Love Nancy helps families, victims of Alzheimer’s

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Love Nancy, a local nonprofit that assists people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, has announced plans for a fall fundraiser and plans to expand its services next year.

Founder Catherine Patten recently shared some updates on the organization’s progress with members of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club.

The name “Love Nancy” was inspired by Nancy Patten, Catherine’s mother.

Patten said her mother, a nurse, was “crazy smart” and known for her great love for her four children.

“I love yous followed every conversation,” Patten said.

She said Nancy also loved listening to oldies music, taking care of animals and putting her best foot forward.

When the woman known for her fashion sense began wearing the same outfit for days in a row, Patten and her siblings realized something might be wrong with their mother.

Though she had long been an animal lover who had rescued stray dogs, Patten said her mother forgot how to care for them.

Then, she began having trouble driving her car.

Patten said she remembers asking what was wrong. Her mother responded tshe did not know. She said her mother’s admission of confusion “was probably her last lucid response.” 

Eventually, they went to the doctor. Nancy was referred to a psychiatrist who gave them the shocking news. It was early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“There are moments in life when the world just stops, and this was one of those,” Patten said.

Though Nancy was just 58 at the time, her daughter said she would very quickly go from being the nurse to being the patient.

While she was still able to navigate the process, she and her children worked to get her financial and legal affairs settled.

After the diagnosis, Nancy’s challenges began to multiply.

Patten said her mother would find the tasks that once had been easy for her had become difficult.

For example, she once tried to fix herself a bowl of cereal with milk, but ended up with a plate of cereal and some spilled milk.

On a couple of occasions, Nancy went to walk her dog. Patten would get a call from her mother explaining she was at a neighbor’s house because she had locked herself outside. One time, Patten found the house was still unlocked. Nancy had gone to the wrong house.

Patten said the family would often try to make light of the mistakes and find reasons to laugh.

“We had to laugh so often so we wouldn’t cry,” Patten said.

However, it got to the point where Nancy would no longer be able to live on her own.

Patten said she still remembers a particular day in December of 2009 because it was the last day her mother told her she loved her.

“Alzheimer’s takes away I love yous,” Patten said.

In 2011, she lost her ability to walk. Later, Patten said she would need assistance to eat and go to the bathroom.

On Feb. 23, 2013, at the age of 63, Nancy passed away.

“I felt like I was walking through mud,” Patten said, describing the heavy sense of grief she felt.

Love Nancy came from Patten’s determination to turn her grief into something positive and to help those who are experiencing what she and her family did.

When Nancy was dealing with the illness, Patten and her family joined a support group for caregivers and found other resources through the Alzheimer’s Association.

In February of 2014, about a year after Nancy’s death, Love Nancy was founded as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization meant to provide additional support to those navigating the challenges presented by Alzheimer’s disease and other progressive memory impairments.

Among the organization’s first efforts were starting the annual “Pajamas for Your Mama” drive to provide local Alzheimer’s patients with comfy pajamas, housecoats, slippers, socks and blankets to use.

That led to the creation of the Love Nancy CAREavan, a group of volunteers who semiannually deliver personal items to patients and caregivers. They also host a social hour for caregivers to allow them to share their experiences and, as resources allow, are sometimes able to treat caregivers to gifts like certificates for massages and movie tickets to help them combat stress.

Patten said some 65 people have been benefitted by those efforts so far. Love Nancy is continually looking for ways to assist local caregivers and patients.

On Friday, Oct. 16, the organization plans to hold a fundraiser called “Wine for the Mind,” which will feature a concert by Randy Steele and Friends, a silent auction, wine and other refreshments and more. It will take place at The Coffey Barn in Cleveland, and details about the times and ticket sales are forthcoming.

The proceeds from that fundraiser will go toward Love Nancy’s programs, including a new one it hopes to launch in early 2016.

Patten said Love Nancy wants to start something called the “Memory Makers Respite Camp.” This “camp” will serve as sort of a caregiver’s night out program and provide Alzheimer’s patients with opportunities for fun social activities.

Specially-trained volunteers and a registered nurse will be on hand each night to lead patients through activities like arts and crafts sessions, movie screenings and fitness routines while their caregivers take a break.

Patten said she is excited about this new possibility and is hoping for the community’s support as Love Nancy tries to help make life a little better for those affected by Alzheimer’s.

For more information, visit http://www.lovenancy.org or call 423-715-3092.

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