Thursday, August 17, 2017

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Featured Stories

Navigating Alzheimer’s in the Greater Richmond Area

Written by  Christine Stoddard

Vivian Beasley, 75, of Powhatan couldn’t tell you how long exactly she has had Alzheimer’s. After all, she has no shame in admitting that these days, she can’t “remember much of anything.”

But she is proud to say that she is still high-functioning and lives her life much the way she did prior to her diagnosis.

“I don’t forget to brush my teeth or take a bath,” says Beasley, who is a wife, mother, grandmother, and former stenographer. “I’m still cooking as I’ve been doing for years and years and I’m still trying to take care of the house. I get my grandchildren off of the school bus four days a week. I live kind of a quiet life. I’m a homebody who goes to church on Sunday, shops, and takes care of my grandchildren.” She adds, “I don’t think I’ve cut out anything from my life. I might be slowing down and I just don’t realize it, but, for me, the big problem is remembering what I’ve just heard or said.”

Beasley explains that her biggest current frustration is how her short-term memory loss affects her conversations. “I might tell my husband something and five minutes later, I tell him the same thing,” she says.

Of course, Beasley is by no means alone. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans live with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, as many as 16 million people could have the disease. In 2016, 140,000 Virginians had Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to rise by 7.1% by 2020, making the disease an increasing concern among Virginians.

Alzheimer’s in Virginia

Currently, Alzheimer’s the 6th leading cause of death in Virginia. Last year, 1,642 people died from the disease. Alzheimer’s isn’t just a deadly disease; it’s an expensive one. Medicaid costs for Virginians with Alzheimer’s totaled $866 million in 2016.

But the good news is that there is hope for Virginians living with Alzheimer’s, not to mention the people who love them. The Alzheimer’s Association has a strong presence in the Commonwealth, with support groups across the state, from Arlington County to Roanoke. In the Richmond metropolitan area alone, there are multiple in-person offices and groups to connect you with the research, training, and other services you and your loved ones may want and need.

The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter was founded in 1981 thanks to one family’s efforts to launch a support group. In 1983, the group became a chapter of the national Alzheimer’s Association. In its early days, the chapter was run by volunteers. Today, it has a dedicated staff and three branch offices in Fredericksburg, Gloucester, and the Tri-Cities. The headquarters is located in Henrico County at 4600 Cox Road, Suite 130, Glen Allen. The current executive director, Marie D. Kolendo, can be reached by phone at 804-967-2580 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You may reach out to the Greater Richmond Chapter office for any number of resources, including education programs on everything from legal and financial planning to effective communication strategies. You might consider giving back, too. Nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Association relies on 35,000 volunteers to make its programming possible. Volunteer opportunities are available in administrative support, advocacy, community outreach, special events, and more.

Online Support for Busy Richmonders

While local services can be helpful, your current schedule or transportation situation may prevent you from getting face-to-face with other Richmonders who have an Alzheimer’s connection. Can’t make it to an office or wait for a support group? A 24-hour helpline is always available at 800-272-3900. You also can join an online support community run by the Alzheimer’s Association by visiting ALZConnected.org. There are message boards for caregivers, as well as Alzheimer’s patients. As long as you have access to a phone or computer, you are not alone.

While you are online, you might want to make a donation to the organization that does so much for so many. To donate to the Alzheimer’s Association online, go to http://www.alz.org/nca/in_my_community_donate.asp.

Local Alzheimer’s Support Groups

If you or your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, don’t despair. There are local support groups that can help you manage the grieving process. Here are groups run by the Greater Richmond chapter of the National Alzheimer’s Association:

Early Stage, 4th Thursday of the month, 1:30 p.m.
This group is meant for caregivers and people with dementia. A prescreening is required prior to enrollment. Call the Richmond Chapter office at 804-967-2580 for information on the prescreening and group meeting details.

Younger-Onset & Newly Diagnosed, 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month, 4:30 p.m.
This group is meant for caregivers and people with dementia. The group meets twice a month for eight sessions. For more information about the mandatory prescreening and meeting details, call the Richmond Chapter office at 804-967-2580.

The Other Additional Dementias (TOAD), Last Friday of the month, 2 p.m.
This group is meant for caregivers and people with rare dementias (LBD, PCA, PSP, DLB, FTD, FAD, HD, ACD, WKS, NPH, and Binswanger, among others.) Meetings take place at the VCU NOW Center at 11958 W. Broad St., 2nd Floor Conference Room in Henrico.

For a list of other meetings, visit the National Alzheimer’s Association – Greater Richmond Chapter page on support groups at http://www.alz.org/grva/in_my_community_support.asp.

Local Memory Cafés

Do you have early-stage memory loss? Do you want a social group where you can voice your concerns but also have fun? The Alzheimer’s Association has organized Memory Cafés as low-key events for people living with this disease to make new friends. Caregivers are also invited to come and find companionship and the information they need. Here are some of the Memory Cafés that take place in the Greater Richmond area:

• Fredericksburg
When: Last Wednesday of the month, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Where: Keystone Coffee, 2206 Princess Anne Street

• Petersburg
When: 4th Wednesday of each month, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Perk’s Coffee Shop, 8 W. Bank Street

• Sandston
When: 4th Wednesday of each month, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Sandston Library, 23 East Williamsburg Road

• Kilmarnock
When: First Tuesday of each month, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Where: Sage Café, 68 South Main Street

To find other Memory Café listings, go to http://www.alz.org/grva/in_my_community_104433.asp .