Living With Dignity
Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive condition that destroys the memory and other important mental functions, while often leaving the rest of the body physically strong. It affects roughly 3 million Americans annually, with slightly over 20,000 cases in Lee County during 2016. Several Fort Myers Beach residents and businesses have programs and events this month to provide outlets for patients and their caregivers, while raising funds that will remain in Lee County to battle this devastating illness.
Way Back Wednesdays
Starting October 11, The Knotty Bean Coffee Bar at 2801 Estero Boulevard will host “Way Back Wednesdays” every other week, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. “’Way Back Wednesdays’ are the perfect way for me to marry my past and present,” explained Valorie Steinbeck, who co-owns The Knotty Bean with husband Steve. “For years I was a legal advocate for the elderly in estate planning, so I know there are not a lot of opportunities to help Alzheimer’s patients as well as their caregivers. On top of that, we just had to place my mother-in-law in an assisted living facility, so this now hits home.”
Valorie calls Alzheimer’s “a horrible disease that robs people of who they are, so we want to provide a social forum that they may not normally have, where they and their family can interact without worrying about other people. Alzheimer’s almost becomes a prison, because no one goes out anymore – not the patient nor caregiver – and you end up isolated and reclusive. ‘Way Back Wednesdays’ are a safe haven to stay socially interconnected and to enjoy one-another, to allow the patient to keep their dignity as long as they can, and we are happy to be a part of that! If it were not for our elderly, we would not have the wonderful life that we have today, so this is a small way of paying tribute to them, as we owe them so much.”
“Way Back Wednesday” participants do not need to make any purchases during the dedicated time frames, Valorie explains: “If you want to buy some coffee or desserts, fine, but if you want to play chess or checkers or cards or just hang out, that is great, too!”
The following evening, Truly Scrumptious at 7205 Estero Boulevard in the Santini Marina Plaza hosts a “Beach Party” Fundraiser on Thursday, October 12, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. In addition to the Beach Party, the goal of this event is to register walkers for the 1st Lee County “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” on Saturday, October 28.
“We will provide light picnic food, whatever dessert I feel like making that morning, as well as terrific entertainment,” explained Michelle Pyle, who co-owns Truly Scrumptious with husband David. “Keith Raygor is our entertainer, and he is a fantastic magician, musician and mind reader! Jeff Burde is a muralist who will do cartoons, and one of my coworkers, Jesse, will make balloon animals, as that is her specialty. We will have door prizes, raffle tickets and one lucky person will win ice cream cones for a year! Let’s all of us here on the beach come out and reconnect after Hurricane Irma, to see each other like one big old family, to check in and make sure we are each alright, and just say ‘Hi!”
She has a couple of reasons to be involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s: “We have a very special customer who comes in three or more times a week, who has become a part of our family, and he recently told us this is in his life right now, and it brought me to tears, it affected me so deeply. The second may seem a little strange, but I am a huge fan of musician Glenn Campbell, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and just recently passed away, and I just loved him. A third influence was meeting Cassie Conrad of Interim HealthCare at my Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation meeting last spring. She stood up and said she was putting together events to battle Alzheimer’s, and the next thing I knew I was standing up saying I will help you! I just love her and she is so sweet.”
Walk to End Alzheimer’s
“Michelle was so gracious to volunteer her whole place for the Beach Party,” explained Cassie, a Fort Myers Beach resident. “We are still looking for raffle prizes and donations, so if you can contribute, please call me at 612-910-1443 and I will pick them up. We hope everyone comes to the Beach Party, as not only will it be fun, but after what we all went through with Hurricane Irma, we could all use a night to relax a bit.”
While the Beach Party will be an entertaining time, its primary purpose is to register participants for the Lee County “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” event in Centennial Park in Downtown Fort Myers on Saturday morning, October 28, with registration at 8 a.m. and the walk at 9, with the awards ceremony to follow. “100% of the proceeds remain with the Alzheimer’s Association,” explained Cassie, “with 79 cents out of every dollar staying in Lee County. Even if you cannot actually walk on October 28, we ask you to register anyway, as we still receive credit for those resource dollars, so signing up is crucial.”
Funding is essential to the Alzheimer’s Association, Cassie explains. “If someone in your family receives the affliction, they teach you how to deal with it and accept it and how to stay out the hospital and nearer to home or actually remaining in your home to stay there for as long as possible, and to live with dignity and to keep going and that is the main message. There is so much that comes with Alzheimer’s, including the love of great caregivers, but we need so much more to improve their quality of life, and that is what all these terrific events are really all about.”
Photos submitted by Cassie Conrad.