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Miss Finger Lakes Partners with the Alzheimer’s Association BY TERESA A. GALBIER

From a series of spotlight interviews with Alzheimer’s Association supporters. The interview with Diana Marie Russo (DM), Miss Finger Lakes 2018, was conducted by Olga Monacell (O), Communications Manager of the Alzheimer’s Association. Music can enrich the lives of individuals who live with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Stud-ies have shown music may reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood.

O: Recently, I sat down with Diana Marie

Russo, Miss Finger Lakes 2018 and a senior at St. John Fisher College. She is also an Alzheimer’s advocate and a member of a Congressional Team representing the Alzheimer’s Association Rochester and Finger Lakes Region. I asked Diana Marie to share with us her personal story of bringing back memories through music and advocating for those who live with Alzheimer’s.

O: Diana Marie, tell us more about your grandmother.

DM: My grandmother Lydia lived her life

with purpose and found joy in spending time with her grandchildren. Although she passed away in June 2015, I began to lose her to Alzheimer’s dis-ease in October 2008. At that time, I was too young to understand my grandma’s diagnosis. I couldn’t comprehend why she didn’t remember how to bake her famous rolls or why she thought her husband of 60 years was an impostor. It didn’t matter that I was young, because Alz-heimer’s came quicker than time. When I finally understood that I lost my grandma, it was too late. It was too late to learn from my grandma, hear family history and share my accomplish-ments with her. But, I knew there was a moment when the disease did not define my grandmoth-er and I knew Alzheimer’s was actually the impostor.

DM:: Imagine forgetting your name, your family

and where you are. Your memories start to fade and all aspects of your life begin to disintegrate. 76


Your sense of self, your personality and your knowledge are suddenly lost and you are no longer in control. This happens to more than five million Americans today, and my grandma was one of them.

O: But you found hope? DM: My grandmother Lydia was an admirable lady who tried so hard to remember but couldn’t. One day, when I was visiting my grandmother, I turned on an old recording of Frank Sinatra. When Lydia heard the song, her eyes lit up. I could tell she wasn’t in awe of Sinatra’s charming voice. Instead, this woman was brought back to the Roaring Twenties and her glory days of fashion, flappers and the Ford Model T. Lydia’s memories matter. After Alzheimer’s disease took those precious moments from her, music brought them back. I found hope in music.

O: Once you realized that music helped you

establish a connection with your grandmother and bring back her memories, what did you decide to do?

DM: I decided to use my musical talents and

become an advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness. After my grandma passed away, I started playing my flute for people in memory care homes. When I visit people with Alzheimer’s, I notice the challenges they experience with the disease but also the positive and uplifting impact music can have on them. When individuals with Alz-heimer’s listen to music, they begin to remember rhythms and lyrics and express their emotions. Music is not only a form of entertainment for these individuals, but it is also a comforting and soothing experience.

O: Tell us more about the advocacy work you do on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association.

DM: Last year, I joined the Alzheimer’s

Congressional Team of the Rochester and Finger Lakes Chapter. As a team member, I will seek to advance the fight against Alzheimer’s disease through the federal policymaking.

DM:The care for people with Alzheimer’s costs the pubic billions. However, currently,

RWO March 2018  

Welcome to the March Women's History edition of RWO with the graceful and inspiring dancer Aesha Ash as our beautiful cover woman this month...

RWO March 2018  

Welcome to the March Women's History edition of RWO with the graceful and inspiring dancer Aesha Ash as our beautiful cover woman this month...