Fired Up For Alzheimer’s Research
Dave & Nancy Griggs Will Take Some Heat To Raise Awareness About The Disease
BY ANITA NEAL HARRISON
Dave Griggs is a familiar name in Columbia. It starts the name of one of mid-Missouri’s largest flooring stores, and it belongs to a man who has served mid-Missouri in many prominent roles, including Boone County commissioner, board chairman for Regional Economic Development Inc. and board chairman for the Boone County Fire Protection District.
His experience with fire protection should come in handy next month. On May 29, the well-known Griggs is taking the hot seat for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter’s annual roast.
“Each year as we plan our annual spring fundraising event, we look for a ‘roastee’ who has been an outstanding community leader and, if possible, has a personal connection to Alzheimer’s disease,” says Linda Newkirk, executive director of Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter. “Dave and his wife, Nancy, have been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and have graciously agreed to tell their story in support of our mission.”
Dave and Nancy have several personal connections with Alzheimer’s. The mothers of three of Nancy’s bridge club friends have fought the disease, as did the mother-in-law of Nancy’s sister.
Then about a year ago, Nancy noticed her own mother having memory slips. These would happen during visits at the senior living facility where Nancy’s mother lives.
“We would talk about what was on the schedule for the next day — like I might say, ‘You’re having bingo tomorrow,’ which she really enjoys, and then the next day, she would have forgotten she had bingo, or she would say, ‘I don’t think so,’ ” Nancy says. “Or I would say, ‘Dave and I are going out for dinner tonight,’ and ten minutes later, she would ask, ‘What are you and Dave doing tonight?’ ”
Nancy’s mother, who is 93, realized she wasn’t remembering well and agreed to visit the University of Missouri’s Senior Assessment/Geriatric Evaluation (SAGE) clinic. The doctor who gave Nancy’s mom her diagnosis of mild dementia also gave the family an important tip.
“They immediately said, ‘If you want some resources, go to the Alzheimer’s Association,’ ” Nancy says. “So I contacted them, and they sent me a whole packet of information, and my sister and I enrolled in their educational program for family members, and it was just excellent — just excellent. We learned a lot about how to react when Mom is having memory issues and what not to do when Mom is having memory issues.”
For example, a normal reaction family members have when their loved one can’t remember something is to say, “Oh, Mom, I told you that,” but at the Alzheimer’s Association, Nancy learned all that response does is frustrate people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Because in their world, you didn’t tell them,” she explains.
Along with teaching family members strategies for better interactions, the classes also included information on the care Alzheimer’s patients need.
“Something the Alzheimer’s Association does that’s really important is help families become much better prepared and to have insights into what to expect and how to deal with this disease as it progresses,” Dave says. “Our understanding of what’s going on has certainly made this process a lot easier for us.”
As anyone who has dealt with a disease as serious as Alzheimer’s knows, the stress on caregivers can be overwhelming. Support is crucial, and along with gratitude for the Alzheimer’s Association, Nancy also expresses appreciation for her brother and sister, her and Dave’s friends and, especially, Dave himself. Nancy tries to see her mom daily, and Dave joins her about once a week.
“Dave’s really good to go with me so he can help me assess: Is she getting worse? Am I just not seeing it?” Nancy says. “And we talk out what I should do for her care. Also, I had to take over her finances, so I really depend on him to help me there.”
Dave and Nancy have been partners in life for 43 years, and both say what makes their marriage strong is their friendship.
“We truly like and love each other and share each other’s interests and do a lot of things together,” Dave says.
Nancy adds: “And the thing is, I may form an interest and say, ‘Will you go with me to this?’ and he will do the same.”
Those interests can definitely stretch each other. Take their trip in January, for example, when Dave asked Nancy to join him on a guided hunting trip in Texas.
“I’ve only had a gun in my hand a few times,” Nancy says, “but he took me down to Texas to hunt sandhill cranes, and I was up with the other hunters at 5:30 in the morning, setting up the duck blind and,” she concludes, laughing, “having a great time!”
Michele Batye has observed Dave and Nancy’s close friendship for 22 years while working at Dave Griggs’ Flooring America. Although Nancy did not work at the store — her career was in the Office of State Courts before her 2011 retirement — she and Dave often open their home and their Lake home to the employees for staff retreats, allowing Batye the chance to get to know them as a couple.
“Dave and Nancy have tremendously big hearts, and they are ambassadors for our community,” says Batye, who will be one of Dave’s roasters. “They give endlessly of their time with enthusiasm. I honestly don’t know how they do it every night and all weekend long. They spend time attending artistic and athletic events, galas and fund-raisers — with traveling and entertaining lifelong friends in between. I guess it’s what has kept them so youthful and vibrant through the years. That, along with some good stiff drinks.”
The jokes and teasing will continue at the roast, where local radio personality Tom Bradley and former Columbia City Manager Bill Watkins will join Batye in poking fun at her boss. Dave admits he’s feeling “a little apprehensive” about what the roasters will say, but he’s also expecting a fun evening.
Says Nancy: “I’m also looking forward to having a good time, but I’m also looking forward to it being over!”
This response gets a good laugh from Dave, and he continues to laugh as Nancy explains, “Being in the spotlight — I’m not that kind of person.”
“No,” Dave agrees, “but I have to tell you, she’s getting much more comfortable with it.”
No doubt the roasters will take care of that.
Roasters Michele Batye, Tom Bradley and Bill Watkins are looking forward to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Roast of Dave Griggs.
“What’s not fun about dressing up, having a few drinks and poking fun at Dave?” asks Batye. “For this affair you call it a roast, but at work we just call it happy hour!”
To the event planners, Batye advises: “Make sure there is plenty of red wine so Dave can blame his crimson cheeks on the alcohol instead of his embarrassment, and please make sure the venue has decent flooring or he will be in the back with management trying to sell them new floors instead of partaking in the fun.”
As for how he expects Dave to take the heat, Watkins says: “I expect Dave to fare medium-well. I don’t think he’ll be well-done, but he certainly won’t be rare.”
Bradley says: “Well, I hate to admit it, but I find it a real honor to be asked to roast Dave Griggs. He really is an incredible part of the community, and I’m proud to call him my friend. There — now that I have that out of my system, it’s roastin’ time!”
Join The Roast
The Alzheimer’s Association Roast of Dave Griggs will be held Thursday, May 29, at the Holiday Inn Executive Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and dinner will start at 6:30. Reserved tables cost $1,000, and individual tickets (open seating) cost $100. The evening will include dinner, a special video screening, a paddle auction and the roast.
For tickets, call 573-443-8665 or visit www.alz.org/greatermissouri.
Important News About Alzheimer’s
A study released just last month suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may be the third leading cause of death in the United States, instead of the sixth as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently reports.
The study, done by researchers at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, reports that death certificates of Alzheimer’s patients often list “pneumonia” or “heart attack” as the cause of death, without listing dementia as an underlying cause. But along with causing memory loss, the brain degeneration in Alzheimer’s also results in lost brain function for such tasks as breathing, swallowing and controlling the heart.
The Alzheimer’s Association emphasizes that Alzheimer’s is a progressive, fatal disease that causes brain cells to malfunction and die. Alzheimer’s disease has no survivors.
“Articles such as this help to determine the true impact of Alzheimer’s disease, which is important for raising awareness, guiding the public resource allocations and identifying research priorities regarding this epidemic,” says Linda Newkirk, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter.
The researchers estimated that 503,400 Americans over 75 died from Alzheimer’s in 2010, which is six times higher than the 83,494 number reported by the CDC. By comparison, heart disease was blamed for almost 600,000 deaths and cancer, for 575,000.