Debra’s Perspective – The Omaha Walk

Mike is a marvel. He goes out and talks and talks about his life with Alzheimer’s. I hear so many people talk about how brave he is, and I agree. I have also heard many people when hearing of Mike’s Alzheimer’s being very sympathetic towards his lot in life. “I am SO sorry to hear that diagnosis. Wow, that’s bad…” I absolutely understand both reactions. However, I come towards Mike’s diagnosis with a little bit of a curve thrown in. I am thankful for an early diagnosis.

1 in 9 Americans over 65 will have Alzheimer’s disease. Women get a double whammy. 60% of us are going to be the care givers on top of the fact that 1 in 6 women will get Alzheimer’s themselves. With this many people affected by a disease that scares us so badly we need to be pro-active and find some answers. And I mean we need to be pro-active NOW!

Dr. Ronald C. Petersen is one of the top researchers in the world of Alzheimer’s. He had been at Mayo Clinic for many years and now travels the globe to inform doctors on how to treat people with the disease. Mike was able to spend some time with him not long ago. Warm fuzzies all around with this doctor. He has only compassion and empathy for those he tries to help.

Research is the name of the game. Early diagnosis is the name of the game. These two things go hand-in-glove as far as I’m concerned. Dr. Petersen is all about research and early diagnosis. So, let’s jump in and get started.

Because Mike was able to get an early diagnosis he has improved his quality of life. We’ve changed our diets. He’s changed his exercise program. He has worked hard to get quality sleep every night. He has added large doses of DHA and green tea extract. He is still able to work puzzles and does so daily. He keeps working his brain. Why?

Well, because research is showing that we may not be as close to a cure as we would like but we are coming to an understanding on how we can live a longer quality of life with this disease. And believe me when I tell you we work each piece of this crazy puzzle!

Think about it like this….we know what we need to do to have a healthy heart. Of course we know this…kind of old news, right? Well, think about what a healthy brain diet can do for your brain. Think about all the things you can do for your heart. There is some cross over going on with this train of thought. I am not a doctor so I don’t know all the science that goes into the build up of plaque and tangles. But I do know that research is vital.

Please give some thought to your life and to the life of your loved ones. Chances are you will be affected with this disease. Give some thought to donating an amount to the cause. Personally, I would love to find a cure. But realistically I want more that I can do to help Mike with this disease. And research will help us with every new development we see as Mike’s disease moves ahead.

If you’ve stuck with me this long and you’re at the end of this post with me? I thank you! You are a good relative or friend. Your friendship means the world to us. So many of you are our best cheerleaders. I especially think about Mike’s mom who recently died. She was Mike’s biggest cheerleader. She is sorely missed. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your best wishes! We love you all!

Fight for Five is Walking to End Alzheimer’s. Donate today and help us reach our goal.

Omaha Walk To End Alzheimer’s

It’s walk time. Sunday September 25th will be the second time I have attended the Omaha Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in August of 2015. Last year the walk was important to me because it was a very public way to admit I had Alzheimer’s. As I stood on stage representing all those in attendance who were also diagnosed it became very real.

In the last year much has happened, my wife and I have been on TV many times telling our story. With the assistance of the Alzheimer’s Association I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many different groups. Between speaking, this blog and  appearances on TV, thousands of people have heard my story. We will continue on with the speaking engagements and this blog.

I have two lifelines as I journey through this life with Alzheimer’s, first, my wife has been supportive from the beginning. Always encouraging.

The second lifeline is Elizabeth Chentland, I am constantly inspired by her compassion, big heart, and endless support. The Omaha office of the Alzheimer’s Association is very fortunate to have such a dedicated individual. Debra and I don’t know where we would be today without Elizabeth.

This is the email I got from Elizabeth announcing the name of her team and asking me to join her.

I’ve decided it’s time to walk. To walk in honor of five people who have impacted my life and shaped my passion. Five of millions who have been impacted by Alzheimer’s.

In honor of:
1)  Ida “Lib” Herbrechtsmeier, former neighbor and long time family friend. Brilliant. Thoughtful. Lib was the first person I knew who battled AD. Deceased, age 96.

2)  Vivian A., former resident of a nursing facility I worked in. Her upbeat attitude, wide smile, and glistening eyes stole my heart at the ripe age of 16. Deceased, age 87.

3)  John Granzow, great uncle. World traveler and ice cream lover. Energetic. Positive. Deceased, age 79.

4)  Norma Okland, grandmother-in-law. Bowler extraordinare and PB&J master chef. Upbeat. Best smile. Deceased, age 81.

5)  Mike Hughbanks, partner in crime. Courageous advocate, wine lover. Genuine. Motivated. Living with AD, age 59.

You can join my team. You can donate to support me in my journey. You can fight for a cure with me.

Elizabeth and I will be walking Sunday fighting for a cure. If you want to know more about our team and the walk, here is the shortcut to our team page.

Fight For Five Homepage

Hope to see you at the walk!

Mike Hughbanks


After a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, your perspective on things change. You wonder about the things that you could be doing if you didn’t have this disease. I was diagnosed a little over a year ago. If I didn’t have this disease, I would still be working in a job that I loved, Debra and I would continue working on our projects around the house and traveling. This disease impacts every facet of our life, every day, almost all of the time. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining, I am not depressed, and I not whining about my life. All we can do is the best we can with what we have. I have a tremendous support system which brings me to the topic of my post today.

My family is very supportive, understanding, and helpful. One of my biggest fan and supporters has been my mother. Mom kept her calendar next to her computer which she kept up to date with my speaking engagements. The who,  where, and why were of much interest to Mom. She knew every detail of my Dr. appointments and the medications I was on. After an event, I had to Skype Mom with the details of how things went. On many occasions she would encourage me to continue speaking and spreading the word about this awful disease.

After Dad passed away in January, Debra and my relationship with Mom became even closer. We would Skype with Mom almost daily. We would talk about our day, what we were eating, a lot of small talk, but of interest to Mom was what I was doing with the Alzheimer’s Association. Our trips to Kansas to visit Mom were more regular. Mom missed Dad enormously and she was struggling to fill her day. She was so accustomed to caring for Dad, now that he was gone, she was in an empty house with a lot of time on her hands. It was hard for her to go from a fulltime care giver to having nothing to do. As I mentioned before in my post about Dad, I don’t know any two people more in love than my parents. I wish every family had the kind of parents that my sisters and I did.

I will never forget the Skype call I got from my sister. It was Monday July 11th. Mom was in the hospital for a routine outpatient procedure when the unimaginable happened. Something went horribly wrong and Mom did not survive the procedure. We lost Dad in January, now 6 months later, we lost Mom. Dealing with the loss of a parent is never easy, in this case, it was compounded by losing both parents in a very short window of time. I’m not sure how I would’ve handled these losses before Alzheimer’s, I just know that the grieving process now is very long. I didn’t have an immediate rush of emotions, it was more of a “Oh no, now what do we do”. Also, the questions started, “what happened?” Now my sisters and I had to deal with funeral arrangements.

Dad had cancer and we knew the eventual outcome, the cancer would win. Mom’s passing was unexpected, at least to us. Mom, however was prepared. She had a binder above her computer monitor with all of the details for her funeral down to the songs she wanted. The amount of detail she went to in preparing this guide for us was amazing. She told me the week before the procedure that she was “ready to go”. I in turn told her that we were not ready for her “to go”. She was trying to make it easier on us by having all of her arrangements preplanned.

I have been silent for the last two months because it has been very hard to deal with mom’s passing. The grieving process has taken almost two months. It seems that everything I did reminded me of Mom. If I went into the back yard to pull weeds, I would remember Mom commenting on how beautiful our yard was. Every time I went into the yard I would choke up. When I sat down at the computer, I thought of the times Skyping with Mom. On more than one occasion I went into the office at 4:00 and sat down and brought up Skype to talk to Mom, and then would remember that Mom was gone. I sat down to write this blog several times and was not able to do it, it was still too emotional.

Mom will never be forgotten, she will always be one of my biggest advocates. There is so much that I want people to know about Mom that just isn’t possible in this blog. When we Skype now with family, our cavalier Max (Mom called him her “granddog”) will come into the office waiting for Mom to whistle at him like she always used to do. He still barks if our Skype goes off late in afternoon, our appointed Skype time, he misses Mom also. We lost our Skype buddy.

As I close this post, my mindset has changed dramatically. Yes, Mom is still one of my biggest advocates, she is still with me in spirit. Now as I walk into the back yard, the memories are fond memories of Mom, not sadness. Maybe I am close to the end of the grieving process. In any regard, I still hold Mom and Dad close. They will always be inspirations to me. I also find comfort in knowing that Mom isn’t lonely any longer, she is with Dad.

I am back to speaking, and obviously writing my blog. I continue to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association. I am registered for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” here in Omaha. Our team is “Fight For Five”. Elizabeth (my Alz Association boss) and I are the team members. I have included the shortcut to our Walk Page if you are interested in our progress as a team. I will have another post shortly with more detail about the walk. It is good to be back online.

Miss you Mom.

Omaha Walk To End Alzheimer’s Mike Hughbanks Team Page