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Alzheimer's disease bonds friends who hope for a cure

Both lost grandparents

Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

Click here to enlarge this photo
Staff photo by DARWIN WEIGEL
Amanda Bowie, left, of Lusby and Lindsey Green of Mechanicsville sit with a small portion of the items they and their teams collected for a yard sale last weekend as part of their fundraising for the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk Sept. 18 at Asbury Solomons and at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.

What started out as a friendship through waitressing turned into a lifelong commitment to fighting a devastating disease with no known cure.

Amanda Bowie of Lusby and Lindsey Green of Mechanicsville were 21-year-old waitresses at Lone Star Steakhouse in Waldorf when they formed a fast friendship.

At that point Bowie's grandmother, Mary "Peggy" Grimes, already had died of the same disease with which Green's grandfather, Norman Stanley Oden, had been diagnosed: Alzheimer's disease.

Oden died in 2007, one month shy of his 82nd birthday.

The two women now say that what they noticed the most was their grandparents' personality changes.

"I think both of us found their personalities were very flipped," Green, now 26, said, explaining that prior to his diagnosis her grandfather "didn't have an enemy in the world."

When Oden's disease progressed, Green said her grandfather "wanted to box."

"He was very hard to deal with," she said, continuing that he was turned away from several nursing homes due to combative behavior.

"It was, ‘If we're going to keep him here, we'll basically keep him medicated until he's sedated,'" Green said.

The only solution, she said, was for her parents to eventually move from Waldorf to Brandywine so they could live with him.

And even that was a challenge, Green said, remembering one instance in which she found him banging on a neighbor's door in the middle of the night.

"The house had to be locked down like Fort Knox because [he'd] wander away. … He could have been killed," she said, adding that she once had to pretend her own car had broken down so she could take his away from him for good.

Bowie, 27, said that her grandmother — who died in 2002 at age 72 — always had been "one of those kinds of people who wasn't very fond of kids and things like that."

" … She actually became very sweet when she had Alzheimer's," Bowie said, continuing that it became evident her grandmother could not care for herself at her 70th birthday party when she no longer could remember family members.

Bowie said eventually her parents gained power of attorney over Grimes and she moved in with them.

Like Green, Bowie said it was a daily challenge for her family and cited a few instances when her grandmother called the police on her family.

"I had to convince them [the police] nothing was wrong," she said.

Bowie said her family also placed doorbells around the house so her grandmother could ring one if she fell, but explained this usually didn't work because Grimes would forget they were there.

Green said when her grandfather first started losing his memory "he made everything a joke."

"If he couldn't remember something, he'd say ‘I'm just messing with you,'" Green said.

Bowie said her grandmother was more likely to get upset with her feigning memory.

"She was like a child; we had to help her to remember what she was trying to say," Bowie said.

Both women said their grandparents eventually had to be moved to assisted living communities, where they died.

"It was almost a sense of relief when he passed," said Green, whose grandfather died two days after being checked into a nursing home.

"It was almost like, ‘I'll show you,'" she said of her grandfather.

Bowie and Green said they both recognize that Alzheimer's disease has been known to be passed down through families and therefore have become very committed to finding a cure for it.

For the past several years the women have participated in the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk at Asbury Solomons and at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.

Their teams have been "Grandpa's Gang" and "Grandma's Gang."

To raise money for the walk they held a joint yard sale last Saturday and will be holding an all-day fundraiser Aug. 31 at The Green Turtle in Prince Frederick.

For the fundraiser, "Funds for Friends," The Green Turtle will donate 10 percent of its proceeds to Bowie and Green's teams for the upcoming Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk Sept. 18.

The fundraiser also will include an announcer, raffles and information about Alzheimer's and the memory walk.

"It scares me because it's like, ‘This could happen to my dad; this could happen to my sisters,'" Green said.

"I think that's why we're so passionate about it," Bowie said.


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