Fruit of the vine for the mind
by Joycelyne Fadojutimi
The East Texas Alzheimer’s Alliance (ETXALZ) recently held its second annual wine festival to raise awareness of and funds for fighting this debilitating, heartbreaking affliction- Alzheimer’s disease. The event was a great success as 17 wineries and almost 70 vendors came together from all over eastern Texas for the occasion. There were book sellers, food trucks, clothing sales, woodwork, custom hats to Hope for all Parties and a petting zoo of docile farm animals who took kindly to attending children and the young at heart. The venue was the Longview Green, and it was teeming with enthusiastic supporters of the cause.
A favorite attraction was the Wine Pull, in which partakers donated $25 apiece for the Alliance, and then selected a number for the bottle of wine to be pulled. It was a luck-of-the-draw-type attraction, but all who participated got a bottle. Everyone knew what was at stake.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a still-irreversible, progressive brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking abilities leading to sufferers being unable to carry out even the simplest tasks. For most patients, these symptoms first appear in their mid-sixties, but ages vary. Experts estimate that there are more than 5.5 million Americans with this affliction. Presently it is the sixth-ranked cause of death in America, but some studies suggest it may be as high as third, exceeded only by heart disease and cancer as the cause of death in the elderly.
Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in older adults. It leads to loss of cognitive functioning–thinking, memory and reasoning–and behavioral capability to the point it disrupts patients’ daily lives and activities. Still, there are other causes of dementia.
Additional such disorders are Lewy Body Dementia, frontotemporal disorders, and vascular dementia. It is not unusual for victims to develop multiple such conditions. For example, some people may suffer from both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
Alzheimer’s is named for Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who in 1906 noted irregularities in the brain of an elderly female patient who had died from an as-yet-unidentified mental illness. She had suffered from memory loss, speech problems, and irregular behavior. After she died, he dissected her brain and noted it contained strange-looking clumps (now known as amyloid plaques) and tangled bunches of fibers (now called neuro fibrillary, or tau, tangles.) This was the genesis of Alzheimer’s Disease research.
The East Texas Alzheimer’s Alliance is the brainchild of Nelda Strong, whose husband, Jack died of the illness. Both refused to allow Alzheimer’s to ruin their lives even if it did take his. Her face beaming, she described her delight with the success of this year’s event.
“I get really emotional when I talk about this disease,” she said. “I knew the need was there for advocates whose loved ones have the disease, but what makes this a great cause, is the people of Longview who donate funds, food and their time for others.”
Another attendee was Linda Voyles. She, too, was widowed by Alzheimer’s. She felt the same way about the event and the people of Longview.
“This is a fantastic group that was formed at the right time,” she said. “They will offer so much to people so they will not have to go on this journey alone. Many of them have been there in some shape or fashion and understand the kind of support that families need.”
She expounded further on the affliction and its impact on society.
“Alzheimer’s is more rampant than people want to think,” she said. “Too many people die from the disease, and this group will provide information that will educate our community about Alzheimer’s.”
Voyles is right. Many are offering to help because their own families have been impacted. ETXALZ is an excellent way to become active in the crusade versus this mind- and soul-killing illness. Much help is needed.
Caring for Alzheimer’s patients is very demanding physically, emotionally and financially. The demands required by day-to-day care, necessary changes in family roles, and heart-rending decisions on placement in care/treatment facilities are all very difficult. Still, there are evidence-based approaches and programs already available, and researchers are continually seeking new and better means of treatment and methods of supporting caregivers. Education is key.
Programs that teach family members and caregivers all about the disease are vital to illuminating them about the progression of the illness and how to deal with resultant deteriorating behavior and various caregiving challenges. Adequate coping skills, a strong support network, and respite care also assist caregivers with the demanding task of taking care of loved ones with Alzheimer’s. A major asset is staying active and fit. This helps both physically and emotionally.
Many caregivers benefit from support groups, allowing them respite from their responsibilities, the chance to express various concerns, share experiences and lessons learned, get tips, and offer emotional support to each other. Those interested in partaking of this resource should contact the ETXALZ.
Even though the 2019 Longview Wine Festival is over, its wares are still available. Wine tumblers, drinking glasses and t-shirts can be bought online at etxalz.org.
Mark your calendars, next year’s festival has already been set for April 25, 2020.