Today We Get Personal

Intentional Prevention

By Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director

Click here to learn more about the free caregiver workshop offered by The Dubin Center.

This column is dedicated to my mother-in-law Bonnie (aka Nana) for Mother’s Day. Previously in this space, I have noted she has Alzheimer's and that she has lived with us for eight years now. Sadly, her disease has progressed over the past two years.

Some days are good as every time we eat Domino’s or Chick-fil-a, it is literally the ‘best’ she’s ever had. Nana experiences the goodness of everything each time. One can’t help but agree that being fully present when tasting food is not hard to do and it may even taste better if done so.

Some days are harder and are getting harder such as the days when she forgets me and my daughter Leah, only to learn her son has a wife and she has a granddaughter. It may be a happy moment when she discovers this, but often, the loss of this memory for her is devastating. Observing her brain struggle through the cobwebs, listening to her, and navigating the best words to help her in these moments takes my own brain matter and patience. I can only tell her we are here with her the whole way.

May 15 is Global Alzheimer's Prevention Day. The words I’m speaking here are literally meant for all of us. Whether we know someone who has a family member with Alzheimer's, or a caregiver, at some point, we may all encounter the devastation it causes. Having a deep understanding of what it’s like, I cannot ignore this platform to share my heart.

In my experience over the past several years, learning what I can about this horrible disease, I am convinced of a few things.

One, I believe it is preventable, and it takes the strongest of wills to be intentional with our health – to be in prevention mode. I have soaked up as much as I can about how lifestyle can influence our health – both now and more importantly, in the future. It boils down to how we manage our stress, how we move, eat, sleep, use our mind and how we connect with others.

Thankfully, there are many resources for learning about prevention. But doing it is another matter. Several areas I have done well in the past few years have been sleeping eight hours per day and my eating habits. Monitoring my response to stress has been a focus and my faith has been an anchor for me. Moving has been my largest challenge and it appears a critical component. During the pandemic, I made a commitment to read more and now I am always reading a fiction and a nonfiction book.

The second thing I am convinced of -- there are not nearly enough resources for the person moving through this awfulness or for the family who is caring for them. Is it possible that caregivers are at a higher risk for the disease themselves? I can’t help but think that is the case or other health issues, absent the intentionality and self-care needed. We simply cannot leave these folks behind, alone or their caregivers.

We all have experiences that place us in a position to advocate for a person, groups of people or an issue. Being in my role as director of United Way of Charlotte County, reducing isolation for seniors and increasing connectivity and access to services has become a significant priority for me but one as an organization is a must. Stay tuned for more information about our work in Ageless Engagement.  We are thrilled to announce that we have exciting updates and opportunities which aim to mobilize wisdom and experience.

We invite you to join a free caregiver workshop series beginning 5/22 by The Dubin Center.  The course is offered in small groups where you will meet other local caregivers who are learning and sharing the journey of caregiving with you.  

Learn more about Ageless United, the free caregiver workshop or other resources please visit: or call our office 941-627-3539.

This Mother’s Day, we want to take a moment to celebrate the strength of all individuals. We honor the power that lies within all of us. On this special day, we extend our heartfelt wishes for well-being and happiness.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at