Glenmeadow Learning Program to Explore One Couple’s Alzheimer’s Experience
LONGMEADOW—William “Bill” Zeckhausen and his wife, Barbara, will talk at Glenmeadow on Tuesday, June 19 at 10:30 a.m. about their experiences as patient and caregiver since Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2015.
The presentation, called “The Search for Meaning: The Journey Through Alzheimer’s,” is offered as part of the Glenmeadow Learning series. It comes at a time when Glenmeadow is deepening its focus on dementia care and is part of the ongoing Dementia Friendly Longmeadow Initiative, of which Glenmeadow is a key partner.
Glenmeadow Learning is one of many free programs Glenmeadow offers to members of the wider community. And these programs represent only one facet of the life plan community’s mission to serve seniors across the region and to operate as a socially accountable organization.
Several years ago, Bill Zeckhausen found himself forgetting appointments and losing his place in his sheet music during chorus rehearsal. The idea that he might have Alzheimer’s or another dementia quickly became his worst fear as his mother had had dementia.
Zeckhausen did nothing except hope his friends and family would not notice his absentmindedness. About a year later, after seeking—and receiving—an official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2015, Zeckhausen battled severe depression.
Then, he decided that he wanted to funnel his energy into raising awareness about dementia in hopes of giving people a language for discussion and so that he might find meaning in his experience.
He and his wife have offered a half dozen presentations over the past six months at hospitals and retirement communities, including the Taylor Community in Laconia, New Hampshire, where they live.
Barbara Zeckhausen speaks to caregivers, sharing tips she says are critical, such as “learning it’s the disease talking and not your loved one if they behave uncharacteristically.”
Bill Zeckhausen tells his personal story of coping with his diagnosis. The two will also answer questions from the audience.
Bill Zeckhausen first spoke out on his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in a letter to the editor that was published in the Concord Monitor in 2015, titled “Things I wish I was told after my dementia diagnosis.”
In his mind, they are: information about the national Alzheimer’s Association, which is reached online or at 1-800-272-3900; the book Alzheimer’s From the Inside Out by Richard Taylor, a psychologist with Alzheimer’s himself; and the importance of being open about the disease.
“A common, understandable response to the diagnosis is to try to hide it from others, which sooner or later becomes impossible,” Bill wrote. “It is such a relief to become open about it, which the Alzheimer’s Association emphasizes is most important for security, and not becoming isolated and withdrawn in the first and second stages.”
By contrast, when Zeckhausen was first diagnosed, he said he and Barbara received no suggestions about resources and merely the recommendation to take B12 vitamins.
“The Search for Meaning: The Journey Through Alzheimer’s” is free but space is limited and reservations are required. To enroll, call (413) 567-7800 or visit glenmeadow.org/events.
Established in 1884, Glenmeadow is a nonprofit, accredited life plan community; it provides independent and assisted living at its campus at 24 Tabor Crossing in Longmeadow and expanded Glenmeadow at Home services throughout greater Springfield.
To learn more about Glenmeadow and its history and offerings, visit www.glenmeadow.org.
In the 1800s, elderly individuals without family or means were sent to live at what was called “the poor farm.” In 1884, a group of civic leaders raised funds among themselves and other area families and purchased a house on Main Street in Springfield’s south end, establishing The Springfield Home for Aged Women. Quickly outgrowing that house, land was purchased on the corner of Chestnut and Carew streets, where a new home was constructed and opened in 1900. In 1960, the name was changed to Chestnut Knoll, and, in 1992, it began to admit men.
In 1993, the organization purchased a 23-acre parcel in Longmeadow to build a new community that would provide both independent living and assisted living in one building with various common areas. This was a new concept known as a continuing care retirement community. Existing residents from the old Chestnut Knoll property were moved to the new campus in 1997. Shortly after the move, the board voted to change its legal name to Glenmeadow to coincide with the name being used by the developer of the property.
Continuing care retirement communities are now referred to as life plan communities, responding to the needs of the aging population with new opportunities for care, plus creative, educational and personal exploration. Glenmeadow offerings, which include everything from senior living options and handyman services to personal care and travel programs, are provided at its Longmeadow campus and across the region through Glenmeadow at Home. Glenmeadow strives to fulfill its mission of nurturing the whole person in mind, body and spirit.