Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimers & Dementia

March 2, 2020 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are few things families dread more than a devastating health diagnosis. When that diagnosis is Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, the fear and uncertainty is often exacerbated by misconceptions about the disease and feelings of isolation.

“Before I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I thought it was ‘Old-timer’s Disease,’ something that some people in their 80s got as part of the aging process before they died,” said Mike Hughbanks, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2015 at age 58 while working as a corporate executive in the finance industry. “The doctor was brutally honest with me. He said there was no pill, and no cure. That was a shock. But I had to do something. I wasn’t going to sit in my living room waiting to die.”

Hughbanks was immediately connected to the Omaha chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, through which he and his wife, Debra, began attending a support group for newly diagnosed patients and their spouses. “It was a turning point for us. It made all the difference,” he said.

Bill Myers, who helped care for his wife, Mary, for 14 years from her initial diagnosis in 2004 to her death in 2018, agreed. “I quickly learned I was not alone.”

Hughbanks and Myers are among more than 34,000 Nebraskans with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, and their families, that the Alzheimer’s Association serves. Elizabeth Chentland, director of communications for the Nebraska Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said that the early-stage support groups and educational programming offered throughout the Omaha Metro are often a family’s first introduction to the organization and are invaluable for helping them navigate the journey.

The Alzheimer’s Association provides resources for people at every stage of progression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. “Our resources go to a lot of platforms,” Chentland said. “But where it relates to public service, our top five areas are our helpline; our online resources and free family and caregiver chat boards online; our free educational programming; our support groups and our safety services, including a medical alert system that first responders can use to access medical information and contact caregivers.”

Chentland said that the helpline can connect a caller to master’s-level social worker but also addresses basic questions. It is available 24/7 and national, but linked to the local chapter so that someone in Omaha can follow up the next day, if necessary. “We are here for anyone that calls. With Alzheimer’s there are thousands of questions, but we want people to know that the answers are just a phone call away,” Chentland said. “It’s an all-around great place to start a conversation.”

The Alzheimer’s Association is always seeking ways to support more families, including expanding their support group reach, particularly in underserved communities, and partnering with worksite wellness programs to better provide employer support to caregivers.

Alzheimer’s patients and their families are often the best ambassadors for others in their situation. “Even after my wife passed away, I’ve continued to work closely with the Alzheimer’s Association because I think I have something to offer,” said Myers, who has served on the planning committee for the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Hughbanks has traveled throughout Nebraska with the association, speaking to groups in Omaha as well as rural communities about the resources available to them. He has made numerous local television appearances and maintains a blog to share the triumphs and challenges that he and his wife encounter.

One of his proudest achievements is working with Art to Remember. This innovative partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association and Joslyn Art Museum was inspired by the MoMA Alzheimer’s Project and helps patients in middle- and-late-stage dementia engage with art from Joslyn’s world-class collection. “Art speaks to people. People in middle-and-late-stage Alzheimer’s, who may be having a hard time engaging with much else that’s going on around them, will see a piece of art and immediately get tears in their eyes.”

Recently, Hughbanks was also diagnosed with Lewy body dementia after he started experiencing tremors, and his doctor ordered a PET Scan. While, once again, he acknowledged that this new diagnosis is not good news, he is grateful that he was able to get it, because many insurance companies would not have covered the scan.

“Our call-to-action is twofold,” said Chentland. “Our goal is to serve more families, both from the services we provide and from a public policy standpoint. We work to help physicians get more time with their patients and ensure that they are doing the appropriate testing because different types of dementia call for different types of medication and treatment. We work diligently to increase public funding and pass Medicare codes and caregiver tax credits to help provide a better reality for people with dementia and their families.”

As Myers, who was able to care for his wife for 10 years at home, and four years in a facility, said, “Three things got me through this journey: my faith, my family, and the Alzheimer’s Association. They’re a vital tool and a great resource for a little bit—actually, a lot—of everything.”

Visit alzconnected.org to learn more or omalz.com to read Myers’ blog.

This article was printed in the March/April 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Side-Stepping Scams

August 22, 2019 by

You pick up the phone and you hear it: the familiar robocall offering you tickets for a cruise ship at a deeply discounted rate, or an automated message (supposedly from the IRS), saying out of the blue that you owe back taxes.

For many people, calls and emails like these are clearly a rip-off from first blush. But for others, including elderly adults or those diagnosed with degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, discerning the reality behind these scams can become complex.

Diane Hendricks, a licensed clinical social worker who is contracted to the Alzheimer’s Association, says adults 65 and older are often targeted because they’re assumed to already have a nest egg—a bit of money set aside. They tend to have good credit and may have predictable income because of social security pensions, Hendricks says. There may also be a generational difference in demeanor.

“They were brought up by being very trustful, not saying no, being very polite,” Hendricks says.

Margaret Schaefer, managing attorney of the centralized intake unit at Legal Aid of Nebraska,  says caregivers should keep an eye out for signs that someone has been taken advantage of. Look for changes in behavior, such as someone who has always balanced their checkbook to the penny who is now beginning to receive past-due notices, she says. They may become secretive, fearful, or demonstrate other changes in behavior.  It’s also possible that they may not initially recognize that they have been ripped off.

“So they’re sure if they just come up with that additional payment of $200 for the taxes, they’ll have a $1.5 million payout,” Schaefer says. “They don’t recognize that money is never coming.”

One way to avoid scams is by utilizing fraud-prevention features. Ryan Sothan, the outreach coordinator for the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, advocates for several features that caregivers can have installed on their loved one’s phone via their phone service. This can include features such as selective call acceptance, which allows the phone owner to build a list of accepted numbers to receive calls from. Call-blocking apps can be downloaded to cellphones. Seniors should also have up-to-date anti-virus software on their computers.

Sothan recommends caregivers educate the vulnerable adults around them about common signs of scams. He says many scam calls are offers “too good to be true, or too compelling to ignore.” There is also often a sense of urgency tied to a demand for immediate payment, he says. Folks should be cautious to avoid probes for personally identifying information. If someone calls asking what the name of your childhood pet was, they’re not just trying to be friendly—they may be trying to get information to hack your bank account.

To keep up to date on the latest information, seniors and their caregivers can attend a number of workshops and trainings. The Attorney General’s office offers a number of educational sessions, as does the Better Business Bureau, AARP, and other local organizations.

“One of the concerns we have is once somebody is a victim, then they are targeted,” Schaefer says.

After a scam, phone numbers and any other contact information that was used to take advantage of the person should be changed. But prevention is the best option, as recouping lost funds can be near impossible.

“Usually once the money has left your hands, it is generally not recoverable,” Schaefer says.

This article was printed in the 60+ section of the September 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

2017 May/June Giving Calendar

May 1, 2017 by and

*May 1

Youth Emergency Services’ Golf Outing (10 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: Youth Emergency Services
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

May 2

50th Annual Boys Town Booster Banquet (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Boys Town sports
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista

Countdown to Cinco de Mayo (5:30-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: OneWorld Community Health
Location: Livestock Exchange Building

May 3

Memories for Kids 2017 Guild Luncheon (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Memories for Kids
Location: Champions Run

May 4

Heartland Heroes, A Centennial Celebration (6-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Red Cross
Location: CenturyLink Center

May 5

Leaders for Life Luncheon (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Creighton University’s female student-athletes
Location: Ryan Athletic Center

Run for the Wet Noses: Talk Derby to Me (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Midlands Humane Society
Location: Mid-America Center, Council Bluffs

May 6

For the Kids Benefit: A Day at the Races, a Night on the Town (5-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Omaha Children’s Museum
Location: Omaha Children’s Museum

May 9

D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon (11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.)
Benefitting: Salvation Army
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha

May 11

Evening with Friends (6-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: CHI Health Midlands
Location: CHI Health Midlands Hospital

May 12

An Evening in the Garden (6-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Brownell Talbot School
Location: Brownell Talbot Campus

Man & Woman of the Year Grand Finale Gala (6-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista

On the Road to the Big Easy 2017 (5:30 p.m.-midnight)
Benefitting: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands
Location: Omaha Design Center

May 13

Cabaret (6-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: The Child Saving Institute
Location: Hilton Omaha

14th Annual Wear Yellow Ride, Fun Run & Walk (7 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Benefitting: Wear Yellow Nebraska
Location: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

2017 Omaha Heart Walk (8 a.m.)
Benefitting: American Heart Association
Location: Miller’s Landing

May 15

Ronald McDonald House in Omaha Golf Tournament (noon)
Benefitting: Ronald McDonald House Charities in Omaha
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

Chip in for Children Golf Tournament (11 a.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Council Bluffs Country Club

May 18

SAVE Program Graduation Dinner (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: SAVE
Location: Champion’s Run

Breathe and Brew Spring Yoga Series (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Lung Association
Location: Lucky Bucket Brewery

May 19

Golf Scramble (noon-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Senior Health Foundation
Location: Shoreline Golf Course

May 20

Great Strides (9:30 a.m.-noon)
Benefitting: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Location: Stinson Park

May 22

Children’s Charity Golf Classic (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation
Location: Champions Run

May 24

Omaha Gives! (midnight-11:59 p.m.)
Benefitting: more than 1,000 Omaha nonprofits
Location: online

May 25

Bland Cares Angels Among Us Golf Outing (10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: Angels Among Us
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

May 27

19th Annual Remembrance Walk (9-11 a.m.)
Benefitting: Grief’s Journey
Location: Miller’s Landing/Pedestrian Bridge

June 1

Pinot, Pigs & Poets (6-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Completely KIDS
Location: Happy Hollow Club

June 2

Grand Slam! (6:30-11 p.m.)
Benefitting: Methodist Hospital
Location: Werner Park

Run for the Young (7-8:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Peak Performance

June 3

Annual Gala (6:30-11 p.m.)
Benefitting: Joslyn Art Museum Association
Location: Joslyn Art Museum

Ollie’s Dream Gala 2017 (6:30-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Ollie Webb Center
Location: Hilton Omaha

June 5

Central High Foundation Golf Outing (7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Central High School
Location: Field Club of Omaha

CHI Health Golf Outing (10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: CHI Health Foundation
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

June 7

CHANCE Luncheon (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha
Location: CenturyLink Center

June 8

Tee It Up Fore Sight Annual Golf Tournament (10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Benefitting: Outlook Nebraska, Inc.
Location: Indian Creek Golf Course

June 9

Sand in the City (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: Nebraska Children’s Home Society
Location: Baxter Arena

June 10

Child Saving Institute Kids 4 Kids (7:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: The Child Saving Institute
Location: Sumter Amphitheater

Vets & Pets Blackjack Run (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Benefitting: Midlands Humane Society
Location: American Legion

Centennial Gala (7-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Red Cross
Location: CenturyLink Center

June 11

Monroe-Meyer Guild Garden Walk (9 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: Munroe-Meyer Institute
Location: 150th Street and West Dodge Road to 168th and Harrison streets

June 12

15th Annual Hope Center for Kids Golf Classic (10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Hope Center for Kids
Location: Champions Run Golf Course

Third Annual Golf Tournament (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: First Responders Foundation
Location: Oak Hills Country Club

Hit the Links and Drive Against Disabilities Golf Tournament (11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska
Location: The Player’s Club at Deer Creek

June 13

Project Harmony Golf Invitational (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Project Harmony
Location: Indian Creek Golf Course

WCA Tribute to Women (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Women’s Center for Advancement
Location: Hilton Omaha

June 14

Hops for Harmony (5:30-8:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Project Harmony
Location: Werner Park

June 16

Strike a Chord (6-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Heartland Family Service
Location: Mid-America Center

June 19

Golf Fore Kids (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Child Saving Institute
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

June 21

The Longest Day, an individualized fundraiser (all day)
Benefitting: Alzheimer’s Association
Location: Donor’s choice

June 24

Wheels of Courage (11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: the Jennie Edmundson Foundation
Location: Quaker Steak & Lube, Council Bluffs

June 30

ALS in the Heartland’s 2017 Golf Classic (11 a.m.-8 p.m.)
Benefitting: ALS in the Heartland
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

This calendar is published as shown in the print edition

We welcome you to submit events to our print calendar. Please email event details and a 300 ppi photograph three months in advance to: editintern@omahamagazine.com

*Times and dates may change. Check the website, or with the event coordinator.

Alzheimer’s Disease

December 10, 2015 by

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be both physically and emotionally demanding. “As the disease progresses, the amount of care the Alzheimer’s patient requires rises dramatically, as does the toll it takes on the caregiver,” notes Daniel Murman, M.D., neurologist at The Nebraska Medical Center.

While there are things you can do to better prepare yourself for the caregiver role, the thing to remember is that Alzheimer’s progresses differently in each person, as do the caregiver circumstances and ability to cope with the disease.

 “I remember noticing changes in my wife for about a year but I couldn’t put my finger on it,” says Allan Schur, husband of Sharon Schur, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2005 when she was just 54 years old. “It took my daughter, who hadn’t seen her for almost a year, to step in and tell me that she needed to be seen by a doctor.”

The most difficult part about being a caregiver is dealing with and managing guilt, notes Schur. “No matter how much you try, no matter how much you do, you cannot change the course of what is always a terminal disease,” he says. “There are no ‘survivor’s walks’ for Alzheimer’s.”

Schur also recommends starting each day as a new day and not dwelling on the past or thinking about what might have been. “The most important day in the life of a caregiver is today,” he says.

While it may sound contradictory, Schur says it is also important to be proactive. “Early in the disease you have to teach your loved one new tricks before they need to use them and while they have the capability to learn.” For example, there are phones where you can insert pictures of a child, friend or caregiver on large buttons so the user can press the picture of the person he or she wants to dial. “By the time I realized my wife needed this type of phone, it was too late to teach her how to use it,” says Schur.

Schur adds other tips. “Early in the disease, note the places you like to go and which ones have family restrooms. This will help you later when your loved one may need assistance.”

Participation in a support group is vital. “You can learn from the successes and failures of other caregivers,” says Schur. “You will be reminded that others are walking down a similar path and learn new coping mechanisms. You will see that you are not alone and that’s a pretty big deal some days.”

And lastly, be proactive about their care, stresses Shur. “I reached a point where I realized that if I continued with this 24/7 job, my loved one would outlive me. Tour facilities while you can and well before you need to place your loved one in a long-term facility.”

“Alzheimer’s is a long and emotional process, and caregivers should not feel guilty about seeking outside resources to assist them whenever possible,” says Dr. Murman. He suggests using resources such as the Alzheimer’s Association and the local Agency on Aging.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org to learn more.


From Patients to Caregivers

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Margaret Ludwick spends her days sitting in a wheelchair at a senior care center in Elkhorn. She never speaks. The only expressive motion involves her hands—she constantly puts her long, tapered fingers together like a church steeple. Her big blue eyes stare straight ahead but focus on nothing. No one can reach her anymore, not her daughters, not her husband.

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia in adults 65 and over, robs even the most intelligent people of their brain and eventually destroys their body. There is no cure. There is no pill to prevent it. There’s not even a test to definitively diagnose it. Effective treatments have proven as elusive as the disease, itself.

“We do have medications that may help with symptoms in some patients, especially in the early stages of Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Daniel Murman, a specialist in geriatric neurology at The Nebraska Medical Center. “But they don’t truly slow down the disease process.”

According to researchers, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s will triple in the next 40 years, which means 13.8 million will have the disease by 2050 (Chicago Health and Aging Project research as reported by nbcnews.com).

Awareness of symptoms is crucial for early intervention.

“Memory loss and changes in behavior are not a normal part of aging,” stresses Deborah Conley, a clinical nurse specialist in gerontology at Methodist Health Systems who teaches other nurses and caregivers about Alzheimer’s. “I would urge family members to take [their loved one] to a family physician first, seek as much information as possible, and start making your plans.” An assessment that includes the person’s medical history, brain imaging, and a neurological exam can result in a diagnosis that’s about 85 percent accurate for Alzheimer’s.

Ludwick, a registered nurse, who worked at Immanuel Hospital for years, never received an extensive workup.

 “I would urge family members to take [their loved one] to a family physician first, seek as much information as possible, and start making your plans.” – Deborah Conley, clinical nurse specialist in gerontology at Methodist Health Systems

“I first noticed something was wrong about 15 years ago, when Mom was 70,” explains Ludwick’s daughter, Jean Jetter of Omaha. “It was the day I moved into my new house. Mom put things in odd places, like a box labeled ‘kitchen’ would wind up in the bedroom. And she stood smack in the middle of the doorway as the movers tried to carry large pieces of furniture inside, and she just stared at them.”

As Ludwick’s behavior grew worse, Jetter begged her father, Thomas, to get her mother help.

“He didn’t want to hear it. He kept saying, ‘This will get better.’ He had medical and financial Power of Attorney. Dad worked full-time, and she was home alone. This went on for eight years.”

Ludwick’s steady decline rendered her unable to fix a meal or even peel a banana. She lost control of bodily functions. After she was found wandering the neighborhood on several occasions, Jetter was finally able to call Adult Protective Services and get her mother into an adult daycare program. After breaking a hip two years ago, Ludwick arrived at the Life Care Center of Elkhorn.

“This is such a sad, but not unfamiliar case,” says Conley, who began working with Alzheimer’s patients in the mid-’70s. “Even in 2013, people do not know what to do, where to turn.”

Dr. Murman adds, “There is still a stigma attached to Alzheimer’s. People don’t like to hear the ‘A’ word. But it’s much better to be open and specific about it.”

A specific diagnosis may rule out Alzheimer’s.

“Depression can mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s…symptoms like mistrust, hallucinations, apathy, social isolation,” explains Dr. Arun Sharma, a geriatric psychiatrist with Alegent Creighton Health. “But we can treat that. We can treat depression.”

Dr. Sharma helped establish a 22-bed, short-term residential facility called Heritage Center at Immanuel Hospital to better diagnose the reasons for a person’s memory loss. Once a patient is stabilized and receives a proper care plan, they can return home. The more doctors learn, the faster a cure will come.

“I see something exciting in the next five to 10 years,” says Dr. Sharma. “If we identify and isolate the protein believed responsible for Alzheimer’s, perhaps we can do a blood test to catch the disease early.”

 “There is still a stigma attached to Alzheimer’s. People don’t like to hear the ‘A’ word. But it’s much better to be open and specific about it.” – Dr. Daniel Murman, specialist in geriatric neurology at The Nebraska Medical Center

But what about a cure? With 78 million Baby Boomers coming down the pike—10,000 of them turning 65 each day—this country faces an epidemic. And what about the psychological, financial, and emotional toll on the caregivers, who are very often family members? They, too, feel isolated.

“It was an impossible situation for me. I couldn’t get her the help she needed,” says Jetter, who bore the brunt of the family crisis since her married sister lives in Dallas. “Now that Mom is at [the nursing home], I can take a breather and concentrate on Dad, who also has mental issues.”

In recent weeks, her father, Thomas, has been admitted as a permanent resident of Life Care Center of Elkhorn as well.

What about her own family?

“I have no one. No husband, no boyfriend. I mean, what boyfriend would put up with all this?” asks Jean, who’s been shuttling between one parent and the other for years, all the while trying to run her own business. The situation has obviously taken a huge personal toll.

Conley has two words for anyone facing similar circumstances: Alzheimer’s Association. The Midlands chapter has support groups, tons of information, and can gently guide the adult child or spouse. They even have a 24/7 hotline: 800-272-3900.

For anyone dealing with Alzheimer’s, that number could become a lifeline.