Kris Bakowski

“I started volunteering in 2002. After my diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s, I wanted to do something to help. Since I wasn’t a doctor or a researcher I knew I couldn’t help in that area, but I wanted to do something that might make a difference”. 

“The Alzheimer’s Association asked me to start telling my story to groups around the state. Then, I was asked to be on the National Early Stage Advisory Group. This group was made up of 11 people with early on set Alzheimer’s and was used in an advisory capacity to our national office.  At the time, there were not many people speaking out that actually had the disease and they were looking to help with our lives and hopefully be able to reach out to more people”. 

Kris and her son Alan attending the 2008 Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C.

Joanne Truffelman

I began as a volunteer after handling the marketing for about six years, in 2008.  I wanted to stay involved because I was cognizant of the fact that this disease was in dire need of much help in raising awareness of the disease and the Alzheimer’s Association.   I’ve served on the Board for some 12 years, chairing it for two years. While being on the board, I have served on the Marketing Committee, the Development Committee and the Nominating Committee”.

“I’ve also Chaired, Co-Chaired, danced (first year) and been on the Dancing Stars of Atlanta committee for 11 years.  I’ve watched that event grow from grossing $125,000 to almost $1 million”.

Joanne speaking at the 2018 Dancing Stars of Atlanta

What is your fondest memory of volunteering/ serving on the board? 

Joanne Truffelman

“The first Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Conference I attended was so eye-opening of the disease. The “who” it can affect and “how” it affects the care-givers as well as the people with the disease.  Experiencing the impact that the Alzheimer’s Association has on raising funds for research, government grants and seeing the volunteers and staff striving to reach their goals and fulfill the mission, “to see a world without Alzheimer’s” was awe-inspiring”.

“Probably the other fond memory was Chairing and Co-Chairing the Dancing Stars event.  Being responsible for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through other volunteer dancers and pros and putting on an event that now has a legacy, reputed to be one of the best in Atlanta, growing exponentially  and for such a great cause”!

Joanne with CEO Harry Johns at the 2018 Leadership Summit in New Orleans, Louisana

Kris Bakowski

“Going to our national advocacy forum and the leadership council meetings was something that meant a lot to me.  Meeting so many wonderful people that give of their time and make such a difference in the Alzheimer’s community. It helps to put things into perspective as to how we are treating this disease around the country”.

Kris advocating in 2008 at the Georgia Capitol

Can you think of a time(s) when you knew what you were doing was making an impact?

Kris Bakowski

“I think this was evident when I was serving on the National Advisory group.  We were asked by the national office to come up with some causes we thought needed to be addressed as those with early on-set Alzheimer’s. The main issue we tackled was the need for Alzheimer’s patients to get Social Security Disability right after a diagnosis.  We worked together in helping to get this passed in Washington and was able to meet those in Washington to make this happen”. 

Joanne Truffelman:

“It take a village” and I’m not sure if I can sight where I alone made an impact, however I feel I’ve been a catalyst for fund-raising growth for the Georgia Chapter and awareness of the disease and Alzheimer’s Association in our state ( more than ever).  Probably recruiting and gaining the interest of a great deal of people in the community into the Dancing Stars event and the Board of Directors is where I see the impact as it relates to donations/fund-raising and influencing others to be involved”.

What do you feel is the greatest impact the Alzheimer’s Association has made since you have been a volunteer?

Joanne Truffelman

“In 2011 the NIH funding was at approximately $500 million and was #4 on the list of NIH Several of them have seen fewer fatalities  because of research and funding, but NOT Alzheimer’s. Since then, the Alzheimer’s Association with their Advocacy programs and AIM, we have been able to bring Alzheimer’s up to #2 for necessary funding to the tune of $2.8 billion.  An amazing feat of accomplishment”.

From LTR: Advocate Lithangia Murray; Congressman John Lewis; Joanne Truffelman; and Alzheimer’s Association staff MaryLea Boatwright Quinn at the 2018 AIM Advocacy Forum in Washington D.C.

Kris Bakowski

“I feel as if they have opened up the eyes of many that this is not just a senior citizen problem. This affects whole families. This affects communities.  They have also addressed many issues like elder abuse, helping those living alone with the disease and continue with cutting edge research in trying to find a cure”.

From LTR: Kris Bakowski; Dr. Fayron Epps, Alzheimer’s Association funded researcher; Jill Disney, Alzheimer’s Association staff; and Dr. Whitney Wharton, Alzheimer’s Association funded researcher

What would you say to someone who is interested in serving on the board or volunteering?

Kris Bakowski

“If you or someone you know has this disease don’t be afraid to speak up. The Association provides you with all the information and training you need to do what you  feel comfortable with. Start small by working with a walk in your area, or talking to your church group. Help to find resources where Alzheimer’s education is needed. Do what you feel comfortable doing”.

Joanne Truffelman

“If you have any desire to volunteer for a non-profit, which is quite frankly the most rewarding, the Alzheimer’s Association is on its way to finding a cure and or at the very least medications that can help slow down the effects through research initiatives.   It’s the most insidious disease! A disease that is the 6th leading cause of death with 5 mil people living with the disease, 1 in 3 deaths from dementia or Alzheimer’s and 16 million in unpaid care – we must fund the research and find a cure!”

What is your hope for the future of the Alzheimer’s Association?

Kris Bakowski

“I hope we can continue to reach more and more people through the medical community and to continue to be there for anyone who needs us. I hope the research continues and that we can find a way to diagnose this disease earlier and to hopefully one day find a cure”.

Kris with her Walk to End Alzheimer’s team – “Team Athens”

Joanne Truffelman

“I know we will one day see ‘a world without Alzheimer’s’ – hopefully that will be the reality from the Alzheimer’s Association”.

From LTR: Joanne Truffelman; volunteer Leslie McCloud; Brenda Woods; Michelle and Tom Davis attending 2018 Dancing Stars of Atlanta

To our Board of Directors during National Volunteer Month: We will never be able to fully express the amount of gratitude we have for each and every second you donate to help move our mission forward.

The fight to end Alzheimer’s is stronger because of you. Thank you!

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help in the fight against Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/georgia

When it comes to Alzheimer’s, this Georgia teen has done his homework

By Sharna Fulton

Imagine a typical high school junior and you might picture a teenager taking classes and spending time with friends. He or she might play sports or belong to a school club as they’re starting to think about a job or where to go to college when they graduate.

What might not come to mind is a young man who spends his free time as a youth advocate, and someone who already has a platform to make a difference on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Khidhr at the Atlanta office of the Alzheimer’s Association

But then again, Khidhr Kotaria is not your average 11th grader. A student at Peachtree Ridge High School in Gwinnett County, Khidhr’s family moved from Kenya to the United States four years ago to provide him with a better education. The plan is evidently working. Aside from taking AP classes, he’s already accomplishing goals beyond his years. Khidhr has big plans for the future, too with his sights set on studying neuroscience at Dartmouth, going to med school and eventually becoming a health correspondent for the United Nations.

As for Khidhr’s current mission, he’s helping the fight against Alzheimer’s. After seeing the movie, “Gifted Hands,“ he became interested in neurology. That led him to volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and create the first youth movement against the leading type of dementia in Georgia. “Adults sometimes recognize youth as being selfish and not having a global perspective,” says Kotaria. “When we’re able to speak out against this disease, it makes an impact. Our voice means a lot.”

Kotaria is so passionate about the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association, he’s recruited fellow students to join his chapter, Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s Chapter (YMAA). The group recently met with state legislatures at the Alzheimer’s Awareness Day at the State Capitol.

Khidhr started volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter almost a year ago. An articulate and persuasive speaker with a wide vocabulary, he first worked as a community educator to provide individuals with local resources and information about the disease. Today, he serves on the advocacy side as a Youth Advocate for the D07 congressional team.

So, what exactly does he like about being a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association?

“I enjoy knowing I’m helping to impact society and influence millions of lives that suffer from the disease.”

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter and how you can make a difference as a volunteer, visit alz.org/georgia.

Volunteer, Nathan Brandon puts his administrative leadership to work on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association

Newly formed in February, the committee for the inaugural ‘Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s’ scheduled for October 24, is off to a brisk start. As Nathan Brandon, their new walk chair explains, “we are ahead of the metrics.” 

Spoken like a leader with a deep resume in administration including 13 years in the senior care industry, Brandon was recruited by the Alzheimer’s Association’s Senior Director of Development, Amy Richardson back in February. Having retired three years ago and still involved with the senior community, a fellow colleague, Brandi Hackett invited him to the first meeting. After showing up, he felt immediately compelled to help out. “I like to see all the moving parts of a whole operation and do whatever it takes to make things happen,” says Brandon. “The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is just that opportunity.” 

So far, Brandon’s duties have included following the association’s clearly detailed protocol, monitoring what steps should be taken next and making sure all available resources are being put to good use. In his short time as chair, he’s also recruited more talent to the team including Pam Carnes. Knowing Carnes’ husband’s grandmother had passed away last year from a long struggle with Alzheimer’s, Brandon asked the president/CEO of the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce to co-chair. She said she’d sleep on it and then, gave him a yes the next day. According to Brandon, Carnes’ brings passion, energy, credibility and more contacts willing to join the cause. 

His ease in touting the folks he’s worked with over the years demonstrates his self-described leadership style as one part administrative and one part encouragement. The husband, father and grandfather of six first became aware of the Alzheimer’s Association in 2010 when he was the Director for Cherokee County Senior Services. Responsible for administering Meals on Wheels, homemaker services and case management for Cherokee’s aging, he credits Stacy Trout, the county’s homemaker coordinator for setting up an Alzheimer’s support group at his senior center. 

Nathan Brandon with his six grandchildren, wife, Judy; daughter, Joy far right and son, Stewart on the left.

During that same time, Brandon recalls losing someone he was particularly close to, his mother-in-law, Karrie White to dementia. As a tribute to her, Brandon’s family has put together and named their own ‘Walk’ team, “Harrykarrie” after her and her husband, Harry. To further show his volunteer commitment towards the Alzheimer’s Association, Brandon also formed a team, “Ageless Wonders” for his group of 269 seniors who take a physical fitness class from him three times a week. 

Nathan Brandon leads a physical fitness for mature adults in Cherokee County

“It’s all about serving,” says Brandon. I’m excited about our walk teams and how they are using their own personal skills to serve others for the greater good.” At the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter, we could not be more grateful to receive the unique talents and commitment of volunteers like Nathan Brandon. 

Shown back row center, Nathan Brandon, chair with the leadership team
of the Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s

To join the fight against Alzheimer’s like Nathan Brandon and learn more about the Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s on October 24 at Etowah Park in Canton, please contact Dan Phillips at dphillips@alz.org or visit https://bit.ly/2x2ykVX