Her husband's disease isn't covered by the VA. So she's sharing his story.

Alzheimer's disease can be brutal. Here's how one woman says we can help.

“Everybody has to die, but I wanted to die after the kids grow up," Jim Garner says in a video from 2013.

That video, posted to the Daily Press website, was recorded three years after Jim was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. In the two years since, Jim's condition has continued to deteriorate, and he's lost the ability to speak or write.


The Garner family, Mother's Day 2015. All photos from Karen Garner, used with permission.

A 23-year veteran of the Air Force, Jim and his wife Karen hoped the VA would pay for the care he needs.

"And although Jim is a 23-year Air Force veteran and retiree, he does not qualify for any support from the VA that would pay for the care he needs," Karen wrote in a Facebook post about why her family was not celebrating Veterans Day this year.

Jim and Karen, December 2013.

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides care for Alzheimer's patients — but there are conditions.

Late last week, I spoke with Karen over the phone, and asked why the VA refused care for her husband.

After all, the VA website has this to say about Alzheimer's care:

"Care for Veterans with Alzheimer's or dementia is provided throughout the full range of VA health care services. Depending on the Veteran's needs, services may include home based primary care, homemaker and home health aide, respite, adult day health care, outpatient clinic, inpatient hospital, nursing home, or hospice care. Caregiver support is an essential part of all of these services."

Jim on his 50th birthday.

According to Karen, Jim was denied assistance because his diagnosis came after he retired in 2005.

Because Alzheimer's runs in Jim's family, it wasn't considered a service-related disease. And because Jim's diagnosis came after he'd retired in 2005 — and because their household income exceeded the threshold to receive assistance — Karen and Jim are on their own.

"When Jim and I got married 18 years ago, I envisioned a life of travel, raising our children, and eventually growing old together. Jim is the one growing old, right before my eyes, seemingly aging years in days."

And while that income threshold might make sense for someone without a family to care for, Jim and Karen have two children. Jim's care costs around $4,000 per month. He is no longer able to work, and Karen is in the uncomfortable position of trying to financially support their family and care for her husband at the same time. In a blog post from July 2015, Karen details her experience battling what she calls a "broken system."

The Garner family, December 2014.

Upworthy reached out to the VA for clarification on these requirements but have not heard back.

Karen is tired of fighting the VA, but she refuses to give up — for Jim or anyone else.

She wants to help others with Alzheimer's. It's why she's such an outspoken advocate for Alzheimer's care, having spoken to legislators, conferences, and the media about raising awareness and pushing for additional research around the disease.

Karen and Jim, 2008.

"When Jim and I got married 18 years ago, I envisioned a life of travel, raising our children, and eventually growing old together. Jim is the one growing old, right before my eyes, seemingly aging years in days. Our future life we dreamed of isn't going to happen," she wrote in her Facebook post on Veterans Day.

"Instead, I have spent our last few years fighting — fighting to get a diagnosis. Fighting to get disability. Fighting for research. Fighting for a cure. Fighting to get financial assistance. Fighting to get quality care from the VA or anyone else who offers it. Fighting to keep my family together and in peace. Fighting to pay for Jim's new home. It has been an exhausting war and I just try to win as many battles as I can while knowing we are far from being done."

Karen and Jim, 1998.

Stigma keeps a lot of people from opening up about Alzheimer's. Karen wants to change that.

It's part of the reason she's been tracking her family's journey at MissingJim.com over the past two and a half years.

"There are so many people who don't speak up about what it's like dealing with Alzheimer's, and I wanted to fight that stigma," she told me. To her, it's important to share her family's stories, even if they are sad.

The Garner family, Christmas Eve 2009.

Karen has four suggestions to change how we treat Alzheimer's patients.

First and foremost, we need to make sure family and caretakers have the resources they need. As mentioned above, Jim's care currently runs around $4,000 per month (nearly $50,000 per year). That's not something most families can realistically come up with.

Second, we need to simplify dealing with insurance companies or government agencies. Karen detailed the hours spent filling out paperwork and applying for assistance. This problem is not unique to Alzheimer's patients. As anyone who's had to navigate the bureaucracy involved with health care can confirm, it can all be discouraging — if not entirely overwhelming.

Third, we need to get serious about funding research. A report from the Alzheimer's Association paints a grim picture for the future of Alzheimer's research. As other diseases such as HIV, stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, and prostate cancer claim fewer lives, Alzheimer's deaths have been on the rise. It's the sixth-leading cause of death in America, and it receives just a fraction of research funding compared to cancer, heart disease, and HIV.

Finally, and this one comes from Jim, himself:

Jim, November 2015.

Let's start with that last one, OK? Let's share the stories of people like Jim and Karen. Let's fight stigma.

Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture