Alzheimer's experience reaches watershed

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This particular article will be taking me off the original path/plan. My personal journey with Alzheimer's dementia has gone full circle with the passing of my beloved husband, Ray Pierce, on Dec. 10. After a journey of some 20 years, the outside number of years an individual usually lives with dementia, I was taken aback by my physical and emotional reactions.

Just like the fact that no two people with any of the 70-plus types of dementia interact the same with their loved ones, doctors or caregivers, the survivors do not experience the same levels of loss or types of grief.

I was surprised at how instantly my body shut down; I lost my voice and developed what appeared to be a chest cold. With all the arrangements that needed to be made I was fortunate to have a doctor who prescribed an antibiotic, over the phone, on the off chance that it was not viral. Together with the old-fashioned remedy of lots of fluid I was able to muddle through the next days. I would have added sleep, but that was not as easy to come by, unless preceded by a hot bath, glass of wine and bucket of tears.

Intellectually, I was surprised at my responses, having just spent a year training as the Southeastern Washington outreach coordinator, I had attended numerous classes and thought I had a "clearer than average" understanding of Alzheimer's and the long goodbye.

I had taken many of the classes several times and had just recently completed an all-day class taught by a national speaker. That class was presented to hospice caregivers and was on the end stages and care for dementia patients. I had known at the time that this particular class was "close to home," but was anxious to learn all that I could.

I have learned this: Nothing can truly prepare you for the loss of a loved one. Whether you are the surviving spouse, child or grandchild, education, intellect and preparation go out the window.

I am not saying the education is not good, or intellectual development and preparation...what I am saying is don't expect them to remain forefront in your thoughts. I was unable to find all the pictures I had set aside over the years that I thought represented my husband's life, to remember and honor him.

Fortunately with the gathering of family we were able to weed through boxes and boxes (an organizational project I never got around to completing) and our daughters put together some beautiful display boards. Family became a second and third set of ears for the necessary arrangements. It never occurred to me that I would not hear clearly or be able to make decisions. I thought I knew how everything would play out. Not so.

Several weeks have passed, the holidays are over, family has gone home and I have started my full-time position with the Alzheimer's Association- Inland Northwest Chapter.

I got my first spousal benefits check from Social Security and had a breakdown at the bank when I went to deposit it. The realization I was making such a deposit screamed WIDOW, something that had not occurred to me. I have started a grief recovery class at hospice, another valuable educational piece which is helping me learn that I am not alone or having a breakdown.

My doctor has explained some of the questions I had regarding Ray's last days, another educational piece that will allow me to help others when they reach this stage in their journey. I learned the truth behind "you can't really understand unless you have had your own personal experience," which led me to ask my friend, Joan Owens, who lost her husband to dementia to forgive me for not understanding what she was saying or needing, at that time. Another pierce in the educational process, which I am thankful for.

A Reason to Hope appears the last Wednesday of each month. Debbi Pierce, Southeastern Washington Association-Inland Northwest Chapter, can be reached at debbi.pierce@alz.org or 509-713-3390.

2Addie Krom started her nursing career in 1978 in the Geriatric Care Unit of the Walla Walla Mental Health Center. During those years Addie, along with Terri Conover, went to local nursing homes, more as a public health service. Services and support were given more as "one on one" by the doctors. When a particular doctor left, he asked Addie to continue with the person he was helping. Addie did, and so in 1984, from that relationship the first support group in the area was formed.

The group met once a month until 1993, when Addie retired from the center. The department had provided all the services needed to run her group, location, postage, coffee and more. In 1993 Addie relocated the group to the Senior Center, where she and Terri Conover started the Adult Day program.

In 2003, the group that was now meeting twice a month was moved to Walla Walla General Hospital. Over the past six years, the Walla Walla General Hospital has provided the meeting room and support for the Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter Support Group. Addie has been a vital instrument, assisting numerous individuals and families, as they have dealt with the many aspects of Alzheimer's. It is with tremendous appreciation for Addie's efforts, 30 year commitment and heart for the people of the Walla Walla Valley that her resignation has been accepted.

The Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter wants to thank Addie for all her years of service. It is true that no one can fill another's shoes, yet the Inland Northwest Chapter has tremendous volunteers who are continually learning through educational classes and personal experience, who are waiting to help others on their own journey with Alzheimer's dementia. If you are interested in volunteering, and there are many ways: advocacy, being a support group facilitator or co-facilitator, helping at educational events, or with stuffing envelopes, please call me at 509-713-3390.

And thank you, Addie Krom, for your years of volunteer service to the Walla Walla Valley.


Alzheimer's experience reaches watershed

debbi pierce
a reason to hope

This particular article will be taking me off the original path/plan. My personal journey with Alzheimer's dementia has gone full circle with the passing of my beloved husband, Ray Pierce, on Dec. 10. After a journey of some 20 years, the outside number of years an individual usually lives with dementia, I was taken aback by my physical and emotional reactions.

Just like the fact that no two people with any of the 70-plus types of dementia interact the same with their loved ones, doctors or caregivers, the survivors do not experience the same levels of loss or types of grief.

I was surprised at how instantly my body shut down; I lost my voice and developed what appeared to be a chest cold. With all the arrangements that needed to be made I was fortunate to have a doctor who prescribed an antibiotic, over the phone, on the off chance that it was not viral. Together with the old-fashioned remedy of lots of fluid I was able to muddle through the next days. I would have added sleep, but that was not as easy to come by, unless preceded by a hot bath, glass of wine and bucket of tears.

Intellectually, I was surprised at my responses, having just spent a year training as the Southeastern Washington outreach coordinator, I had attended numerous classes and thought I had a "clearer than average" understanding of Alzheimer's and the long goodbye.

I had taken many of the classes several times and had just recently completed an all-day class taught by a national speaker. That class was presented to hospice caregivers and was on the end stages and care for dementia patients. I had known at the time that this particular class was "close to home," but was anxious to learn all that I could.

I have learned this: Nothing can truly prepare you for the loss of a loved one. Whether you are the surviving spouse, child or grandchild, education, intellect and preparation go out the window.

I am not saying the education is not good, or intellectual development and preparation...what I am saying is don't expect them to remain forefront in your thoughts. I was unable to find all the pictures I had set aside over the years that I thought represented my husband's life, to remember and honor him.

Fortunately with the gathering of family we were able to weed through boxes and boxes (an organizational project I never got around to completing) and our daughters put together some beautiful display boards. Family became a second and third set of ears for the necessary arrangements. It never occurred to me that I would not hear clearly or be able to make decisions. I thought I knew how everything would play out. Not so.

Several weeks have passed, the holidays are over, family has gone home and I have started my full-time position with the Alzheimer's Association- Inland Northwest Chapter.

I got my first spousal benefits check from Social Security and had a breakdown at the bank when I went to deposit it. The realization I was making such a deposit screamed WIDOW, something that had not occurred to me. I have started a grief recovery class at hospice, another valuable educational piece which is helping me learn that I am not alone or having a breakdown.

My doctor has explained some of the questions I had regarding Ray's last days, another educational piece that will allow me to help others when they reach this stage in their journey. I learned the truth behind "you can't really understand unless you have had your own personal experience," which led me to ask my friend, Joan Owens, who lost her husband to dementia to forgive me for not understanding what she was saying or needing, at that time. Another pierce in the educational process, which I am thankful for.

A Reason to Hope appears the last Wednesday of each month. Debbi Pierce, Southeastern Washington Association-Inland Northwest Chapter, can be reached at debbi.pierce@alz.org or 509-713-3390.

2Addie Krom started her nursing career in 1978 in the Geriatric Care Unit of the Walla Walla Mental Health Center. During those years Addie, along with Terri Conover, went to local nursing homes, more as a public health service. Services and support were given more as "one on one" by the doctors. When a particular doctor left, he asked Addie to continue with the person he was helping. Addie did, and so in 1984, from that relationship the first support group in the area was formed.

The group met once a month until 1993, when Addie retired from the center. The department had provided all the services needed to run her group, location, postage, coffee and more. In 1993 Addie relocated the group to the Senior Center, where she and Terri Conover started the Adult Day program.

In 2003, the group that was now meeting twice a month was moved to Walla Walla General Hospital. Over the past six years, the Walla Walla General Hospital has provided the meeting room and support for the Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter Support Group. Addie has been a vital instrument, assisting numerous individuals and families, as they have dealt with the many aspects of Alzheimer's. It is with tremendous appreciation for Addie's efforts, 30 year commitment and heart for the people of the Walla Walla Valley that her resignation has been accepted.

The Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter wants to thank Addie for all her years of service. It is true that no one can fill another's shoes, yet the Inland Northwest Chapter has tremendous volunteers who are continually learning through educational classes and personal experience, who are waiting to help others on their own journey with Alzheimer's dementia. If you are interested in volunteering, and there are many ways: advocacy, being a support group facilitator or co-facilitator, helping at educational events, or with stuffing envelopes, please call me at 509-713-3390.

And thank you, Addie Krom, for your years of volunteer service to the Walla Walla Valley.

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