Pat Bowlen gives up control of Denver Broncos while he battles Alzheimer’s disease

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Photo Credit: Denver Broncos

It’s never easy to hear about a person falling to Alzheimer’s and this post is about a member of the NFL, family Pat Bowlen. He isn’t a former a player as we sadly hear about the many players succumbing to this disease or symptoms like it because of the hits taken throughout their career, no Pat is an owner, the owner of the Denver Broncos, a team that has the second-best winning percentage in the NFL, behind only the 49ers.

Bowlen was known as much for his humility as his competitive fire, doing his best to stay out of the spotlight even as he built a winning culture and a fan base that extends throughout the Rocky

and has been the CEO and owner since March 1984. My heart and prayers go out to the Bowlen family and to Pat for being open about his memory loss and for the journey he will soon embark.

Reported from ESPN:

 Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is giving up control of the team because of Alzheimer’s disease.

The 70-year-old Bowlen will no longer be a part of the club’s daily operations, the Broncos announced Wednesday. Team president Joe Ellis is adding the title of chief executive officer and will have final say on all matters.

“Today is a day of sadness for us, it’s a day of tremendous sadness for the Bowlen family, all of our employees, people around the National Football League, and this region and this community,” Ellis said during an afternoon news conference. “Pat wants us to do two things. He wants us to win, he’s always wanted that and will continue to want that. Also he’s always wanted everybody here to do things the right way.”

The Broncos say the ownership of the franchise is held in a trust Bowlen set up more than a decade ago in hopes that one of his seven children will one day run the team.

“As many in the Denver community and around the National Football League have speculated, my husband, Pat, has very bravely and quietly battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years. He has elected to keep his condition private because he has strongly believed, and often said, ‘It’s not about me,'” Bowlen’s wife, Annabel, said in a statement Wednesday.

“Pat has always wanted the focus to be solely on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner. My family is deeply saddened that Pat’s health no longer allows him to oversee the Broncos, which has led to this public acknowledgment of such a personal health condition,” she added.

“Alzheimer’s has taken so much from Pat, but it will never take away his love for the Denver Broncos and his sincere appreciation for the fans,” Annabel said.

John Elway, Hall of Fame quarterback and current Broncos executive vice president of football operations, also spoke at the news conference and had difficulty containing his emotions.

“It’s a sad, sad day,” Elway said. “Pat has been a mentor, somebody I’ve looked up to. I can’t say enough for what he’s done for me … and I know what this football team meant to him. Other than his family, it was the most important thing in his life.”

Business is expected to go on as usual at Broncos headquarters.

Bowlen had reduced his public appearances in recent years, although he was still a fixture at the team’s Dove Valley complex and at all of its games. After acknowledging in 2009 that he suffered short-term memory loss, he stepped back from day-to-day operations in 2011 when he promoted Ellis to president.

For the first time this offseason, Ellis represented the Broncos at the annual owners meetings. He previously worked as the Broncos’ marketing director from 1983 to 1985, then rejoined the team in 1998 as its executive vice president of business operations. In 2008, Ellis was named the team’s chief operating officer, and in 2011, he was named team president.

Under Bowlen’s guidance, the Broncos won six AFC titles and two Super Bowls. At 307-203-1, Bowlen and New York Giants founder Tim Mara are the only three-decade owners in pro football history to win 60 percent of their games.

The Broncos’ 186 home victories are the most in the NFL since the Bowlen family bought the team in 1984, when Elway was Bowlen’s quarterback, not his front-office chief, and the Broncos’ five losing seasons during those 30 years are the fewest in the league over that span.

Elway once said Bowlen’s competitive nature as a triathlete when he was younger translated into his business life “and how he ran the Broncos.”

Bowlen was known as much for his humility as his competitive fire, doing his best to stay out of the spotlight even as he built a winning culture and a fan base that extends throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

His style endeared him to employees and players alike.

“Words can’t express the love, respect & gratitude I have for Pat Bowlen. He set the standard for team ownership. Keep Mr. B in your prayers,” former Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey tweeted.

When Bowlen received the Mizel Institute’s 2013 Community Enrichment Award, Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe said, “I would be hard-pressed to believe that there’s an owner that cares more about his city, about his state, about his players than Mr. Bowlen does.”

Hall of Famer Gary Zimmerman said he realized Bowlen was a different type of owner when he signed up for a turkey his first Thanksgiving in Denver, thinking it was all a joke.

“Then I come into the locker room, and there’s Pat sticking turkeys into our lockers,” Zimmerman recounted.

During Peyton Manning‘s whirlwind free agency tour in 2012, Zimmerman said, he knew any other teams pursuing the four-time MVP were just wasting their time.

“I knew he’d be a Bronco before he did,” Zimmerman said, “because once he visited here and met with Mr. Bowlen, I knew there was no way he could go anywhere else.”

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold was included in this report.

The Beginning, The Middle or My Now…

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 This post is a submission for Caring Across Generations second #blog4care on Caring for Aging Parents. By sharing our powerful and personal stories, we hope to make a difference and create solutions  to the care crisis, together.

As I pondered on what I wanted to write for this post, the title is appropriate to my thought process. Do I discuss where I was as a caregiver (i.e. the beginning), the middle of that journey or where I am now and you know what I’ll give a little of all.

You see I am on the other side of caregiving, as my mother passed two years ago. I miss my mom terribly and would give anything to have her back, even those crazy, tough and teary caregiving days. Some people who are in the midst of it may say “I under you’re missing your mom, but the caregiving part too?!”

Yep that part too! In my posts I often talked about the tearful nights, mom’s behavior changes, challenges with getting financial assistance for a person who wasn’t rich or poor, lack of sleep and sadness, as I navigated new territory wondering when I’d have time to move forward in my life, because doing anything else other than caring for her and giving her 110% felt like a guilty thing to do. It seemed there was always some obstacle to tackle.  As with anything new, I learned how to manage that life. Caring for mom, making sure she was on a daily routine or making sure that I was on a daily routine rather, keeping up with errands, and taking her to doctor’s appointments became my norm, but also learning how to meet her at her level was a huge step for me.

I often blog about meeting a person with Alzheimer’s at their level because once this really clicks for you, it does give “you” the caregiver a better sense of control. It makes the role easier because you learn not to sweat the small stuff, you learn to make better decisions because you truly realize that no matter how much you want the former person you knew it’s not going to be. You have to find ways to present decisions to them easily that will make them feel engaged and that they feeling that they matter. Basically you make the decisions on the decisions they are going to or going to try to make.

Trying days yes, but now that I’m on the other side of the coin so to speak, it’s been challenging too but in a different way. Two years later and I still cry. I cry for mother and my father. He didn’t have Alz but it’s the emptiness of both parent’s gone. And I struggle with my next. Funny isn’t it. When I was a caregiver, I knew all of the things that I wanted to do when I was able to get mom secure some place and now that I am no longer a caregiver it’s all escaped me. I have new challenges and another new mindset to conquer.

When I see something or do something that I want to share with my mother, it hurts my hear that she is no longer around to share those things with. Holidays aren’t the same, how lost I felt that first Mother’s Day. I tried to get cards for friends and family members and couldn’t do it. Stores where’d I go to get items for mom gave me major anxiety when I’d go in there after she passed. Who knew? No one prepares you for that! I knew there would be a great loss, but I never expected not being able to handle going into a store.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is very much like the quote from Forest Gump, “…it’s like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re going to get”. You get mood swings, the eating challenges, the bathing challenges, and for some, the wandering challenges (thank I didn’t), but you also get times when funny things are said, you learn how to grocery shop quickly, and to think quickly on your feet.

When you’re in the midst of it really is the unknown path. I turned to blogging because I am a writer. I wanted to give a voice to my experience, once I got over feelings of embarrassment and not wanting to relive tough moments with mom, with learning financial systems and so on, but I knew there was a bigger picture, my experiences could help the next person.

I didn’t know where that would lead me, I just hoped someone would read my posts. And someone did and eventually my voice was becoming a bigger voice that started out for Alzheimer’s and is growing to be a big voice for the unsung hero…caregivers.

I don’t know my next, I have a list that I’m ready to conquer. I just hope that I can make a difference in someone else’s life.

To learn about my beginning, click here.

Communication

Elderly-friends

When I was caring for my mom, her doctor suggested to start communicating and meeting mom at her level. Initially you think you are meeting your loved one where they are at, but as time goes on you start to realize that giving decisions, words used, tone, how fast you speak, etc. all play into how you communicate with the person who has Alzheimer’s. Communication is how we relate to one another, how we express our needs, desires and perceptions, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.

As the disease progresses the communication of the person with Alzheimer’s will  face challenges in expressing thoughts and feelings. The person will be unable to understand what is being communicated as well as lose their ability for verbal expression. These challenges can lead to frustration and anticipating these changes and as mentioned learning how to communicate more effectively, i.e. meeting them at their level will allow you to make adjustments and you as the caregiver, family member and/or friend has to learn a great deal of patience.

Here are some problems that you can anticipate to see at different levels:

  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Using familiar words repeatedly
  • Describing familiar objects rather than calling them by name
  • Easily losing train of thought
  • Difficulty organizing words logically
  • Reverting to speaking a native language
  • Speaking less often
  • Relying on gestures more than speaking

And the best ways for you to communicate is to:

  • Watch your words
  • Call the person by name
  • Use short, simple sentences
  • Speak slowly and distinctly
  • Patiently wait for a response
  • Turn questions into answers
  • Avoid vague answers

These and other great tips can be found on the Alzheimer’s Association’s site as well as how they break down the different stages, mainly three, Early, Middle and Late. To learn more about the stages click on this link, to learn more about communication tips, signs and how-to’s, click on this link.

 

Pamela

Whoa, wait….I’m still here

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Hey Confessioners…hmm, maybe not the best nickname, but followers, friends and fans of  my blog, I am not lost. I have been going through the changes of life, still figuring out what my life is supposed to look like and yet learning, that in God’s time I will learn what my life is supposed to look like.

All in all, I’m sorry I’ve been so distant while thinking about what to write. I used to write about the caregiver life that was so challenging, but I’ve been echoing, that perhaps this post-caregiver life is a tad bit more challenging. I think it’s because not only do I have to deal with death, and all that comes with losing a loved one, but also what comes with re-creating a life from this loss. And while it may be easy for some, it has been more than stressful for me because I had to uproot and transition a lot in the past few years. Things seem to be simmering down, but there is a part of me that is a bit nervous about because I have been transitional, too transitional.

In the meantime, the blog and the caregiver voice it is becoming has been holding its own and I’m getting compliments, as mentioned made the finalist list again with SeniorHomes.com and some new opportunities have been offered to make my blog a stronger voice hopefully. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association in NYC and will be a Chair of a Committee to later be discussed.

July’s here, summer’s here….it’s 2014 – part deux, and time to ramp up my efforts and blog, blog, blog.

Sending love and patience to all caregivers and remember in the midst of the Alzheimer’s storm to communicate and meet your loved one where they are at. Stay tuned for some great things to do with a person who has Alzheimer’s.