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There are not enough words to describe my Grandma Bernie.

But here are a few: kind, generous, sweet, and with a strong faith. She was an incredible woman. When Alzheimer’s began to take over her brain it was hard to notice at first because she had always been quiet. My grandfather was the talker – and Grandma Bernie was the listener.

But as the years continued, we watched this terrible disease slowly take away her memory, her independence to complete daily tasks, and eventually, it took away her ability to walk, talk, eat, and drink. It was beyond heartbreaking.  

Her ten year battle with Alzheimer’s was long and hard – one that I can imagine was filled with fear, loneliness, confusion, frustration, and anger. 

What is Alzheimer’s?

Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia

It is hard for people to visit a person living with Alzheimer’s, because often times, the person doesn’t remember you, how to carry on a conversation, or even complete daily tasks on their own.  Frankly, it can be uncomfortable for the visitor. This leads to a very isolating life for the person living with Alzheimer’s and – especially if they are still living at home – it’s also a very isolating life for their caregivers. 

Month of Thanks: Learn about the four worthy 2017 Blue Cross NC ‘Month of Thanks’ nonprofit recipients 

There are many people out there working hard to support our seniors, like Senior Services, Inc. I am thrilled that as part of Blue Cross ‘NC’s ‘Month of Thanks’ campaign, we are honoring this deserving organization in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

The mission of Senior Services is to help older adults remain at home for as long as possible and to help them live with dignity. They also help the seniors’ caregivers through services and education that will benefit them.

Senior Services currently serves 1,697 seniors in Forsyth County through a variety of programs. They offer resources like the Adult Day Center, Meals-on-Wheels, Home Care, Senior Lunch, Living-at-Home, Elder Care Choices, Help Line, and more. 

Learn about the nonprofit organizations that Blue Cross NC honors during ‘Month of Thanks’ this November.

Lee Covington, President, and CEO of Seniors Services said, “They (seniors) are the ones that have gone before us, and a lot of the things we enjoy as a society today are due to their hard work. It is our responsibility in these next couple of generations to lift up and honor their contributions and their

Blue Cross NC volunteers

wisdom. We are here to take care of them when they can’t take care of themselves.”

Blue Cross NC employees have been volunteering throughout this year at the Adult Day Center. This center provides a safe, fun, and structured day program that brings meaning and friendship to participants facing memory loss in a nurturing environment. 

The Day Center is a way to give caregivers a break to get things done and to take care of themselves, which is so important. Services include socialization, the Music and Memory program, healthy meals, a barber and beautician, access to a physician, caregiver support groups, baths, and more.

The Music and Memory Program is one of my favorites. I’ve been to the Day Center several times this year, and I’ve seen first-hand how it works.

Rooted in extensive neuroscience research, the program provides personalized playlists to participants living with memory loss. Hearing their favorite music – whether it’s 1940s big band, or jazz, or swing music, or whatever else – taps deep memories not lost to dementia, and allows them to feel like themselves, to converse, socialize and stay present. 

Terry and Sue Cowart

I spoke with Sue Cowart whose husband, Terry, is a participant at the Day Center. He takes part in the Music and Memory program, and she said, “Terry and I used to visit Louisiana, so we love Cajun music.  On his iPod playlist, they play Cajun music for him and he simply comes to life as soon as the music starts.” 

When talking to Sue about her experience with the Day Center, she also shared, “It’s been a constant blessing to the both of us. I enroll him four days a week and they have spoiled him rotten. I can’t keep up with it at home! They outshine any other place I have had services from.”

They celebrated Terry’s 74th  birthday at the Williams Adult Day Center in September. They also celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary that same month. She continued, “It’s sad because there will be a day when Terry will be worse. He is declining by the week and it will hurt when he is no longer able to physically go to the Day Center. But forever, it will always be a special part of his life and mine.”

As a Blue Cross NC ‘Month of Thanks’ recipient, Senior Services, Inc. will receive a $5,500 contribution.

Grandma Bernie pictured holding Kristina’s hand on her wedding day

This is just one example of the amazing work of Senior Services, Inc., and one example of the thousands of participants and caregivers they help every day. 

Before she passed away last year, my Grandma Bernie was no longer able to remember who I was.  But Senior Services helps us remember to never forget those who forget us.  

We are thankful for their hard work to serve Forsyth County. As Ramsey Clark said so eloquently, “People who don’t cherish their elderly have forgotten whence they came and whither they go.” 

Let’s not forget. 

 

 

Kristina Weatherly

About Kristina Weatherly

In May 2016, Kristina Weatherly came to BCBSNC’s Community Relations team after 7 seasons at the Carolina Hurricanes and 3 years at KaBOOM!. At BCBSNC, she helps engage employees in philanthropic activities throughout the state. She lives in Raleigh with her husband Chris. Fun fact, she has an identical twin named Molly – people are often disappointed Kristina’s name is not Holly for their rhyming entertainment.

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