Member Spotlight | April

Our April member spotlight is shining on Maya Gosztyla, who has been involved with the Junior Committee for close to 2 years.

Maya is an undergraduate student at Ohio State University studying Neuroscience and Molecular Genetics and is currently serving as the President of Buckeyes Against Alzheimer’s, an undergraduate organization at OSU that focuses on awareness and community service with the mission to combat Alzheimer’s disease.

Read more about Maya below:

How long have you been involved with the Junior Committee and what compelled you to join?

I’ve been involved for nearly two years now. As a future neuroscientist, I spend a lot of time talking to other scientists and students about Alzheimer’s disease. The JC offered the opportunity to connect with another group of passionate individuals who worked behind the scenes on advocacy and fundraising.

How do you serve as a member of the Junior Committee? 

At the beginning of every meeting, I take 5 minutes to give the Mission Moment, which is a quick summary of any recent discoveries in Alzheimer’s disease research. This is one of my favorite parts of being on the JC because I get to help everyone keep informed about the research without them needing to pore over these dense science manuscripts. I’m also part of the Recruitment Committee for BvB and I help out with the BvB social media posts.

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You’re traveling abroad this summer for a research program; can you tell us about the program & what you will be doing?

This summer, I will spend three months in Lausanne, Switzerland conducting research at EPFL’s Brain Mind Institute.  I was fortunate enough to receive funding from both the university and the U.S. Embassy of Switzerland that will allow me to afford this amazing experience. I will be researching the relationship between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s disease using mice as the model organism. We are hypothesizing that old brains respond differently to sleep deprivation than young brains, which may put them at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. I am so excited to undertake this adventure and possibly make some interesting discoveries!

What do you do in your spare time?

While I definitely indulge in some mindless TV on occasion, usually I like to fill my spare time with things that keep my mind and/or body active. I play the violin in an orchestra on campus and love practicing my favorite tunes. I’m a big lover of exercise (when I have time for it) so on good-weather days you’ll often see me jogging around the Oval or doing some calisthenics. Another hobby of mine is cooking, which is a lot easier said than done when you’re working with a student’s shoestring budget while trying to eat as healthy as possible. At the end of every day, I love curling up with a good book to relax before bed. Currently I’m working my way through Game of Thrones..

If you could spend a day with any one person, who would it be and why?

This is going to sound super geeky, but I’d really love to spend a day with Dr. Robert Tanzi, an Alzheimer’s researcher working at Harvard. He has some really interesting theories about the true cause of the disease and he’s not afraid to risk his reputation by putting some unconventional ideas out there. His lab has done some fascinating work trying to connect invasion of heavy metals in the brain with the process of neurodegeneration, as well as investigating whether brain infection could possibly play a role. I also deeply respect Dr. Tanzi because of his willingness to engage with the public and help educate people about his science. I might even look into his lab for graduate school.

15384489_1134897026618508_1556519141943432908_oHow do you think being involved with the JC has impacted you?

Seeing everyone’s enthusiasm for my Mission Moments at every meeting was the inspiration for me to start my blog, AlzScience. I use the site to help translate scientific research on Alzheimer’s disease into language that’s accessible to the everyday reader. I used to be really focused on just conducting my research, but being involved with the JC has taught me that I’ll never be satisfied just doing research my entire life. Science communication has become a huge part of my personal identity and it’s morphed into being just as big of a passion for me as my research. Knowing that there are so many people out there who care deeply about the disease but lack the years of scientific education needed to understand research publications reveals a niche that I think scientists like myself need to fill. My career goals have changed because of the JC: while I still dream of becoming a neuroscientist, I now know I’ll also need to find room for science writing and other communication outlets in my eventual career.

Being a student, how do you think you can make the biggest impact on your community?

Students have enormous potential to shape our community. Many people just associate helping people with students planning to attend medical school. For students interested in a PhD track like myself, volunteering is not emphasized at all. However, while I don’t usually engage in what some might consider “typical” volunteering, I find ways to help the community to learn about neuroscience and brain health, topics I’m extremely passionate about. Advocating for research funding and pursuing science communication outlets with the general public are, in my opinion, fundamental aspects of being a scientist. This isn’t just true for tenured researchers—students can contribute too! If you have an area you’re knowledgeable about, find outlets like blogs or public speaking opportunities to educate the public about this topic. Use your STEM education to forge a powerful voice that can advocate for funding and legislature to move your field forward. Sometimes the overwhelming nature of academia and graduate research can make us want to just focus on the science, but we are severely limiting our potential if we spend all of our time at the lab bench. Getting out into the word and reminding the public of the important of scientific progress is just as important as our major discoveries.

 

We want to thank Maya for her dedication to the Junior Committee and continuing to educate our members on current Alzheimer’s research!

Member Spotlight | March

Kirsti Osborne, our March member spotlight, has been involved with the Junior Committee for over 2 years. She works as a Clinical Helpline Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association and loves doing what she can to help End Alzheimer’s Disease. See more on Kirsti below:

Where are you from?
Pickerington, Ohio
Profession/Current Position?
Clinical Helpline Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association
What compelled you to join the Junior Committee? 
I played for Blondes vs Brunettes for the last several seasons and wanted to become more involved.
In what capacity have you served as a member of the JC? 
Brunettes Captain for 2016 & 2017 season; BVB Marketing Committee; Blondes vs Brunettes Sponsorship Committee; Columbus Walk Mission Committee; Junior Committee Communications Committee; BVB Website Manager
What is your guilty pleasure (tv show, sweet treat, etc.)? 
Doritos. Everything about Doritos. Actually any chip that ends in “tos” (I just recently discovered the spicy sweet chili Doritos and my life was changed for the better)
Where is the best place you have traveled & why?
I went on a cruise last year and traveled to Grand Turk, La Romana, Bonaire, and Aruba. They were all beautiful places and were serene in their own ways. My favorite part was gliding through the ocean with the electric scooter and being able to swim with the fish and aqua life of Grand Turk. It was a breathtaking view!
Which event put on by the JC has been your favorite so far?
I am a little biased but I have to say Blondes vs Brunettes! This is my 4th season playing and my 2nd year as captain. Being able to take part in an event that raised upwards of $44,00 dollars for the Alzheimer’s Association last year alone is a huge honor! There are so many women that have never even touched a football and are joining the field to honor their loved ones, and that is a huge inspiration. And obviously, I love football so it is a win-win situation when I get to play a sport I love and raise awareness for a great cause.
Tell us why ending Alzheimer’s is important to you: 
The reason why I am fighting so hard to end Alzheimer’s is to honor all the clients and family members that I serve every day at the Alzheimer’s Association. They are the reason I am so passionate about tackling this disease. I truly enjoy connecting with each and every one of the caregivers, callers to the helpline, and of course the people with the diagnosis. They have all been dealt a hard hand to play and I know that although I don’t have a cure, I have the passion and drive to help them as much as I can and be there for them throughout the process.
Any last thoughts? 
I would just like to challenge everyone who reads this to get involved in the fight to end Alzheimer’s. It could be attending an event, attending a support group or education program, or simply volunteering with the association. Alzheimer’s disease is here to stay until we do something about it!

 

2017 BVB Co-Chairs: Behind the Scenes Dream Team

Kait & JenaPlanning for Blondes vs. Brunettes Columbus 2017 is well underway and the BVB Co-Chairs are kicking butt & taking names as they gear up for the Junior Committee’s signature fundraising event, which benefits that Alzheimer’s Association, Central Ohio Chapter.

The 2017 BVB Co-Chairs, Jena Callahan & Kaitlin Watterson began preparation for this event in November and have been tackling the challenges that come along with planning it left and right. They have high hopes that this season will be the best yet and look forward to getting it started with the BVB Kick-Off Party this Saturday at Classic Victory’s!


Learn more about Jena & Kaitlin in the Q&A below:

Where are you from?

Jena: The smallest town in Ohio, Columbus Grove – don’t worry, you’ve never heard of it and that’s okay 🙂 Kaitlin: Lebanon, Ohio

When/how did you become interested in Blondes vs. Brunettes?

Jena: My best friend Jenny played in NYC shortly after moving there. She had such a great experience and told me she had met so many new friends that she wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to interact with. We looked it up and Columbus had a chapter! I had been wanting to add some sort of charity work into my resume, so I signed up, got involved and have never left! Kaitlin: I originally heard about the Junior Committee at a work event about two years ago. My grandma had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and so I was immediately interested in learning more. I showed up to my first meeting in April 2015 and Blondes vs. Brunettes planning for that season was in full swing. Between my dedication to the cause and the fact that I love sports, I was in right away. I joined team Brunette on the spot and haven’t looked back since!
Jena, this is your third season as BVB co-chair, how would you say things have changed from your first season?  Kaitlin, this will be your first season as BVB co-chair – what are you most excited about?
Jena: So many things have changed from my first season. My first year playing I was team brunette captain and the three years following, I have been co-chair. Goodness, we have grown so much as an organization, so many people now know what BVB is (not everyone, still plenty of opportunity for growth!). I also believe we have spent more time incorporating the “WHY?” of us playing. We have implemented more facts, tidbits and shocking statistics about the into practices, info given to the players and social media. The last couple years we have had legit jerseys, which just make the experience and the feel of things that much more real. We have raised over $15,000 more money! We have gained about 15 players. We have become more creative with fundraisers. We used to ONLY do happy hours, last year we added in a hip-hop dance fundraiser (which was huge!) and this year we have a few new things up our sleeve. Our committee has tripled in size and we are so grateful for every single one of them, their opinions, their efforts and their dedication to BVB and the cause! Kaitlin:  I am incredibly excited for the entire season. Blondes vs. Brunettes has become near and dear to my heart and I’m so looking forward to another amazing season to kick off. This year, it will be extra special to be one of the co-chairs bringing it all to fruition. Ultimately though, I think I’m most excited for that final whistle on game day. In that moment, I know I’ll be so proud of another season accomplished, all our hard work put towards an incredible event, a new camaraderie between this year’s players and coaches and (hopefully) a new fundraising record!

What is your favorite memory from last season?

Jena: Favorite memory…. Gosh there are a few! I would say a few of the lifelong friendships formed and really getting to know those people. Second, I would say the fact that we KILLED our goal by $9,000. In addition to that, I killed my own personal goal of $1,500 by $900! Third would be all the long nights spent out at the farm working on BVB with Sarah Arp and a bottle of red wine. We really got to know one another, got so much done, learned so much, and really worked so well as a team! Kaitlin:  Scoring a touchdown for the Brunettes on game day is definitely up there. But I also really cherish my memories of the draft party. It was so cool to come together, not as Blondes vs. Brunettes, but as women on a mission and celebrate our season and money raised together before the ultimate showdown the next day.

What are you most proud of in regards to BVB?

Jena: Are you kidding me? We raised almost $45,000 last year and squashed our goal! The players, outreach and fans did that with a lot of help from the BVB leadership team! I’m also super proud of our committees. We have strong leads both last year and this year who are always willing to help in anyway. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish this year! Kaitlin: I’m most proud of the people involved. We have a variety of individuals in many age ranges with different backgrounds. Some are new to the organization, others are veterans. Many may be part of BvB for very different reasons. But at the end of the day, we come together dedicated to raising thousands and thousands of dollars for the same cause, all with the hope that one day we can end Alzheimer’s disease. I’m so proud that we have a group of individuals willing to give of their time, money and heart to make BvB not only possible and successful, but also an incredible event to be part of.

What are your hopes for BVB 2017?

Jena: My hopes for 2017 is that everyone, veterans, rookies and coaches come out of the season loving BVB as much as I do. I live, eat, sleep and breath this. I want everyone to want to participate and bring their friends and share their amazing experiences. I also hope that each participant can walk away from the season with an even greater knowledge base than when they started about Alzheimer’s. My hope is that they want to learn more, they continue coming to Junior Committee events and really become passionate for the cause. Kaitlin:  My goal is for us to raise more money than last year and increase our presence and reach in Central Ohio. My hope is that after this season, even more people will know who we are and what we’re fighting for. I also want each person involved to have a great experience being part of Blondes vs. Brunettes Columbus.

What advice would you give to a rookie joining BVB for their first season?

Jena: Give it your all! Dive in, don’t be afraid of these girls – they are all amazing, driven, caring individuals out there for the same reason you are. Whether you’re more into it for the sport aspect, the community or the cause, someone shares your thoughts. Get to know everyone as much as possible. DO NOT segregate the opposing team – they are great too! They just have a different hair color. Come to as many practices and events as you can. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and introduce yourself. The first step in making a friend is just a smile and hello! Kaitlin:  Jump in! Join a committee, come to events, hang out with the teams after practice or training camp, suggest new fundraising ideas and so on. For me, BvB started as a really cool group to be involved in but has turned into an incredible family of friends and a fulfilling way to give back. I hope our rookies are eager to get onboard and see where this year takes them!

Any last thoughts you want to share?

Jena: BVB is an amazing event. So many chapters have grown exponentially across the country. We will get there, we will be BVB Dallas one year when we have 50 girls to a team and raise $500,000! Our goals are set for the future. Join BVB. Meet new friends, learn about new opportunities. Do something you’ve never done before. I don’t believe there is one person out there that would tell you “doing something you’ve never done before is a bad idea” when it comes to a charity, a cause and a passionate group of individuals. Kaitlin:  First of all, I want to thank Jena for being a wonderful fellow co-chair. I couldn’t do BvB 2017 without her. Secondly, I hope to see everyone at our kick-off on Saturday, January 21. Here’s to another amazing season!

Millennial: not just another dirty word.

Millennial has become a dirty word. Millennial motions key words like entitled, inpatient, narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused, lazy. My experience with this generation since moving to Columbus, Ohio has been quite the opposite.  I think much of the unsettled nature in the workplace comes from the need to have purpose. Young people want to not only make an impact, but build meaningful relationships at work and beyond.

According to the Millennial Impact Report, 84% of young professionals made a charitable donation while 73% donated their time. 67% of millennials donated up to $499 annually.  These statistics are a reflection of this generations inherit desire to do good.  The members of the Central Ohio Junior Committee are a beautiful representation of millennials of wanting to ‘do good.’

The month after I moved to Columbus from Denver in 2013 I looked to the Alzheimer’s Association for volunteer opportunities – perhaps to find purpose and meaning in the moments beyond 8-5, but also conceivably to build those significant relationships.

As my tenure as JC Board Chair comes to a close, I am celebrating the opportunity given to me in this city to not only make a small impact but to build authentic connections with like-minded individuals across the city. The impression the role has made on me is tremendous, and I thank each member for their time, their creative minds, their hearts and their selfless giving to end this disease.

I heard many years ago that people know who they will be by the time they’re 30 years old. As a ripe 29-year-old (ha), this has been in the back of my mind each day as I decide how to spend the most valuable thing I have – time.  It’s overwhelming to see how many people in Columbus choose to spend their time selflessly; I am surrounded and motivated by these people each month in the Junior Committee. If you haven’t had the chance to join us, I strongly encourage you to insert yourself in this purpose-driven volunteer organization.
The Junior Committee makes Millennial anything but a dirty word!  


1888789_10100730153268974_6571049515574331560_o About the author: Kristin Dahlquist has been a member of the Junior Committee since 2013 and served as the Board Chair from December 2014 until October 2016. She is currently in grad school and working at The Ohio State University. We are so thankful for all the work and dedication Kristin has put forth as a representative of the Junior Committee & look forward to seeing all the good she will do in the future!

Caregiver Resources

As November comes to a close, we wanted to send a special thank you to the family caregivers who dedicate their time taking care of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Caregiving for a loved one can be overwhelming and drastically affect the life of a caregiver.

2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

The Alzheimer’s Association, Central Ohio Chapter offers many support groups, programs, and other resources for caregivers & people affected by Alzheimer’s. If you need to talk to someone about the struggles you are facing or are simply looking for more information about the disease, there are resources for you.

Central Ohio Chapter – Fall 2016 Programs

Central Ohio Chapter – Programs & Services

Central Ohio Chapter – Caregiver Support Groups

Central Ohio Chapter – Care Consultation

Central Ohio Chapter 24/7 Helpline: 1-800-272-3900

Please call the helpline or go to the website if you would like more information or have any questions.

Mission Moment: October

Maya Gosztyla, a member of the Junior Committee and current undergraduate student at the Ohio State University, created a blog, AlzScience, which interprets the latest Alzheimer’s research into reader friendly blog posts. Each month at our Junior Committee meeting, Maya shares this information with us during the Mission Moment.

The two topics Maya discussed in October’s Mission Moment were the link between dementia & air pollution, aluminum, & vitamin D deficiency and the possible effects of caffeine on women in regards to dementia. Please follow the links below to read the full articles.

Air Pollution, Aluminum, and Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Dementia Risk

Caffeine May Protect Older Women from Dementia

Blondes vs. Brunettes 2016 Recap: Leaving it all on the field

This year’s Blondes vs. Brunettes season was one for the record books. Six months of planning, weeks of training camps and practices, countless happy hours and fundraising, plus more players than ever before, came together for the ultimate showdown on June 25, 2015 at St. Francis DeSales High School.

The result? The Brunettes won out over the Blondes, but together, the two teams and their supporters raised $44, 172.70 toward a world without Alzheimers, more than $9,000 over goal!

Our 2016 BvB Co-Chairs Sarah Arp and Jena Callahan were a large part of the driving force behind this incredible event. Learn more about their experience as co-chairs in our latest Q&A post.

BvB CoChairs

Why are you involved with BvB?
Jena: I got involved with BvB in 2014 initially to meet new people, make new friends, get involved in something larger than myself, to make a difference through volunteer work. Currently, I’m still involved for all of those reasons, in addition to the friendships formed, the energy and amazingness the JC shows and to see a world without Alzheimer’s. Sarah: I moved to the Columbus area two years ago and wanted to get involved with the Alzheimer’s Association. I saw that they had a Junior Committee, which was perfect because I wanted to meet new people that had the same passion as I did. When I attended my first meeting, it was two months before BvB. I was hooked at the first meeting!
 Tell us about the behind the scenes aspect of planning BvB for months beforehand. What does it take to put an event like this together? 
Jena: You want to know about the behind the scenes life? Ha! You say you do, but do you REALLY? Have you ever heard the saying, “I have put blood sweat and tears into this”? Well that is 100% true. First practice I had to take an injury time out for a bloody nose, we run our butts off at training camp and practice sweating, and there truly are moments when you are overwhelmed and tears flow.

Really though, it’s all amazing and I wouldn’t trade planning this event for anything – it’s why I’ve come back year after year… that or they couldn’t find any other fool to take over;)

Sarah and I have spent many nights at her house with our computers just powering through things. This year we created a completely new website so that was our initial challenge. We’ve held conference calls with other successful chapters across the country to get their thoughts, opinions and ideas. We’ve made timelines, happy hour lists, called locations for fundraisers/happy hours, worked with each committee having monthly meetings in addition to the full committee meetings, we’ve made to-do lists, and more to-do lists, and MORE to-do lists.

Sarah: It takes a lot of planning. Jena and I started really diving in around November. We joked that it is like a part-time job (sometimes even a full-time one). Our first goal before January was to figure out how we wanted to structure the sub-committees. After that, we created a year calendar with events so we could get an idea of where and when things would be. Once January hits, it’s officially BvB season. Our subcommittees and full committee start meeting once a month. During that time, we are pushing recruitment and fundraising. It truly takes a team to put this event on. Not one person can do everything and you have to delegate responsibilities out.
What is it like to see both sides as a player and a Co-Chair? 
Jena: Seeing both sides of the event as a player and a co-chair is a really cool feeling. You see the entire event come together knowing you had a huge part in everything is such a reward as co-chair.

I was only JUST a player for one year, and even then I was a captain and heavily involved with the planning process. But no matter what part you play, it’s just really cool come game day to see the event play out as a REAL game with real fans, real announcers, real concessions, etc. 

Sarah: I think it’s definitely an eye opener for anyone to play and then be on the committee. Last year was my first year with BvB and I played but helped out a tiny bit on the committee because of the JC. This year I dove right in and wanted to a Co-Chair. I would strongly encourage all players to join the committee whether it’s this year or in years to come. I think it makes you understand and appreciate how this event comes to life. I also think since we’re all young professionals, it’s a great time to learn new skills and improve certain skills.
 What’s your favorite thing about being involved with BvB?
Jena: My favorite thing about being involved with BvB is gaining the experience. It’s truly helped me a lot in my professional career. I also really like organizing, planning and coordinating things. I also think a huge plus is getting to know all kinds of people I would have normally never met. Sarah: That we raised a TON of money this year and there were a TON of new faces! That’s technically two but they go hand in hand together I think.
Why do you think BvB has grown so much in Cbus? What motivates people to play or draws them to it? What drew you to it?
Jena: I think BvB has grown so much in Columbus because it provides a great experience year after year, participants are more likely to share their experience with their friends and they might play the next year. Sarah said multiple times this year “how does this impact the player experience?” and that is such an important question. Will this incentive, this happy hour, this information somehow impact the player experience in a good way? great way? AMAZING way? I think this year we’ve done such a great job co-mingling and keeping all lines of communication flowing and open.

I think the two biggest factors that motivate people to play is they are either A) directly affected by the cause or B) want to get involved with something in the community to give back – this is a fun way to do so!

What drew me in? I’m sure so many people have heard this story – but my best friend had just moved to NYC and found BvB. She suggested I looked into the Central Ohio chapter and joined as soon as possible. I had just moved to Columbus and worked from home so I thought it would be a great way to meet new people and put some volunteer experience on my resume. Little did I know I would become so involved and be unable to walk away from the amazing family I have created within the Association and the JC.

Sarah: I think a lot of the new players and coaches this year were individuals who were trying to meet new people in the community and also wanted to give back at the same time. It’s not easy finding players and coaches in the Columbus market because there are so many other activities going on. I believe word of mouth and social media worked the best for us this year.
 If you could describe BvB 2016 in one word, what would it be? 
Jena: Impressive. Sarah: Impactful.
 Jena, as this was your third year being involved, how was this year different from others? 

I think this year was different than previous years because the veterans are all forming more personal relationships and overall the energy was higher. I think this year was our largest number of veterans, so we really had an opportunity to pave the way with the rookies. We also had a large number of rookies participate, which is great for fresh ideas!

 

 

 

 

Sarah, describe your experience has being a first year co-chair.

I LOVED IT! I’m not going to lie, it takes a lot of work but it was an incredible experience. Jena and I got along so well and had the same drive and organization skills which truly helped. We were in constant communication with each other about what needed to get done and sharing ideas. I learned a lot about myself and learned new skills during this experience which I can take back to my work and personal life. I would strongly suggest to anyone who wants to improve/learn how to manage an event and people to join the BvB committee. To be co-chair we do ask that people sit on the committee first then run for co-chair the year prior. There are a lot of leadership roles in the subcommittees that you can lead as well! 

BvB exceeded goal by almost $10,000 this year. What do you think made it so successful? 

Jena: I know I keep saying this but it’s the energy and hype between the players. Everyone had such a great time this year and seeing others so passionate about a cause makes you MORE passionate. In addition to that, there was a huge fundraising battle in the last month of the season. I’m not sure if all of these people know they were involved, but they were used as a target of “I have to pass ____.” It was really amazing to see the amount of money the top five individuals raised, especially Sarah – girl is a rock star at fundraising! I also know that both myself and Kaitlin had set our original goal at $1000 and about one month left I was $40 or so away from my goal and she challenged me to pass another player with her. We both ended up at over $2,400 individually. That’s almost 150% more than our original goal!

We also had a few sizably large fundraisers that really helped the players/coaches increase their fundraising thermometer.

Sarah: We had some great fundraisers this year, which made a huge impact. A couple of them were new fundraisers too which is always scary to try new events because you don’t know how the participants will like them. I will give a shout out to Team Brunette for their raffle they did as a team this year. That was a huge success and new this year. Also, our players rocked it this year in fundraising. We had more individuals than last year which helps but our participants were out there fundraising all the way to the end.
What does this mean for next year? What will BvB 2017 be like? 
Jena: Hopefully next year will be bigger and better. Hopefully we continue to exceed our goal and just knock everything out of the park! Sarah: BvB 2017 will be bigger and better than 2016 that’s for sure! Even as we were planning 2016, we were making notes for 2017 on ways to improve things. I think we will have a lot more players this year because we had girls whose friends came to watch this year who want to sign up for 2017.
Any other thoughts? 
Jena: Sarah has been such an amazing co-chair this year. Thankfully she decided to take the leap with me. We truly worked together so well and complimented each other’s strengths.
I also can’t say thank you enough to our AMAZING planning committee that we had this year. They have been such a huge help and such an asset to the entire process.
Sarah: I just want to thank all of our participants, committee members, sponsors, volunteers and the Association again for all they did this year. BvB is growing every year and it has to do with the support it receives from all these areas. I hope that everyone comes back for 2017 and brings a friend or two with them!

Relieving Guilt Through Action

To continue in the theme of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, one of our members, Annie Hutter, shares an incredible, honest look into the effects the disease has had on her and her family on a very personal level as well as how getting involved in the fight to end Alzheimer’s with the Junior Committee has given her a new sense of hope.

Annie Hutter (2)About Annie: Annie is a Senior Financial analyst for DHL Supply Chain. Her dad started showing signs of Alzheimer’s at age 55 (about 10 years ago) and was diagnosed a few years later. He still lives at home with her mom in Chagrin Fall, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland). Annie is a very active member of the Junior Committee. She traveled to Washington, DC in April for the Memory Forum to participate in the battle for increased Alzheimer’s funding and research. She is also tackling Alzheimer’s through Blondes vs. Brunettes.


I am 30 years old and live in Columbus with my husband and our cat.  Life for the most part is fantastic, full of many blessings. But for the past 10 years there has been a black cloud of sorrow over me as I’ve watched my wise, productive, and full of life father be slowly stripped of himself due to Alzheimer’s disease. Watching the person you once turned to for all your advice and guidance become unable to complete a sentence or make a sandwich is a tragedy I do not wish upon anyone. The pain I feel for my parents is something that is always present. My dad’s health is declining every day, and his dependence on my mom, his caregiver, is increasing every day.

In addition to the amount of pain that comes from watching this happen to my parents, there is an extreme amount of guilt. Guilt that before we knew of my dad’s disease, I was impatient with his struggling memory and at times still am; guilt that there is nothing I can do to delay, treat, or cure his disease; guilt that my mom (who lives in Cleveland) is largely taking on my dad’s care by herself while I am in Columbus living each day with an independence she hasn’t known for the last 5 years; guilt that I’m not spending enough time with my dad while he can still communicate. The list goes on. I tried to rid myself of this guilt by making trips up to Cleveland as often as possible, but with a full time job, a house, and responsibilities in Columbus, there is never enough time.

It wasn’t until discovering the Junior Committee of the Alzheimer’s Association that I was able to curb some of this guilt through action. Upon joining the committee in the Fall of 2015, I was armed with knowledge, fundraising opportunities, friends who can relate firsthand to my experience, and advocacy opportunities. My husband and I traveled to Washington D.C. in early April to advocate for more federal funding and the support of Alzheimer’s related bills. This summer I am playing in a flag football game, “Blondes vs. Brunettes” to raise money for the association. I am also on the Gala committee for Paint the Night Purple, taking place this fall. For the first time in the past 10 years, I don’t feel helpless anymore. And I don’t feel hopeless. Even though I am not a researcher, doctor, or government official; the Junior Committee has empowered me to get involved and fight.  Fight for more money, more resources, and more attention.  Getting involved with the fight has opened my eyes to see how many others are fighting for the same thing. I am confident that our efforts will bring an end to this disease in my lifetime.

Is all my guilt gone? Of course it’s not; it never will be. But there is less because I am taking action rather than just watching from the sidelines. And while none of this action will directly help my dad, my hope is that it helps prevent future families from the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease.  And in all of this, I know I am honoring my dad, who lived his first 55 years of life building, fixing, helping, and creating; and who never let a day go by with an attitude of indifference.

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Where’s Our Cure to Alzheimer’s Disease?

In honor of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, one of our amazing members, Maya Gosztyla, explores the state of Alzheimer’s research in our latest blog post.

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About Maya: Maya Gosztyla is a rising junior at the Ohio State University, where she is pursuing her B.S. in Neuroscience and Molecular Genetics. She has been involved with the Junior Committee since June 2015 and also serves as the Community Outreach Chair for a campus organization called Buckeyes Against Alzheimer’s. Following graduation, Maya hopes to earn her PhD and work as an NIH researcher studying ways to cure or prevent dementia.

 

 


Biomedical research has made great strides in the past several decades. Our death rates for most major diseases have decreased significantly, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and HIV. However, one conspicuous exception to this trend is Alzheimer’s disease, for which total deaths increased by 71% between 2000 and 2013. Why does research on Alzheimer’s disease seem to be bearing meagre fruits, and when can we expect the next breakthrough?

To answer these questions, we need to have a bit of background on the science of the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is differentiated from other types of dementia by the presence of abnormal protein deposits in the brain known as amyloid beta (Ab) plaques. Several studies have demonstrated that genetic mutations that increase production of the Ab protein increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, while a rare mutation that decreases Ab production is protective against Alzheimer’s. This led most researchers to adopt the amyloid cascade hypothesis, which proposes that the gradual accumulation of Ab in the brain is the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease. This hypothesis suggested that a cure to Alzheimer’s lay in discovering a drug that could prevent or reverse the build-up of Ab plaques.

Between 2002 and 2012, more than 400 drug candidates were discovered that could dissolve Ab plaques in mice. However, despite these promising results, the drugs consistently failed in human clinical trials. The patients’ symptoms improved only marginally, if at all. Even worse, many drugs came with a host of severe side effects, including skin cancer, gastrointestinal problems, and micro-hemorrhaging, which forced the trials to be canceled prematurely. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent searching for new ways to destroy the plaques, yet each new drug met the same fate.

Following this torrent of failed clinical trials, some researchers began to wonder if there was a serious problem to the way we were studying Alzheimer’s disease. The long-dogmatic amyloid cascade hypothesis was brought into question when new studies showed that nearly 1 in 3 cognitively normal people have high levels of Ab in their brains, suggesting that the plaques could not be the only factor contributing to dementia symptoms.

The scientific community was initially slow to react to criticisms of the amyloid cascade hypothesis. However, in recent years, new areas of research have begun to open up that consider new mechanisms for Alzheimer’s disease development. Many exciting theories have been suggested, including the tau protein, neuroinflammation, microbial infection, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative DNA damage, among others. It’s likely that all of these factors, in conjunction with Ab accumulation, contribute together to this complex disease.

With this new generation of neuroscientists approaching the problem with a fresh perspective, it’s likely that our understanding of Alzheimer’s will be radically transformed in the coming years. Though it’s impossible to predict exactly when the next breakthrough will come, the scientific community’s shift away from the amyloid cascade hypothesis toward more nuanced theories will bring our search for a cure that much closer.

The Man Who Wasn’t There: What Exactly is Alzheimer’s Disease?

In this post from Dogwood Forest Assisted Living Community, we explore how the deterioration of the brain through Alzheimer’s begins to affect personality and who an individual is. This is a repost from Dogwood Forest where it was originally shared by Kia Crawford on their blog in April 2016.

About Kia: Kia Crawford graduated magna cum laude from Florida A&M University with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations. She also holds a Masters of Public Administration degree. Kia began working in the senior living industry in 2006. She has worked as marketing coordinator, community relations director, and is currently the Corporate Communications Director for Trinity Lifestyles Management, an assisted living management company based out of Alpharetta, Ga.


No doubt you’ve heard of Alzheimer’s Disease. It causes memory loss and slowly destroys the brain. There have been vast leaps forward in the prevention and treatment of this disease recently as we begin to understand it more. There have also been new, fascinating  breakthroughs in understanding exactly how it really affects the brain and all aspects of the mind.

In The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self, author Anil Ananthaswamy explores how different conditions, from Alzheimer’s to out-of-body experiences, affect the concept of the Self. That is, if the concept of the “Self” even exists. Through investigations of different parts of the mind and ideas like the human narrative, Ananthaswamy reveals what Alzheimer’s actually is and how it affects our minds.

SYMPTOMS, PHYSICAL AND NEUROLOGICAL shutterstock_159564095

Alzheimer’s disease was first classified in 1906, named after psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer, the German doctor who discovered it. He had a long-term patient named Auguste. She had severe memory loss and suffered from progressive cognitive impairment, hallucinations, delusions and other symptoms we now often associate with the disease. However, Alzheimer did not just stop his diagnoses on the surface level. He delved deep into Auguste’s mind — literally — to fully understand what was causing the disease.

Alzheimer had slivers of Auguste’s brain sent to his lab. There, he examined them, and what he found was startling. The cells of her cerebral cortex showed abnormalities not found in healthy brains. While Alzheimer did his best to describe these strange cells, we now use the terms neurofibrillary tangles and plaques of beta-amyloid protein. In other words, neurons begin to degrade, and a strange protein builds up around the area, further blocking messages between brain cells. As both these issues progress, Alzheimer’s disease takes hold.

THE HUMAN NARRATIVE

One of the tell-tale signs of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. Patients tend to lose a part of their short-term and/or long-term memories. It is these moments in their life they no longer remember that form their life’s narrative. This is their story, the tale of how they became the person they are now. And, in consequence, this is what defines the Self. As some describe it, it’s like “somebody you grew up with disappears before your eyes.” And as that narrative is eroded by lost memories, it’s as if those afflicted are “drifting towards the threshold of unbeing.”

But it’s not just memory that is affected by this horrific disease. As different parts of the brain begin to deteriorate, your personality — in some ways, the center of the Self — also crumbles. One patient, a once brilliant and kind-hearted man, began suffering extreme mood swings. A small argument with his wife would send him storming from the house, slamming doors as he went. He would constantly write notes riddled with obscenities, aimed at his wife.

Perhaps the most telling change was the fear the patient presented. He read books regarding assisted suicide, and often asked his wife to make sure he never got to the point of needing adult diapers or to be in a nursing home. As his wife puts it, his brilliance was a double-edged sword. He was losing the thing he valued the most: his brain, his intelligence. In essence, Alzheimer’s was stripping him of who he was.

THERE IS HOPE

There are countless stories out there similar to this that reveal just how devastating it is for a person to lose what it is that makes them uniquely themselves. Many of these stories, in addition to glimpses into many different diseases and disorders, are beautifully articulated in Anil Ananthaswamy’s book. However, these stories of Alzheimer’s patients may soon be confined to medical history books, alongside the Spanish flu and smallpox. Modern medicine is on the war path toward achieving a goal once thought impossible: eliminating Alzheimer’s.

shutterstock_138838457One of the most significant recent breakthroughs involves early detection. Scientists are working toward a way to detect those protein plaque buildups very early on and, in doing so, preventing Alzheimer’s from every developing. There are many different methods being tested right now, from blood draws to brain scans. But scientists believe if they can catch these symptoms before they start affecting the brain, they can provide treatment to keep the disease at bay.

There are many different ways the plaque could be combatted. One such way is to bolster the immune system, allowing it to more efficiently fight against beta-amyloid protein from ever clumping. Another way is to prevent the plaque from affecting the brain, even if it does develop. This is done by blocking interaction with another kind of protein called Fyn. When these two proteins work together, the brain begins to deteriorate.

Scientists are also working toward preventing neurofibrillary tangles. We have learned that such tangles are caused by a “malfunction” of the Tau protein. Tau is responsible for giving neurons their shape and structure. There is an abnormal kind of Tau that, when it collapses, twists into tangles. As they do so, they slowly destroy structures within the neuron, called microtubules, and eventually destroy the cell itself. Researchers are developing drugs that attack this abnormal Tau to allow the neuron to keep its shape.

You can learn much more about all the ways researchers are working toward defeating this disease for good at theAlzheimer’s Association website. The most important thing you can do if a loved one is diagnosed is to simply support them. Make sure they know you care, and that they are not alone in this fight. Show them love, patience, and understanding. Show them that they are still connected with you, the family, and the world. Together, you may be able to preserve those special moments and the unique personality that makes them uniquely themselves.