Tuesday, May 15, 2018

ALZHEIMER'S: A Love Story in Athens, Greece

Amazing review of the "Alzheimer's: A Love Story" event in Athens, Greece which took place on May13, 2018. Besides the photos, there is a description below with is translated into English further down! I am pleased, flattered, moved! Thank you Proud Seniors Greece!








Organizers and Panel Discussion Participants

Δελτίο τύπου εκδήλωσης
"Με ιδιαίτερη επιτυχία πραγματοποιήθηκε η εκδήλωση "Αλτσχάιμερ, μια ιστορία αγάπης" των Proud Seniors-Greece, την Κυριακή 13 Μαϊου στο Booze-Cooperativa.
Το κοινό, μέλη της λοατκι κοινότητας, εκπρόσωποι οργανώσεων και επαγγελματίες της ψυχικής υγείας, παρακολούθησαν με μεγάλη συγκίνηση το βιωματικό ντοκυμαντέρ του Michael Horvich που περιγράφει την πορεία της σχέσης του με τον σύντροφο της ζωής του, μετά την διάγνωση του με την βασανιστική ασθένεια της νόσου Αλτσχάημερ. 
Μια αποκαλυπτική ματιά πάνω στην ανθρώπινη μοίρα και την αναπόδραστη φθορά, αλλά ταυτόχρονα ύμνος στην αγάπη και την αξία της συντροφικότητας, το ντοκυμαντέρ πρόσφερε το έδαφος στους ομιλητές να αναπτύξουν ζητήματα όπως τα προβλήματα των ασθενών με άνοια, χαρακτηριστικά εμφάνισης και τρόποι αντιμετώπισης της νόσου (Π. Σακκά), σεξουαλικότητα και διαχείριση της στην τρίτη ηλικία (Ζ. Αλεξούλη), ιδιαίτερα ζητήματα που αφορούν στην λοατκι κοινότητα, παρελθόν-παρόν-μέλλον, η σημασία της υποστήριξης από την πολιτεία (Γ. Βαλλιανάτος).
Η έντονη συζήτηση που ακολούθησε έδειξε πόσο τα θέματα αυτά απασχολούν την λοακτι κοινότητα ακόμα περισσότερο από τον υπόλοιπο πληθυσμό, λόγω ιδιαίτερων κοινωνικών συνθηκών. 
Αναγνωρίζοντας αυτή την ανάγκη, η ομάδα των Proud Seniors αναπτύσσει επικοινωνία και επιδιώκει συνεργασίες με φορείς που ασχολούνται με προβλήματα της τρίτης ηλικίας, επιδιώκοντας τόσο την βελτίωση των συνθηκών πρόσβασης των λοατκι ατόμων στις σχετικές παροχές, όσο και την ενημέρωση της κοινότητας συνολικά για τις δυνατότητες υποστήριξης που υπάρχουν. 
Στο πλαίσιο αυτό, η ταινία του Michael Horvich γίνεται προσπάθεια να προβληθεί σε διάφορες διοργανώσεις, ώστε να ενισχύσει αφενός την ενημέρωση για την άνοια, αφετέρου την ευαισθητοποίηση για τις ιδιαίτερες συνθήκες της λοατκι κοινότητας.
Η βραδιά τελείωσε με την υπόσχεση που μας έδωσε η κυρία Σακκά εκ μέρους της εταιρίας νόσου Αλτσχάημερ και συναφών διαταραχών, ότι το ντοκυμαντέρ ‘Αλτσχάημερ, μια ιστορία αγάπης’ θα προβληθεί ξανά τον Σεπτέμβριο σε γενικότερο κοινό, στα πλαίσια των εκδηλώσεων που διοργανώνει κάθε χρόνο η εταιρία Αθηνών, για το μήνα αντιμετώπισης της άνοιας και της νόσου Αλτσχάημερ 

The event “Αlzheimer’s: A Love Story” organized by Proud Seniors-Greece on Sunday, 13th of May at Booze-Cooperativa was a very successful one. 
The public, members of the lgbtqi community, representatives of various organizations and professionals of public health, were deeply moved as they watched Michael Horvich’s documentary that describes the evolution of his relationship with his life companion Gregory after the latter was diagnosed with the painful Alzheimer’s disease. 
This short film, which provides an extremely revealing isight into human fate and the inevitable physical decay, but which is also a hymn to love and to the value of companionship, gave to the speakers the opportunity to address a range of issues such as the problems of patients with Alzheimer’s, the symptoms of the disease and the various ways to deal with it (P. Sakka), sexuality in the third age and its handling (Z. Alexouli), as well as some specific issues relative to the lgbtqi community in the past, present and future and the importance of support by the state (G. Vallianatos). 
The animated discussion that followed the projection showed how much these issues are even more crucial to the lgbtqi community than to the broad population due to a range of specific social conditions.
Recognizing that fact, the group Proud Seniors-Greece is in contact and close collaboration with organizations that address the problems of the third age, aiming at improving the conditions of access of lgbtqi people to the public services linked to these issues and informing the whole community about the existing support facilities. 
Within this frame, we try to promote the projection of Michael Horvich’s documentary by various organizations with a view to increasing awareness about both Alzheimer’s disease and the specific issues faced by the lgbtqi community.
Τhe event concluded with the promise given by Ms Sakka, on behalf of the Greek Association of Alzheimer's Disease and Relative Disorders, that the documentary "Alzheimer's : A Love Story" will be projected again in September for a broader public as a part of the annual events organized by the Association in Athens for the month dedicated to the treatment of and dealing with dementia and Alzheimer's.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dreams, Emotions, Lessons, Awarenesses

Last night was not an easy one. The dream began with a feeling of being smothered by someone who had come into the bedroom. It was like someone had lightly laid a pillow across my face and I was afraid to push back for fear of what was coming next.

Then I woke up.

I realized I was frightened and called for Gregory. I couldn't tell if I was calling outloud (which seems to happen a lot in dreams) so I called again, "Gregory, I am frightened. Come help me!" And he did.

Then I woke up for real.

Realizing that it was a dream in a dream I also realized, painfully, that Gregory could not come to help me and that besides his spiritual guidance and presence (which I have experienced,) he would never be able to physically come to help me again. Or embrace me. Or hug me. Or lie next to me.

The tears began to flow and I still felt frightened. I took deep breaths and worked at calming myself. I got up and walked around the condo a while, double checked to make sure the doors were if fact locked, and went back to bed.

In the dark, the dream was still with me. I tried to think about the emotion of fear and think about what message the dream was trying to bring me. The word lonliness came to the surface and the word alone.

Recently I had written about feeling "older" and about the exponential changes one goes through healthwise when the decades are larger. I.E. the body goes through expenentially more changes when your age goes from 70 to 80 than it did when it went from 50 to 60.

Also, I had read an article about an Austrailian scientist who just turned 104 and decided to go to Switzerland for an assisted suicide as we was ready to die based on his quality of life.

Finally, I saw on Facebook that the father of a student at Northeastern University, in a freak accident, was hit by a falling projection screen and might end up being parazlized.

I decided that the "fear" that visited me during my dream was of growing older, of being alone while ill, and of the continued realization that life is so fagile that it can fall apart on less than a moment's notice.

I know all this so why dream about it now? And lessons are not going to change the details. Maybe the other side of the dream is to remind me to live each moment as well as you can (I do,) be grateful for what you have (I do,) don't worry about those things you cannot change (I do.)

A snappy ending to this essay then is "I now pronounce you man and emotion. You may kiss the fear." Or a philosophical ending: "Life is easier to accept by the light of day than it is by the shadow of night."


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Another Successful More Than Ever Education Fund Luncheon

May 8, 2018

Dear Family and Friends,
Applauding you for your financial and/or moral support of the More Than Ever Education Fund in memory of Gregory Maire, as administrated by La Casa Norte, a premier Chicago area not-for-profit supporting youth and families confronting homelessness. 


Approximately 150 people attended the luncheon and we raised over $50,000.00 for the Youth in College Program which currently is supporting 25 students. In the three years since the MTE Education Fund began, we have raised close to $150,000.00.

I wish you could see in person, the faces of these students as they radiate love, joy, self-confidence, and gratitude as they look towards a hopeful future. Thank you so much for being there for us.

If you were planning on making a donation but haven’t gotten around to it yet, please mail your check, made payable to the MORE THAN EVER EDUCATION FUND, to La Casa Norte, 2845 West Mc Lean, Chicago, Illinois 60647.

You can also donate online: CLICK HERE (Opens in a new window)

Again, thank you so much,
Fondly, 
Michael

Pictured below are seven students who entered the personal growth essay contest. Most of the 25 students were able to attend the luncheon, several had exams or student teaching etc. 

La Casa Norte president Howard, guest speaker Eric, executive director Sol, benefactor Michael

Co-chair person Patti, co-chair person Michael, Gregory Maire Leadership Award recipiant Ranaa





Sunday, May 6, 2018

Overcoats & Bowels Revisited

Click album cover to play music while reading this essay:



Interesting. Two friends have commented on my previous post saying: "I was sorry to see you speak about your 'decrepit' body. My take on aging is a little more positive." and your essay is ... "perhaps a bit less positive than i tend to feel about getting older, but you get to decide." One relative didn't feel it was too negative. 

First of all, I do not feel negative about aging. I enjoy my life, my days, my condo, my family and friends, my cats. I do feel that I am being realistic about aging because things do change. I think that an awareness of these changes helps one cope, restructure, and live one's life the best one can.

In a previous essay I talked a little about my aches and pains saying that I earned them fair and square and was grateful that I was still alive to experience them!

There is an exponential difference in the aging process when your age goes from 70 to 80 than there was when it progressed 30 to 40! I don't want to think about 80 to 90

Is it that there is a unspoken stigma attached to discussing the results of the aging process? There is a stigma attached to so many things like discussing death, Alzheimer's, cancers, sex, bowel habits, and overcoats! Maybe the Aging Stigma is stronger than I realize

Is it that the results of aging are so personal that they are meant to be kept personal or is it that most people cannot really admit or face these changes? Is it that some people (not  pointed at my friends who commented) cannot face aging and death which are part of certainty when so much in life is not?

Are parts of the aging process so distasteful and embarassing and bodily, that discussion is inappropriate and to be avoided? Is it that by giving it too much attention, one does in fact become fixated on being old rather than accentuating the positive?

Do these caveats reflect where I am coming from and not my perceptions of the general public with regards to aging?  

Do you end up reaping what you sow? Does the quote "Keep Calm and Carry On," which was a motivaitonal poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for World War II, apply to aging as well?

Maybe my writing style, my sense of humor, my approach to life; comes off as more negative than I would want. I re-read my essay "Don't Speak of Overcoats or Your Bowels" (click to open in a new window) and I did not feel that it was too negative. Sarcastic, yes. Tongue in cheek, yes. Honest, yes. Too negative, no.

It was descriptive and detailed (although not too detailed about the bowels :-) but it was also optimistic and hopeful. It was not meant to complain but rather to process by putting my current thinking and experience into writing. 

This is the same process I used when Gregory was still with me and since I could not discuss issues with him, I turned to my computer to process in writing and posting on my blog.

Or do I protest too much? That's all for now! You have got to accentuate the positive...

Accentuate the Positive
Music by Harold Arlen 
and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate his last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
Just when everything looked so dark
Man, they said we better, accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No, do not mess with Mister In-Between
Do you hear me?
Oh, listen to me children and-a you will hear
About the elininatin' of the negative
And the accent on the positive
And gather 'round me children if you're willin'
And sit tight while I start reviewin'
The attitude of doin' right













Saturday, May 5, 2018

Don't Speak of Overcoats or Your Bowels

The old saw says, "You know you are getting old when you begin to talk about the state of your bowels."

As a young, newly employed elementary school teacher, my mother often would ask me, "When are you going to be a grown up and buy yourself an overcoat?"

At a garage sale we ran in Gregory's old architecture studio before we moved out of 2635 Poplar and into the condo in downtown Evanston; a much older customer lowered himself into a chair to rest from his shopping; making loud sighing, groaning, aching sounds as I am sure you have heard before. My friend Roger labeled those "Old Man Noises" and warned against making them ourselves.

It is said that "you are only as old as you think you are" and "old age is only a state of mind." It is said that if you "act old," you are old."

Well here I am, now 73 years old, ... and I am old! Born in 1945 for which you have to scroll down quite a way when filling out your age in an online form, it amazes me how many years there are in that list between when I was born and today!

I have to admit that I am more aware of my bowels, own an over coat, feel the aches and pains of "old man noises," and realize that short of thinking or feeling or acting old, the body has a mind of its own as it slows down, breaks down, lets you down.

When I asked my Podiatrist why my feet were in such bad condition, he replied, "It's like having a car for 73 years and never having changed the tires." I find I need to more carefully navigate climbing stairs.

My skin doctor tells me that dry skin and itching is normal for a person my age, so the lotion bottle has become a permanent fixture on the sink counter. 

At my yearly visits to the eye doctor, she talks about farsightedness (hyperopia) getting better and nearsightedness (myopia) getting worse which is usual as one gets older. My glasses prescription changes each visit. Also I must now keep an eye (so to speak) on my cataracts which are beginning to cloud.

While I usually do not talk about growing older, keeping it privately to myself, it is nice now and then to discuss the symptoms with friends of the same or similar age, just to compare notes to know that you are not alone in your years, and possible to learn something you did not know about living with the process.

One thing that happens as you get older, is that you go unnoticed. People are not attracted to you, are not sizing you up as a sex partner, are not necessarily interested in what you have to say. Even though you have given your best to society during your prime years, you are deemed somewhat useless now. The young do not understand who you are in today's world and you do not understand who they are.

I find myself saying the same words my parents used to say with dismay as well as at times with disgust, "This generation ... I just don't understand them!" Ironically, there are so many more things I now understand about my parents and the changes they went through as they aged, but hopefully I am doing it more gracefully having learned from them how not to get older.

They slowed down as I am. They used to entertain but then did less and less. My father refused to stand in line at a restaurant or movie theater. They did not like to attend functions with large crowds. They preferred eventually to not go out or dive at night. Me too, now!

With one example for me which is similar to those of my parents, let me talk about entertaining. In my prime, Gregory and I used to entertain a lot. Dinner parties, holiday events, helping family and friends celebrate birthdays. When my parents would visit from Florida, I would invite all the family and friends to visit the condo so mom and dad could get to see everyone without having to run all over Chicago for the short time they were here. 

Gregory was born on July 4 so we had open house, immediate world parties featuring appetizers, dinner, beverages, birthday cake and fireworks for 30-50 people. As Gregory's abilities diminished due to his dementia, I would take on the event single handedly. Eventually I asked our housekeeper be at the party to help out.

Now, even with fewer people attending (due to attrition, old age, and death) after a party at the condo I feel like I have been hit by a truck, beaten up in the alley, fallen down a flight of stairs. Instead of having everything cleaned up (even with Halina's help) by the time I head off to bed, I head off leaving the counters and sinks still filled with dirty dishes.

The next day I finish cleaning up but still feel black and blue, bruised, sprained. I'll take two naps instead of the usual one.

Which brings me to the joys of taking midday naps! I find that I "husband" (I love that word husbandry: the care of a household; the control or judicious use of resources : conservation) I husband my time and energy and only allow one major activity a day. If I have an evening engagement or a play to attend, that is all I plan on that day. If I go grocery shopping, after coming home and putting things away, I make no other plans. 

I used to run four or five or six errands at a time, then cook dinner, or go out with friend to dinner and a movie. Now ONE ACTIVITY A DAY and a nap thrown in! Naps are the luxury of the aged, the retired, and at times the wealthy!

People still tell me that I have an amazing amount of energy but if compared to when I was in my fifties, I would say that the amount of energy I have currently is about half of what I had then.

So in this essay, it has felt good to analyze what this thing called aging personally means to me. A little complaining, a little humor, a little enlightenment as I shed more awareness on who I am at this time of my life.

I will say that not a day goes by that I am not grateful (if not acknowledging it out-loud) for the life I live, for family and friends, for Emma and Gigi my cats, for my health, for my financial ability to have a comfortable life.

I miss my life partner, soul mate, best friend, husband Gregory. We were together for 41 years. He lived the last 12 of those with Dementia, most likely Alzheimer's Disease. He died close to three years ago. I miss him terribly and Grief still rears its head now and then when I least expect it, but I have grown and continue my life as a widow. This is also part of aging. We knew that one of us would die first, Gregory beat me to it!

I am aware, as I continue my studies in Buddhism, that "We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, unbiased.:" —Pema Chödrön, "The Fundamental Ambiguity of Being Human  

Meanwhile, I embrace my old age, I embrace the fact that I will die. Meanwhile I'll have as much fun as my aging, decrepit body allows (knowing that it will continue to age and get more decrepit!)


Friday, May 4, 2018

Pride Film and Plays

My “One Man Show” at Pride Film and Plays was wonderful. They first featured the documentary in their gay film festival when it came out and we won “Audience Favorite.” I have since become friends with the company and they bit at my proposal to do a one man show with a brief slide show of Gregory and me from when we first met until shortly before he died, a 30 minute presentation on “Living Well with Alzheimer’s” a Q and A, and then fellowship with wine and cheese in the lobby. Approximately 30 people attended the event.

Pride Film & Plays Main Stage

My "Evening with Michael and his Alzheimer's Love Story" set




Athens, Greece

The documentary, ALZHEIMER'S: A Love Story will be part of an evening program including a 10 minute video welcome I sent them, our documentary with subtitles, and then a panel of important writers, doctors, psychiatrists, etc. discussing the needs of senior LGBTQ. They are very excited to be doing this.

Here is a link to a magazine article in Athens, Greece: http://t-zine.gr/i-proud-seniors-parousiazoun-to-polyvravevmeno-altschaimer-mia-istoria-agapis/

Click here to see the magazine article. (Opens in a new window)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Michael's Comments at the MTE Education Fund Luncheon


This is the text of Michael's presentation at the 
Third Annual More Than Ever Education Fund Luncheon 
at the Orrington Hilton in Evanston, Illinois. 
The event was attend by approximately 140 people.

A COUNT DOWN
Good afternoon. I would like to make a brief presentation about how we came to be here today and then propose a toast.
• • •
Each of our lives has a COUNTDOWN CLOCK that we cannot see. It REMINDS us to do “work” that matters.
THIS IS PART OF MY COUNTDOWN. 
SEVENTY THREE years ago, I was born.
FORTY TWO years ago, I met the love of my life, my husband, Gregory Maire.
MANY years ago, as many of you may have done, Gregory and I mused about what we would do if we won the Lottery. 
We decided that we would like to be able to have enough money to do significant GOOD for others. 
That lead to a discussion of what GOOD would look like. 
We decided that helping a young person, who otherwise would be unable to get a college education was probably the best gift one could give.
SIXTEEN years ago La Casa Norte opened its doors and has done AMAZING things. 
FIFTEEN years ago Gregory was diagnosed with Dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s. We lived as well as possible. We learned that the diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence.
We renewed our love for each other saying: “I LOVE YOU MORE THAN EVER!” That comment would go on to become the name of this education fund. 
FOUR years ago, the YOUTH IN COLLEGE PROGRAM was begun. 
THREE years ago, I approached Sol to let her know that now that Gregory and I WERE OLD, we WERE able to do significant GOOD for others.
We wanted to make a bequest to La Casa Norte to help provide educational scholarships for their deserving youth.
A little less than THREE years ago, after living with Alzheimer’s for 12 years, Gregory died … and in his memory … with some of his life insurance money … we were able to begin the scholarship fund  NOW with out having to wait for my bequest. 
TWO years ago we witnessed the first ever MORE THAN EVER EDUCATION FUND LUNCHEON presenting 3 students with scholarships.
ONE year ago at the second annual luncheon we presented 15 students with scholarships 
THIS YEAR, 25 students are receiving our support, and we have raised close to $100,000 since the inception of the fund.
You can be more involved if you are able.
The MORE THAN EVER EDUCATION FUND is an UMBRELLA structure. 
Just as the GREGORY MAIRE SCHOLARSHIP FUND has been created  UNDER the umbrella, YOU or a GROUP OF YOU TOGETHER, can support one or more students, by creating and NAMING a scholarship fund in honor or in memory of a loved one, in the name of your organization, or your business.
Ask Sol or me to learn more about this possibility. • • •
I have often said that Gregory was NOT a VICTIM of Alzheimer’s, he was a HERO
These students who are part of the YOUTH IN COLLEGE PROGRAM are not VICTIMS either, they are HEROS. . .
with stories of early difficulties, YES, but more importantly with current stories of success, determination, growing self-confidence, and ambitions for a better future.
And now, please raise your glass in a toast. 
TO LA CASA NORTE for their good works 
TO ALL OF YOUwho have supported the MORE THAN EVER EDUCATION FUND
TO A LONG LIFE for the fund 
TO OUR SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS, 
and … TO GREGORY … who  in many ways has made this all possible.
• • •
GREGORY MAIRE was a LEADER in LIFE as well as in the field of Architecture and Interior Design.
In everything he did, he was motivated by COMPASSION FOR OTHERS... WITH THIS IN MIND, we have created the GREGORY MAIRE LEADERSHIP AWARD.

To present the second annual award is my MORE THAN EVER EDUCATION FUND LUNCHEON co-chairperson and friend Patti Morelle. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The More Than Ever Education Fund

The More Than Ever Education Fund was founded in memory of Gregory Maire to support youth confronting homelessness get a college education. The third annual fund luncheon will take place at the Orington Hilton in Evanston on Wednesday, May 3, 2018 from 11:30-1:30.

Michael will make a few comments, Sol will talk about the mission of La Casa Norte, the Gregory Maire Leadership Award will be presented, there will be a guest speaker, several students in the Youth in College Program will tell their stories. A delicious lunch will be served.

The ticket price is $100.00 with donations going to the program. If you find you can join us on short notice, please call ahead to La Casa Norte at ‭(773) 276-4900‬ Ex 212 or call Michael if you have his number.


Monday, April 16, 2018

You Are Everywhere

Taken from the dialogue at the end
of the movie "The Shape of Water"
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

"A poem whispered by someone in love
Hundred of years ago 

'Unable to perceive the shape of you
I find you all around me
Your presence fills my eyes with your love 
It humbles my heart
For you are everywhere




Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Staircase vs An Arch: A Metaphor for Life

Came across this on You Tube and Facebook. Ms. Fonda talks to an audience of women at a TEDx Women event, but I find her message is at least as applicable to men as it is to women!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Antipsychotic Drugs and Dementia

Marie Marley, Read this article and thank you thank you thank you. It is the first one which I have read (or seen) which handles the topic of psychotropic drugs realistically.

Usually the drugs are condemed for being used to over-sedate a person on behalf of making it easier for the caregiver or caregiving facility. Also the finger is most often pointed at the possibility of causing premature death in the elderly and that the research (and drug company) does not support its use.

With the help of our doctors, nurses, hospice, and health care facility; I decided to put my Gregory on a very low, vary carefully monitored dose of Risperdal. He was becoming more and more unhappy, agressively acting out (but not violent,) and agitated.

We tried to see what we could change in his care routine and in our comminications (given his inability to work much with language) but were not successful being able to help him to be more comfortable with his life.

The mild dose of Risperdal gave him a new life, one in which he was again content and enjoying his life (given the circumstances.)


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