Annabel Bowlen didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s Disease until 2012, when she had an encounter with her father Pat Bowlen, former owner and CEO of the Denver Broncos. “I was a student at CU Boulder and went home to study for finals. I thought my dad would be excited to see me. Instead, he was confused and upset I was there. This was very uncharacteristic for him, and I didn’t understand what was going on until my mother pulled me aside and told me.”
After graduation, Annabel dedicated herself to the care of her father, who died of Alzheimer’s related illness in 2019. Today she is now caring for her mother, also named Annabel, who, in a cruel, but increasingly more common twist of fate, was diagnosed with the same disease just a year before the death of her husband.
On Tuesday, Sept. 14, from 5-7 p.m. Annabel Bowlen, known as “Little Bell,” to her family and friends, will discuss what life is like as a caregiver to loved ones navigating this disease, and how caregivers can prevent burnout, in an upcoming Health Series talk at the Renew Roaring Fork Assisted Living and Memory Care center in Glenwood Springs.
The two-hour event, according to Lee Tuchfarber, CEO of Renew Senior Communities, is intended to give guests (both in-person and via webcast) new information in the research of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related illnesses.
“So many people are feeling helpless because there are no meaningful pharmaceuticals that exist to treat Alzheimer’s,” notes Tuchfarber. “This discussion will highlight some of the new areas of research that are non-traditional and very promising. It will leave people with hope.”
Joining Bowen in the talk are two representatives from the Knoebel Institute for Heathy Aging at the University of Denver, executive director Dr. Lotta Granholm-Bentley and Dr. Eric Chess, founder and director of the Paul Freeman Financial Security Program at DU.
Dr. Granholm-Bentley has been working with Alzheimer’s disease for 30 years, focusing on new methods of early detection.
“What we look at is not just developing new medication, but how lifestyle changes can be effective in preventing or slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s,” she says. These include moderate exercise, stress reduction and a “Blue Zones” diet focused on Mediterranean nutrition. “These lifestyle changes are able to cut down the risk of Alzheimer’s by at least 50 percent,” she says. “Eating salmon three times a week increases lifespan by five years.”
One of the key advantages of the work being done at the Knoebel Institute is the cross-disciplinary studies that University of Denver provides. From social work, to business, to psychology, the study of Alzheimer’s disease and its eventual cure, Dr. Granholm-Bentley believes, will depend on several disciplines working together, in addition to healthcare, to find a way forward. Speaking to this component of Alzheimer’s research at the Glenwood event is Dr. Eric Chess, who’s research focuses on a specific, and surprising, early indicator of cognitive decline – financial decision making.
“The earliest cognitive indicator — impaired financial decision making – is often shown decades before any other symptoms,” says Dr. Chess. “Often it’s not the doctors, but certified financial planners, banks and credit card companies that see these decisions that don’t make sense. It’s here we see the earliest signs because financial decision making encompasses a wide array of cognitive tasks — risk assessment, personal implications, decision making, It’s a lot more than the math. You are using a lot of different parts of your brain, simultaneously.”
What: “Promising New Alzheimer’s Research”
When: September 14, 5-7 p.m.
Where: Renew Roaring Fork, Assisted Living and Memory Care, 2800 Midland Ave., Glenwood Springs
Speakers: Lotta Granholm-Bentley, Ph.D, Eric Chess, MD, JD and Annabel Bowlen
For in-person attendance registration, call (720) 679-5528. Event will be held outdoors. Proof of vaccination must be shown at the door. For webinar registration, visit www.renewsenior.com