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NEWBERRY ‒ The pandemic was hard on businesses and the economy in 2020, especially on small local businesses. For some family-owned small businesses, there was a small reserve of funds helping them survive during Covid-19 related shutdowns. Others were not so fortunate and were forced to close their doors. Yet others decided to take a chance, follow their dreams and start new businesses amid uncertainties.

The planned community of townhomes and single-family houses in Newberry’s Country Way Town Square was designed as a golf cart-friendly community next to Newberry High School. The concept was to provide not only a variety of housing in a community environment, but also to provide a retail area in the town center so residents could have services within walking or golf cart distance. It was also designed as an event and entertainment location that has hosted the Newberry Watermelon Festival and rodeos.

On March 11, Stonehouse Grill had a ribbon cutting to celebrate the restaurant’s opening. Although the eatery began serving lunch and dinners a month ago, the official opening was delayed until everything from the food to the service was in order. Jay Krecker and wife Katie are co-owners, and although this is their first venture into ownership, they have over 20 years of experience in all aspects of the industry, from bartending and serving to management.

“It's always been a dream of mine to operate my own restaurant with exceptional recipes and service, and this opportunity came up so we took it,” Jay Krecker said.

Krecker was the general manager of Gator Dockside for 15 years before making the move. His assistant manager there also joined him as general manager at Stonehouse.

“I had worked with Jay for almost 15 years and knew his capabilities in this industry, so when he asked me to come with him in this new venture I immediately accepted,” said general manager Jamie Sulecki. “I was not the only one; there were several other employees that left to work here with him.”

The extensive menu includes several selections of steaks, from prime rib to porterhouse, ribeye and sirloin. There are also a variety of burgers (including a vegetarian Beyond Burger), sandwiches, ribs, and seafood. Salad options also are available. The location offers outdoor patio seating as well as a full bar.

“Besides being a new and different restaurant for the general public, we want this to be a destination place for the community of Country Way to come relax and gather,” Sulecki said.

The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. The full menu is available at https://www.stonehousenewberry.com/

After eating steak dinners at the Stonehouse Grill Health, they can walk across the plaza to the other new business in the square. Because It Matters (BIM) is a 24-hour full equipped fitness center for cross fit training or traditional workouts. The gym is designed with easy-to-use strength and cardio equipment, a stadium-quality sound system and spacious locker rooms.

“I am a newbie at owning my own fitness business. But it has been a dream for most of my life,” said owner Slade Williams. “I got into fitness when I was 16 and on the school weight lifting team, and it’s been a passion ever since. I work out four to five days a week.”

Williams comes from a farming family and has lived in the area all his life. “My wife, Starla, and I have gotten to a position where we could finally afford to open a business. I have been friends with Tripp Norfleet who built the Country Way development and when he told me they were opening retail in the town square I decided it was time to take the opportunity,” Williams said.

“We made sure we have top of the line equipment including 30 pieces of cardio machines, treadmills, mechanical and free weights. We also offer classes, but to stay in compliance with the health guidelines, we are teaching them outdoors with social distancing between participants.”

Inside the building a UV Germicidal light treatment serves all air systems for top-tier cleanliness. Gym memberships range from $35 to $40 a month, and there is a 10 percent membership discount for military and first responders. Because It Matters Fitness is located in Newberry at 24850 S.W. 17th Place in the Country Way community. More information can be found at https://becauseitmattersfitness.com or by calling 352-660-3803.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Despite restrictions on events and crowds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 40th annual Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show (ACYFLS) is back for another year. This year marked the first time the event was held in Newberry at the former Canterbury Equestrian Showplace. The new site was purchased by Alachua County in 2019 for nearly $4 million. More than $8 million went into upgrading the facilities, and it was renamed the Alachua County Agriculture and Equestrian Center. The location will also be home to the Alachua County Fairgrounds, hosting events like the Livestock Youth Fair, which is the first major event held at the site.

According to former Alachua County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson, Alachua County had been searching for a new location for the fairgrounds and a new UF IFAS extension center for almost 40 years. “They kept it together with baling wire, duct tape and chewing gum, but their perseverance was ultimately rewarded, and here we are today,” Pinkoson said.

Since the initial ribbon cutting in October 2020, the following months were spent replacing and updating the site including the arena, buildings, railings, concrete, and restrooms as well bringing it up to current safety standards. The new facility has a 150-ft. X 250-ft. open-air pavilion with seating for more than 2,000. In addition to hosting the Youth Fair and equestrian events, the arena can host other events including festivals, rodeos, auctions, concerts and trade shows. The facility also has plenty of space for spectators to social distance in the stands.

On Friday, March 5, the new site came to life with the opening of the Alachua County Youth Fair & Livestock Show. The event is sponsored by UF IFAS and the ACYFL Association. The fair brings out hundreds of students who participate in 4-H and FFA in schools throughout the county to exhibit their pigs, goats, chickens and cattle they have raised.

On Saturday, elected officials from the surrounding area including the cities of Newberry, Alachua, High Springs and Gainesville, as well as U.S. Congresswoman Kat Cammack, and IFAS representatives gathered for a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting.

But before the ribbon was cut, these leaders teamed up with students for a farm animal “celebrity show.” Each pair dressed up a goat in comical clothing and competed to have their animal stand out against the others. After they were all dressed each one circled the rings for the spectators to see and cheer.

UF/IFAS Extension Director Cynthia Sanders thanked the City of Newberry for purchasing the property on which the UF/IFAS buildings sits. Sanders reminded the crowd that even if the kids participating in the youth fair don't become farmers, they will use the skills they learn at the facility in future accomplishments. “These projects they’ve been working on since school started back in August and September as well as the time it takes to raise the animals” added Sanders. “It’s really about the kids and exhibitors developing their life skills, responsibilities and citizenship skills that they’ll carry on for the rest of their life,” Sanders said.

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ALACHUA ‒ A new nature preserve in Alachua County has opened to the public. Turkey Creek Preserve, located behind the Turkey Creek subdivision in the city of Alachua, features 375 acres of protected woodland including several habitats, such as a basin swamp, depression marsh, dome swamp, upland hardwood forest, blackwater streams and sinkholes.

Four miles of Turkey Creek winds its way through the preserve that features almost five miles of hiking trails. It’s also home to a variety of wildlife, including several endangered species such as the woodland poppy mallow and gopher tortoises.

The opening of the park has been a long time coming. The area was historically used as cattle pasture land through much of the 1900s under the ownership of the Cellon family. Old cattle infrastructure is still present in the northeast corner of the preserve, including old sorting pens, the foundation of a cattle scale and a concrete ramp used to load cattle into trucks.

The property was purchased by investors as part of the Turkey Creek subdivision with plans to build Phase 2 consisting of 1,000 houses in addition to the 900 houses already built during Phase 1.

Alachua County bought the property in 2009 from the Gainesville Investment Group for $4 million using a combination of Wild Spaces Public Places funds and a $1.5 million grant from the Florida Communities Trust.

According to Charlie Houder, the county’s land conservation and management director, the Turkey Creek Preserve it took more than a decade to restore to its former glory because the area was in disrepair for years. The cattle fences had fallen down as well as trees and overgrown vegetation covered the area.

“The area had also become a dumping ground and we hauled tons of trash and metal surplus out of here, exotic plants that had to be removed and replaced with native species, we made the trails, built a bridge and a parking lot to make it accessible,” Houder said.

After a decade of work, the Turkey Creek Preserve was officially opened on March 1, 2021 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Speakers included Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman, Alachua County Commission Chair Ken Cornell, Alachua County Land Conservation and Management Director Charlie Houder, and City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.

“Turkey Creek Preserve is a wonderful addition to our conservation lands inventory,” said Cornell.

While the park is open to the public, another entrance is accessible within the Turkey Creek neighborhood providing a large nature area to explore for the residents. “The Turkey Creek Preserve is a place for residents to come exercise, explore exotic plants and wildlife. There will be no excuse for not getting out of your house and going for a really long walk,” said City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.

Visitors can check out five miles of marked trails, all of which are open to hikers. Select trails are open for off-road bicycling and equestrian use. There’s also a half-mile fitness trail with seven exercise stations. The Turkey Creek Preserve is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., October through March and 7 a.m.-8 p.m., April – September. The entrance is located at 6300 N.W. 93rd Avenue.

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ALACHUA ‒ Since 2007, W.W. Irby Elementary School in Alachua has sponsored an annual event that helps provide funds to the American Heart Association and helps teach the students about heart health.

In the past, all students would gather in the north end bus driveway to exercise and jump rope as a way to raise money and awareness. For several weeks prior to the event, teachers provide daily information about the heart, exercise and diet to the students so they can learn to make healthy choices. P.E. coach Jacqueline Johnson also teaches the children how to jump rope.

The students get sponsors among family and friends to donate money for their participation in the jump rope event with all proceeds going directly to the American Heart Association. This event also helps teach the students about charity and helping others. According to Vice Principal Karen Cronin, the event typically raises between $1,500 to $2,000, with all of it going to the American Heart Association.

This year was different due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We felt it was important to continue the tradition, but we had to get creative on how to pull it off,” Cronin said. “We wanted the children to still make the connection about the heart health and exercise, especially since physical activity is much more limited this year with the quarantine time and lack of social interaction outside of the limited time they have spent in school.

“We also wanted them to understand the idea of helping others and that we can all be part of that,” Cronin said. “But it was a priority to make it safe for the children as well, so we decided to do each grade separately during their resource time, which is scheduled at a different time for each grade.” They also changed the way they collected donations with more emphasis on parents donating online and less in-person collecting from family and neighbors.

Jumping spaces were marked out for each individual student to maintain social distance and all students and faculty wore masks. The exercise activities also helped maintain space with more emphasis on dancing and individual competition than all the students jumping rope together. As a finale, all students per class gathered in a circle, each holding a loop on a large “parachute” raising it up together to slowly descend multiple times to show the unity of working together.

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ALACHUA ‒ It was an evening of recognition at Alachua City Hall Monday as the Alachua City Commission held several special presentations to honor individuals who serve the community.

Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. was on hand as the Commission issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 8 Clovis Watson Jr. Day.

A lifelong Alachua resident, Watson grew up in the Merrillwood neighborhood, the fourth child of six in his family, attending elementary school in segregated Alachua County schools. As the tumultuous 1970s ushered in school segregation in the area, Watson was in the first class to be integrated in 1970.

As a teenager he worked packing fruit during the school year to help his father who had two jobs, and during the summer he was cropping tobacco and picking squash until dark for $10 a day to help pay for school clothes. He graduated from Santa Fe High School and later attended Santa Fe College where he received an Associate degree in Criminal Justice Technology. He continued his education, earning Masters Degrees and attended Harvard University as a Doctoral candidate in Business and Government Administration.

Watson worked for the City of Alachua Police Department, eventually rising to the rank of Deputy Chief of Police. He left his position at the police department when he was appointed City Manager of Alachua in 2002, a position he held until his retirement. Watson also served as an adjunct professor of state and local government at Santa Fe College.

He was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2012, where he was subsequently re-elected and served until he was termed out 2020. In 2020, Watson successfully ran for Alachua County Sheriff, defeating incumbent Sheriff Sadie Darnell with 59 percent of the vote in the Aug. 18 primary and ran unopposed in the general election.

Watson received a standing ovation from the audience after the proclamation was read by Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper. Watson spoke thanked the City for the honor, saying “What we have to do as leaders is help pull everybody up, to help recognize that they all have that same opportunity with drive, discipline, commitment, and education. I push that in every facet of my journey as a public servant. It is so very critical that we prepare the young people for the future and also pay homage to those who came before us to make all of this possible,” Watson said.

Referring to his role as sheriff, Watson said it is essential that in the law enforcement community, he and others command, not demand respect. He said it is crucial to have an open door, open ear, and open eye philosophy when leading, saying that his door is always open to hearing from the people he serves.

The Commission also honored local educators and the school crossing guards by declaring Feb. 9, 2021 as School Crossing Guard Appreciation Day for their role in protecting students from traffic on their journey to and from school.

Local Teachers of the Year were recognized representing each of Alachua's four public schools. The four teachers were accompanied by the principal of each school as they were awarded certificates honoring their work and dedication to their students. Alachua’s Teachers of the Year are Maria Tzounakos of Alachua Elementary School, Flo Bason of Irby Elementary School, Lisa Morris of Mebane Middle School, and Brian Barnhouse of Santa Fe High School.

State Senator Keith Perry was on hand delivering a preview of 2021 Florida Legislative Session, which runs March 2 – April 30, 2021. Perry said that while the cost associated with Covid-19 and lock down restrictions have severely impacted the local economy, businesses and state budgets, Florida is in much better shape than many other states.

Perry also spoke about the legislative process saying that the legislature considers up to 3,000 bills each session, although only some 200 bills will be passed and presented to the Governor for signature. “People can file whatever they want, it is up to the legislature to determine what is most important and affects the largest portion of the population.”

This session Perry is focusing on agriculture laws, criminal justice reform and early childhood education. Perry closed his remarks promising to keep local governments informed and welcoming their input on what their community’s needs are.

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NEWBERRY ‒ On Jan. 5, 2021, several dozen people joined together at a location known to some as Lynch Hammock to memorialize African Americans who were hanged at that site over a century earlier.

Florida was a different place in 1916. Much of the racial tension and animosity from the Civil War and its after-effects on the South still festered. There was no equality between white southerners and former black slaves and equal treatment under the law did not yet exist.

One of the ways African Americans were intimidated was the threat of mob violence, particularly lynchings. Florida had the second highest rate of lynchings per capita and Alachua County had the fifth highest rate in the state. While much of this history in the century after the Civil War has been forgotten, the memory of these events has remained in the oral history handed down in the African American community.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 19, 1916, Constable George Wynne, Dr. L.G. Harris, and G.H. Blount drove to Boisey Long's home in Jonesville to serve a warrant and question him about stolen hogs.

Gunfire was exchanged with Long, although it is unknown who fired first, and all three men were wounded. Long escaped while the other men were taken for medical help. Wynne's wounds were serious, and he died on the train to a Jacksonville hospital. Constable Wynne was related to the Dudleys, a long-time prominent family in the area, and a mob formed at their home.

During the search for Long, the mob seized six other African Americans in the area, most of whom were related to Long. James Dennis was suspected of hiding Long, and he was shot to death by the mob. Local law enforcement helped the mob round up five other African Americans and hold them in the Newberry jail.

The five were Dennis' brother, Gilbert, and his sister, Mary, who was pregnant and the mother of four; Stella Young, Long's partner and mother of his son; Andrew McHenry, who was Stella's brother; and the Rev. Joshua Baskin, a farmer and pastor.

The mob took them from the jail to the Newberry picnic grounds (W. Newberry Road and County Road 235) and hanged them. Over 200 people attended the lynchings. Long was captured two days later. He was tried on Sept. 7, found guilty by an all-white jury who deliberated only seven minutes, and sentenced to hang. Long was executed in the yard of the Alachua County jail on Oct. 27, 1916.

While the African American community was outraged about the lynchings, they did not have the law officials on their side. No arrests were ever made for the murders. A newspaper in Ocala reported that the coroner's jury had returned a verdict that the lynching victims had died in freak accidents, such as running into a barbed wire fence and bleeding to death, falling out of a tree breaking their necks or choking to death.

The incident became known as the Newberry 6, but faded from memory as time passed. The area where it occurred became known as Lynch Hammock and according to Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, there were other lynchings over the years at that location that led to its name.

Twenty years ago, Dr. Patricia Hillard Nunn researched the incident and brought it back into the limelight. She also started the Truth and Reconciliation Project to expose the history of intimidation and terror against blacks and helped to create a historical marker at the spot. It is unknown if the actual hanging tree still exists, but over the past few years, ceremonies have been held at the site in memory of those who lost their lives to the lynchings.

On Jan. 5, 2021, under a cold and rainy sky, the City of Newberry, Concerned Citizens of Newberry, the Rosewood Foundation and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) combined to hold a Soil Collection ceremony at the location in remembrance of the Newberry 6 and other lynchings that occurred in Alachua County.

Two mason jars for each of the six victims’ names were set on three tables along with two nameless jars to honor the other unknown victims of lynchings. The jars were set between red candles and surrounded by broken shards of pottery to represent the shattered lives of their families.

Despite the dreary weather, several dozen people attended the event. Stanley Richardson read a poem about how the lynchings changed his view of the large oak trees from beauty to symbols of murder and intimidation, with the tree itself a victim and tool of mob terror.

“All my life I heard whispers in bits and pieces among my family about the lynchings, never knowing the full facts until I was an adult,” Richardson said. Pastor Armon Lowery sang the classic Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit” that also speaks of the lynching trees and the bloody fruit they bare.

Keiana West represented the EJI, which is based in Montgomery, Alabama, and spoke about its mission to memorialize all victims of lynchings and how they have documented over 4,000 known incidents.

Other speakers included, Alachua County Commissioner Charles Chestnut, Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe and Warren Lee, who spoke on behalf of the victims.

As the song “Amazing Grace” was played, descendants of the victims scooped soil from the site into the jars, followed by attendees until each jar was filled. One of each victim's jars will be kept in Newberry as a memorial to their deaths while the other jar will be taken to a memorial to lynching victims in Montgomery.

The EJI maintains a collection of jars filled with soil from the sites of over 3,000 documented lynchings along with a black granite memorial in remembrance of all the victims. “While we have this documentation, we believe this is just a fraction of the violent deaths inflicted on African Americans from 1865 to 1950 to intimidate and control them. We want to make sure this history is not forgotten,” said West

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LAKE CITY ‒ The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)’s District 2 will begin a districtwide school zone safety improvement project that will include enhancements at more than 150 school zones across Northeast Florida.

 This project is part of a statewide effort to improve school zone safety in response to House Bill 493, passed during the 2017 Regular Session. This includes implementation of a specific, uniform system of high-visibility markings and signage within one-mile of all schools on arterial and collector roads.

As part of the $1.5 million project, FDOT District 2 will upgrade 141 school zones in 13 counties with enhanced school zone signage and, in some locations, flashing beacons. Those counties are:

  • Alachua, 6 school zones
  • Baker, 1 school zone
  • Bradford, 3 school zones
  • Clay, 15 school zones
  • Columbia, 6 school zones
  • Duval, 67 school zones
  • Gilchrist, 1 school zone
  • Levy, 3 school zones
  • Nassau, 10 school zones
  • Putnam, 13 school zones
  • St Johns, 9 school zones
  • Suwannee, 3 school zones
  • Taylor, 4 school zones

FDOT has hired ACME Barricades to handle the work on the project and expects it to be completed by Summer 2021.

Upgrades at each school zone are expected to take less than a day to complete, and then crews will move to the next location. Minimal traffic impacts are expected during construction hours.

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) announced today the top toys for the holiday season. According to a survey completed by the National Retail Federation, the most popular toys among both boys and girls are LEGOs and Playstation.

"Floridians and Florida businesses have continued to weather the unforeseeable challenges of 2020," said Scott Shalley, FRF president and CEO. "Florida retailers understand the value this holiday season holds after an especially difficult year. This is why our businesses have invested time and care to implement holiday health protocols and stock up on inventory. Shoppers can remain excited about the holiday season while safely shopping for gifts for their friends and family."

Life has changed drastically since the start of 2020, but in the eyes of children during the holidays, the excitement of new toys have remained the same. Barbies and dolls remain the top toy of choice for girls, while boys are looking forward to Hot Wheels, cars and trucks and video games this holiday season.

The most popular toys for girls and boys, ranked, also include: 

Girls

  1. Barbie
  2. Dolls
  3. LOL Surprise Dolls
  4. LEGO
  5. Frozen-related Items
  6. Beauty Products
  7. Apparel/Accessories
  8. Baby Dolls
  9. PlayStation
  10. American Girl

Boys

  1. LEGO
  2. Cars and Trucks
  3. Hot Wheels
  4. PlayStation
  5. Video Games
  6. Xbox
  7. Nerf
  8. Nintendo Switch
  9. Marvel Action Figures/Toys & Remote Control Car
  10. Paw Patrol

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect Americans, consumers are looking to ensure their families have a memorable and merry holiday this year. The Florida Retail Federation is asking residents to think and shop local when making holiday purchases. 

"As shoppers plan to spend on gifts in order to lift the spirits of their loved ones, remember to 'Find It In Florida' first," said Shalley. "We ask you to shop at businesses that have a presence here in the Sunshine State and help support the Florida retailers that help Florida jobs, Florida families and Florida's economy." 

The Florida Retail Federation launched the "Find It In Florida" campaign last month to spread public awareness on the importance of shopping locally. When Floridian shoppers  "Find It In Florida" this holiday season, they are helping to keep doors open, boost the local economy and support their communities. 

Florida's retailers began holiday preparations as early to provide ample inventory for shoppers. Their proactive response to the pandemic has also provided consumers with safe access to meet their holiday shopping needs, including safely shopping in stores, curbside pickup and online ordering options.

Another survey shows 42% of consumers began their holiday shopping earlier this year, with 59% reporting they started making purchases in early November. Of those purchases, some of the most popular holiday gifts include: 

  • Clothing and accessories - 54%
  • Gift cards and gift certificates - 49%
  • Toys - 37% 
  • Books and other media - 34% 
  • Food and candy - 28%

Similar to 2019, consumers plan to purchase around three to four gift cards and spend about $163 per consumer this year.

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ALACHUA - COVID-19 cases continue to surge around the country, so this year’s holiday season may be quieter than usual. Gone are the guests, but there are still plenty of seasonal things that can be troublesome for your pets. Human holiday traditions such as food, decorations and plants that may seem harmless can be dangerous and even life-threatening to dogs and cats.  

“Our pets are naturally curious and love new things. The holidays provide a whole new world for them to explore that can lead to a potential illness or injury,” said Erin Katribe, veterinarian and medical director, Best Friends Animal Society. “Since many veterinary offices have limited hours and services during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s crucial to keep your pets as safe as possible, as a trip to the vet won't be as easy as in previous years.” 

As such, Best Friends Animal Society offers the following tips to keep your dogs and cats safe during this holiday season:   

  • Be aware that increased noise and lights can cause stress. If your pet seems agitated, turn down the music or consider placing your pet in a quiet, calm room with dim lighting. 
  • Curb the tendency to give your dog or cat human food. Any change in your pets' diet may give them indigestion, diarrhea or worse. Foods that people should avoid giving their pets include chocolate, grapes, onions, poultry bones, eggnog and fruitcake.  
  • Dispose of food trash in an outside receptable as soon as possible.  
  • Holiday plants such as lilies, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are known to be toxic to pets and should be kept out of reach. 
  • The water a Christmas tree sits in is a breeding ground for bacteria and can be extremely harmful to pets. Keep water covered with a thick skirt so pets can’t get into it.  
  • Tape electrical cords safely to the wall and make sure that all electrical connections, batteries, and outlets are concealed. 
  • Tinsel, ribbon, metal hooks, plastic and glass can obstruct or perforate the intestine if ingested. Use an alternative such as paper and hang decorations out of reach from your pet. 
  • Quickly dispose of wrapping paper, packages and bows after opening presents and put children’s toys out of reach of pets after playtime to avoid accidental ingestion. 
  • Make sure your pets' identification and microchip are up to date in case anyone inadvertently leaves the door open during your holiday celebration. 

Some symptoms that your pet has become ill and should be taken to a veterinarian quickly include prolonged vomiting (more than three times in a row), dry heaves, a distended abdomen, sudden weakness or inability to stand, respiratory distress, change in gum color and/or seizures.  

“Pet owners should make a plan now in case their pets have an emergency over the holidays,” Katribe said. “Start by researching what veterinary offices will be open in your surrounding area and keep a list of their phone numbers handy to call ahead if your pet shows any symptoms.”

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ALACHUA ‒ As the baby boomer generation rapidly approaches retirement age, the U.S. is projected to experience a radical demographic shift. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about one in five residents in the U.S. will reach retirement age (over 65) by the 2030s. For the first time in U.S. history, seniors will soon outnumber children under 18.

This aging of the population will have far-reaching economic and social ramifications, especially when it comes to healthcare needs. Specifically, diseases that typically affect the elderly will become more prevalent in the U.S. One of the most common illnesses among people over the age of 65 is Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is a neurocognitive disorder that affects a person’s memory. Alzheimer’s typically starts with mild memory loss and sometimes progresses to hindering a person’s speech, thought process, and ability to respond to his/her surroundings. It is an agonizing decline for both the patient and the family as they slowly lose their memory and recognition of their loved ones. The exact cause of the disease is unknown and it currently has no cure.

Currently more than 5 million Americans, accounting for 11 percent of adults suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The onset of the disease usually occurs after the age of 60, and the risk of Alzheimer’s increases significantly with age. Unlike other medical conditions associated with aging, such as heart attacks, strokes or cancer, the development of Alzheimer’s disease is often a much slower insidious process. But the disease can still result in death. In 2017, more than 120,000 deaths were a result of Alzheimer’s disease. Of these cases, 80,000 were among Americans over the age of 85.

Alzheimer’s effects go far beyond the mortality rate. It's financial burden on society and families of the patient can be devastating. Not only does the disease affect individual patients, but also their family members and taxpayers who fund government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that in 2018, the total cost of treating Alzheimer’s disease—including assisted living facilities, home health care, and other medical treatment—was around $277 billion. The association estimates these costs will more than double by 2035 and continue rising as the 65+ population reaches more than 85 million by 2050.

Florida has the third highest Alzheimer rate in America and affects 13 percent of the 65 or older population. People may live eight to 10 years after diagnosis, with some living as long as 20 years.

For the past 30 years, a nonprofit organization called Compassion & Choices has been working to improve patient rights and individual choice at the end of life, including access to medical aid in dying. Its primary function is advocating for and ensuring access to end-of-life options and allowing the patient to determine whether they want continued medical care in the condition they are in.

The organization provides end-of-life consultation for dying patients and their families at no cost. Professional consultants and trained volunteers work by phone or in person to offer assistance in completing advance directives, make referrals to local services, including Hospice and illness-specific support groups, advice on adequate pain and symptom management, and information on safe, effective and legal methods for aid in dying. But planning for end-of-life care with dementia should happen earlier before a dementia diagnosis, or at the early stages of a diagnosis, before thinking and speaking abilities fail.

Compassion and Choices President/CEO Kim Callinan became an advocate for the organization due to her own experiences. She watched her grandmother slowly lose all cognizant abilities and face critical health issues while prolonging the process through medical intervention. “We didn't recognize that we were simply extending the time because we were refusing to let her go even though she had no idea who we were.” Later she had the opposite experience when her grandfather passed in Hospice with an advanced directive to stop medical care when the conclusion was it would not improve life, but simply extend his suffering. “We were able to be there with him while he could still relate to us as he passed,” Callinan said.

Callinan spent much of her professional career as a communications and social marketing expert but felt that she needed to do something geared more toward helping individuals and families cope with long-term health issues. Her experience with her own family shaped the direction she wanted to go with a nonprofit agency. Five years ago, she joined Compassion and Choices to advocate for letting people choose their own path in the fight against Alzheimer and dementia.

The program allows patients and families to make advanced directives on how they want to control their end of life. Advance planning involves making thoughtful decisions, putting them into a written advance directive, and discussing those decisions with loved ones and healthcare adviser, someone they can trust to advise medical providers about care preferences if the patient is unconscious or mentally incapable of speaking for yourself.

To help families and patients determine what and when to make these critical decisions, Compassion & Choices has developed an online program called Dementia Values & Priorities Tool, to address the reality of the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s.

Through a series of questions, this free online resource helps patients and families identify and document their care preferences in advance of a dementia diagnosis. It then creates a dementia health care directive to attach to an advance directive, so their health care proxy can carry out their personalized care plan.

Creating a dementia-specific advance care plan lifts the burden off of loved ones or patients to make difficult decisions when they can no longer speak for themselves. It helps people determine their healthcare wishes in advance, should they be diagnosed with dementia and allows people with dementia to stop medical treatment if they want, so they can die naturally if that is their wish.

A second online tool is the Dementia Decoder which allows patients and caregivers the ability to generate specific questions for doctors, nurses or other health providers. The questions are designed to get them the complete information they need to deal with Alzheimer’s. This tool also addresses other fatal illnesses like cancer so the patient can be fully informed on their condition.

“Our goal is to provide information that most people would not know how to address and to control their own end of life decisions and not prolong their suffering,” Callinan said. Information on both these tools can be found at the organizations website at: https://compassionandchoices.org.

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TALLAHASSEE — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced $50 million for more than 20 statewide springs restoration projects to aid the recovery and provide additional protection for Florida’s springs. These projects work in concert with increased monitoring, enforcement, and other measures to ensure compliance with best management practices implemented under the Governor’s leadership to improve water quality across the state.

“Florida’s springs are integral to both our economy and environment,” said Governor DeSantis. “Our state is home to more large springs than any other state in the nation and they serve as a fun source of recreation for our residents and visitors to enjoy. The projects announced today continue our mission to restore and protect our water quality throughout Florida.”

“Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEP is engaged in a broad suite of water quality improvement efforts across the state,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Of particular importance to the state are those projects tied to springs restoration. This diverse selection of projects will be complemented and enhanced by Department initiatives to increase facility inspections, water quality monitoring, and enforcement.

“Florida’s springs are among our most precious water resources,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazer. “They reflect the quality of our drinking water and nourish some of the most iconic surface waters in the state. The projects announced by Governor DeSantis today are intended to increase spring flows and improve water quality so that these springs systems and the resources that they support can be accessed and enjoyed by generations to come.”

Springs provide a window into Florida’s vast groundwater system and are a barometer of the condition of the state’s primary source of drinking water. DEP and four Florida water management districts have identified a broad suite of projects that include land acquisition, septic to sewer conversion, and water quality improvement efforts, intended to increase aquifer recharge, improve spring flow, and protect downstream habitats all the way to the coast.

Many of the projects will benefit ongoing restoration efforts in springsheds. These restoration efforts reflect a collaborative effort with the department, water management districts, community leaders and local stakeholders. The contributions and cooperation of these agencies and individuals have been crucial throughout the development process. Combining and leveraging resources from various agencies across Florida allows for a more efficient and comprehensive restoration effort.

The more than 20 statewide springs projects include:

Northwest Florida Water Management District:

  • $1.1 million to extend central sewer service to the Tara Estates neighborhood located north of Marianna, including abandoning septic tanks proximate to the Chipola River.

 “We are so excited to help carry forward Governor DeSantis and DEP’s unparalleled commitment to the long-term improvement and protection of Florida’s priceless springs and other water resources,” said Brett Cyphers, Executive Director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. “The district, like the governor, is focused on tangible solutions and we are grateful for the opportunity to help deliver results.”

Southwest Florida Water Management District: 

  • A total of more than $8.3 million for projects in Marion County that will help protect Rainbow Springs, including Burkitt Road Septic to Sewer, Northwest Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion, Oak Bend I-75 Water Quality Improvement and the 180th Avenue Package Plant Abatement. 

“Improving our five first-magnitude springs is a top priority for our District,” said Brian Armstrong, Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “Thanks to the ongoing financial support from the Governor, the Legislature and DEP for springs restoration, we are launching a new initiative to fund septic to sewer conversion projects that will reduce nutrients and improve the health of our springs.”

St. Johns River Water Management District 

  • $1.1 million for the Apopka West Reuse Storage Facility and Reclaimed Water Extension projectthat will provide nearly 3.48 million gallons per day of reclaimed water, benefiting Wekiwa and Rock springs.

“Protecting Florida’s springs is among our state’s highest environmental priorities,” said Dr. Ann Shortelle, Executive Director of the St. Johns River Water Management District. “The Governor’s increased focus is providing historic levels of funding to bolster district and local funds and enhancing our joint environmental initiatives. We are also grateful for FDEP’s commitment to helping us fund projects improving the health of Florida’s springs and their ecosystems.”

Suwannee River Water Management District

  • A total of more than $2.3 million for the acquisition of more than 3,600 acres of land to protect springs in Columbia County Grasslands (Ichetucknee Springs), Devil's Ear Springs Recharge (Ginnie Springs Group), Santa Fe Springs and Sawdust Spring (Sawdust and Devil's Ear springs). The acquisition of these lands will help improve aquifer recharge potential, enhance recreational opportunities and protect native species.

“As Florida’s Springs Heartland, it is critical for us to focus on the health of our springs and connect with our community partners to accomplish that effort. Funding these projects will help protect and restore our natural systems,” said Hugh Thomas, Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District. “Thank you to Governor DeSantis, the Legislature and Florida Department of Environmental Protection for leading this initiative to protect our water resources.”

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ (DOEA) Serving Health Insurance Needs of the Elderly (SHINE) Program has received multiple reports of Medicare phone scams involving Durable Medical Equipment (DME). The Social Security Act prohibits suppliers of DME from making unsolicited telephone calls to people on Medicare. The reports indicate people have not only received unwanted sales calls, but other people have received unordered supplies including back braces. One case involves a person receiving twenty different items from five different companies.

People on Medicare should be aware that DME sent by a supplier needs to be prescribed by their doctor. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), fraudulent telemarketing and DME supplies contribute to the estimated $60 billion in fraudulent Medicare payments each year. To help put a stop to unsolicited calls and unordered supplies, you may consider the following actions:

  • If you receive a call that pressures you to buy medical equipment you don’t want or need, simply HANG UP.
  • If you receive items in the mail you didn’t order, refuse the delivery or send them back and report it to your local SHINE Senior Medicare Patrol Office at 1-800-963-5337.

With your help, we can stop Medicare fraud one case at a time.

SHINE is a program of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and is operated locally through Elder Options. Senior Medicare Patrols (SMPs) empower and assist Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers to prevent, detect, and report heath care fraud, errors, and abuse through outreach, counseling, and education. To receive help from SHINE, please arrange to speak with a trained SHINE counselor at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337). For a listing of SHINE counseling sites and enrollment events, please visit www.floridashine.org.

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In the early 1900s on the south side of Chicago at a local tavern called the Lone Star Saloon, a well-to-do customer walked in and ordered a drink. The bartender prepared the drink as usual, but covertly included William Garst HSan additional substance to it. He then nodded to the barmaid and prostitute, “Gold Tooth” Mary Thornton, who served it to the unsuspecting customer, who was soon rendered unconscious. He was then robbed, and other local patrons dumped him in the alley at the back of the Lone Star. After a considerable period of time the stranger woke groggy, confused, and unable to remember what happened. This scenario played out many times, but finally the saloon manager was caught. His name was Michael Finn (nicknamed Mickey) and the substance added to the drink was chloral hydrate. Thus, chloral hydrate knockout drops became known in American vernacular as the “Mickey Finn” or “Mickey” for short.

The story of chloral hydrate began many years earlier in 1832, when Justus von Liebig synthesized chloral hydrate in his laboratory. Von Liebig was a German scientist who made major contributions to agriculture and biological chemistry. He was one of the principal founders of organic chemistry and considered the “father of the fertilizer industry.”

Chloral hydrate is considered the first “sleeping pill” because it has very few actions other than causing drowsiness and sleep. However, more than being the first in the class of drugs known as hypnotics, it was the first completely synthesized and widely used drug. Presumably it never existed on earth in any form until it was made in the laboratory, and in the early 1800s this was a big accomplishment because up until that time all drugs were from a natural resource and no one believed that a chemical outside of nature would have effects on a living being.

In the 1850s it was discovered that chloral hydrate could be converted into a sweet-smelling liquid called chloroform, the fumes of which could render a person unconscious. The substance was used to sedate people for surgery because it could be administered by being inhaled into the lungs. However, it was difficult to use during surgery and too much could be given resulting in many accidental overdose deaths.

Chloral 

hydrate is a solid at room temperatures, but quickly dissolves in alcohol to form an easily administered liquid. Thus, during the 1800s chloral hydrate became a popular “party drug” and was known to be the first “date rape” drug.

Today chloral hydrate is still available but only as a compounded medicine (made in a pharmacy) from crystals because it is not produced commercially any longer by a pharmaceutical company. Barbiturates (phenobarbital) in the early 1900s, and benzodiazepines (Valium and Librium type drugs) in the 1960s replaced the use of chloral hydrate for use as sedation medications, though as late as the 1990s it was still used in hospitals to sedate children before a procedure. It is rarely used anymore, but when used must be compounded by a local pharmacy or hospital pharmacy.

In an earlier column I noted that the difference between a harmful substance and a beneficial medicine is the dose. Too much of the substance is harmful, but the right amount can have beneficial effects. In this case, the difference between a substance used for harm and a beneficial medicine is the intent of the use.

Stay informed and stay healthy.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who resides in Alachua, Florida. He received his B.S. in Pharmacy from Auburn University in 1975. He earned a master’s degree in Public Health in 1988 from the University of South Florida, and a Master’s in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007 he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. Dr. Garst is a member of many national, state, and local professional associations. He serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board and stays active as a relief pharmacist. In 2016 he retired from the VA. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). William Garst can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Each year, thousands of Florida children enter foster care due to domestic violence.

And each October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, children's advocates like me remind the public that this scourge devastates children, families and communities – and we must respond.

For children, witnessing intimate partner violence can cause lifetime harm. It makes them more prone to addiction and at greater risk for dating violence, academic problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, aggression, and chronic physical health and developmental problems. They find it harder to interact well with peers, partners and, ultimately, with their own children.

They worry about the safety of their parents – which no child should have to do. Yet millions of children witness the abuse of a parent or caregiver each year. And males who batter their wives batter their children 30 to 60 percent of the time.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement data for 2019 show 105,298 domestic violence incidences and 66,069 domestic violence arrests. That year, according to the Department of Children and Families, there were 87,546 allegations of household violence or intimate partner violence received by the Florida Abuse Hotline.

In the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties, there were 169 dependent children from violent homes in the system as of August.

We also know violent households often involve substance abuse or mental illness as well, and that the combination heightens the harm done by each. What's more, child witnesses of intimate partner violence are at increased risk to become abusers or victims themselves.

So the cycle must be broken, and that is what we are trying to do at the Guardian ad Litem Program. We know the single most critical factor in how children weather their exposure to domestic violence is the presence of at least one loving, supportive adult in their lives.

Guardian ad Litem volunteers represent abused and neglected children in dependency court. We know their challenges. We also know children can recover from trauma given the right services and supports, and we advocate for trauma-informed, evidence-based screening, assessment and treatment.

We also work to support the child's relationship with his or her non-offending parent. For most children, a strong relationship with that parent is a key factor in helping them heal.

And as their advocates, we work to tell children the violence is not their fault and to show them they are lovable, competent and important.

Help us break the cycle.

To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or become a volunteer, please contact Riley Ashmore-Volunteer Recruiter at (352) 384-3167 or visit www.GAL8Circuit.org.

To get help, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119, or find your local domestic violence program at www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/domestic-violence/map.shtml. Florida's 41 certified domestic violence centers served more than 10,000 victims between March and June 2020, and they remain open and available to serve.

Angela Armstrong, Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director

for Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties

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During this very stressful time—not only in Alachua, but all over the world—we have been forced into situations that we have never faced before, and I would like to say, “thank you” City of Alachua and “The Goodlife Community” for your patience, understanding, and most of all, your great common sense.  

I’m so proud to be your mayor and want to say, “Please keep up the wonderful work you have accomplished so far.”

Gib Coerper

Mayor, Alachua, Florida

Editor’s Note: High Springs Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham is also the Emergency Management Coordinator in High Springs, a position he has held for nine years, and he is the key contact between the City and other agencies regarding the Coronavirus. He meets remotely with Alachua County Department of Health three times per week, the Department of Health EMS twice weekly and the Florida Fire Chief’s Association weekly. He is knowledgeable about the Coronavirus pandemic, and periodically he will be writing about the pandemic and updates on best practices.

“Uncharted territory.” “Unprecedented times.” “Flatten the curve.” All phrases we have heard way too often. COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. Businesses have closed. There are now lines at grocery stores and millions out of work. To a certain extent, a modern day Pearl Harbor: “A [time] which will live in infamy.” (President Franklin Roosevelt)

As we continue to learn about this deadly virus, I encourage us all to do our part. The Stay-At-Home order is in place to protect your family and mine. Unless you need to travel for essential purposes, such as grocery shopping or going to an essential job, try to stay home. The only way to prevent the spread of this virus is to wash our hands often, wear a mask when in public and maintain social distancing.

As a department, we are taking extra steps to ensure our firefighters remain healthy and safe. Our lobby remains closed and new cleaning procedures, both for equipment and our personal gear, are in place.

While we manage a new normal, we are also trying to focus on a certain area of our community that is impacted the most by COVID-19—our seniors. Those are the people who may live alone, and who now find themselves in near total isolation with the cancellation of countless services and programs once available to them.

We recently launched the Caring Card Drive. With the help of members of our own community who are creating thoughtful and encouraging “caring cards,” we plan to deliver these cards to those in need in an effort to bring a moment of joy, and to remind them they have not been forgotten. This is the perfect activity to do with the kids. Cards can be big or small, simple or elaborate. Cards can include a saying, positive words, a poem or whatever card creators think fits best. A bin has been positioned outside of the main High Springs Fire Station lobby as a drop off location for cards. The address is 18586 N.W. 238th Street, High Springs.

In closing, let us remember to all do our part. We are in this together and we will persevere.

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During this time of crisis, America’s courageous patriots in uniform still deserve our utmost respect and admiration for keeping us free and safe from the bad guys of this world.

They are fulfilling an undying and faithful commitment to ‘'duty, honor, country” for every American no matter how they look or what they believe.

Today, these military heroes are joining countless millions of other American heroes in the brutal war against an adversary we call “Coronavirus or COVID-19.

The list of these patriotic heroes is long and consists of American warriors from every walk of life. They include:

  • Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers and support personnel,
  • Hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies,
  • Law enforcement and first responders,
  • Truckers and warehouse stockers,
  • Supermarkets and local grocery/convenience stores,
  • Restaurants and fast food chains who are finding creative ways to feed us and provide some degree of normalcy in our lives,
  • School systems for developing creative methods to teach our children,
  • Volunteers who are courageously putting others above self,
  • Corporations and small business who are “retooling” operations to make respirators, masks, and other personal protective equipment,
  • City, county, state, and national government bodies,
  • Broadcast and print media outlets, and
  • The millions of Americans who are faithfully committing to “social distancing” to combat the spread of this insidious and deadly disease.

Got the picture? We are all in this battle together. Sadly, just like every other war: “Some are giving some while others are giving all.”

Let us continue together as “One Nation Under God” in faithful commitment to “duty, honor, country” in fighting this war against humanity.

I am confident we will defeat this brutal enemy and come out stronger with renewed respect for one another. I know we can do it; I have to believe; I can do no other.

God Bless America!

Robert W. Wilford

City of Alachua

There is no legitimate argument for making this change now and sending government further into a black hole and out of the light.

If you haven’t heard, the Florida Legislature is attempting to abolish the requirement that governmental agencies publish legal notices in newspapers, which would push government further into the shadows and make it harder for Floridians to learn about public policy issues, make their voices heard and hold their leaders accountable. This bill, HB 7 is scheduled to be heard by the full House on Tuesday. 

First off, this bill flips public notice on its head by reducing government transparency. Simply put, putting legal notices on government websites means very few Florida citizens will ever read them.  Public notice along with public meetings and public records have been part of our nation’s commitment to open government since the founding of the Republic. Our Founders placed public notices in newspapers to be noticed.

Secondly, from the perspective of efficient use of technology, I believe the bill takes a step backwards by placing these notices on government websites. 

The Florida Press Association has a comprehensive website which aggregates and places all of the notices under one umbrella – it’s called floridapublicnotices.com.  We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars building this website to serve Florida’s state government as well as its towns, municipalities, businesses and taxpayers. To date, we have over 32,000 registered users and over 70,000 monthly page views in addition to the notices in the newspapers and their websites. And, it’s free for the public to use. Why re-invent the wheel now? 

If this bill is passed, city and county governments will be required to recreate the same infrastructure currently in place to make notices easily searchable, mobile friendly, and provide email notification upon request of a specific notice (which newspapers do today), that recreation will not be cheap. In fact, the promised savings may not be there.  Nor will the audience, without a major investment in marketing to direct our citizens to what would be hundreds of government websites.

Further, the bill has the impact of significantly reducing notice. 

Despite what you read and hear, newspapers or should I say, media companies are alive and well. Our weekly newspapers are growing, and our dailies are growing digital subscriptions and page views. In some cases, double-digit online growth.  

Newspapers in Florida alone are reaching 7.5 million readers in any given week, and our websites typically will reach more audience than most city or county websites. Our websites draw a minimum of 58 million unique online users in any given month.

By moving notices to less-frequently visited government websites, not only will you reduce the reach to the Florida public, you also lose the active and well-informed citizen. These are people who read often and find notices while they’re staying current with other community news. 

Finally, while this bill claims to save cities and counties money, the unintended consequence is that notices will lose both readership and the legally important third-party verification. 

With notices in newspapers -- in print and online -- it provides a verifiable public record through sworn required affidavits of publication.   Does the government really want to take on this responsibility of residents not being properly notified? 

In closing, 250 years ago our founders decided to place these public notices in a public forum -- newspapers – an open space where The People were most likely to see them… not on hundreds of different government sites hoping folks will find them.

Let’s keep Florida transparent and informed.  Please feel free to call your local legislator to share your voice before it’s too late.

Jim Fogler is the President & CEO Florida Press Service

336 E. College Ave. Suite 304, Tallahassee, FL  32301

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ALACHUA ‒ As the baby boomer generation rapidly approaches retirement age, the U.S. is projected to experience a radical demographic shift. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about one in five residents in the U.S. will reach retirement age (over 65) by the 2030s. For the first time in U.S. history, seniors will soon outnumber children under 18.

This aging of the population will have far-reaching economic and social ramifications, especially when it comes to healthcare needs. Specifically, diseases that typically affect the elderly will become more prevalent in the U.S. One of the most common illnesses among people over the age of 65 is Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is a neurocognitive disorder that affects a person’s memory. Alzheimer’s typically starts with mild memory loss and sometimes progresses to hindering a person’s speech, thought process, and ability to respond to his/her surroundings. It is an agonizing decline for both the patient and the family as they slowly lose their memory and recognition of their loved ones. The exact cause of the disease is unknown and it currently has no cure.

Currently more than 5 million Americans, accounting for 11 percent of adults suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The onset of the disease usually occurs after the age of 60, and the risk of Alzheimer’s increases significantly with age. Unlike other medical conditions associated with aging, such as heart attacks, strokes or cancer, the development of Alzheimer’s disease is often a much slower insidious process. But the disease can still result in death. In 2017, more than 120,000 deaths were a result of Alzheimer’s disease. Of these cases, 80,000 were among Americans over the age of 85.

Alzheimer’s effects go far beyond the mortality rate. It's financial burden on society and families of the patient can be devastating. Not only does the disease affect individual patients, but also their family members and taxpayers who fund government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that in 2018, the total cost of treating Alzheimer’s disease—including assisted living facilities, home health care, and other medical treatment—was around $277 billion. The association estimates these costs will more than double by 2035 and continue rising as the 65+ population reaches more than 85 million by 2050.

Florida has the third highest Alzheimer rate in America and affects 13 percent of the 65 or older population. People may live eight to 10 years after diagnosis, with some living as long as 20 years.

For the past 30 years, a nonprofit organization called Compassion & Choices has been working to improve patient rights and individual choice at the end of life, including access to medical aid in dying. Its primary function is advocating for and ensuring access to end-of-life options and allowing the patient to determine whether they want continued medical care in the condition they are in.

The organization provides end-of-life consultation for dying patients and their families at no cost. Professional consultants and trained volunteers work by phone or in person to offer assistance in completing advance directives, make referrals to local services, including Hospice and illness-specific support groups, advice on adequate pain and symptom management, and information on safe, effective and legal methods for aid in dying. But planning for end-of-life care with dementia should happen earlier before a dementia diagnosis, or at the early stages of a diagnosis, before thinking and speaking abilities fail.

Compassion and Choices President/CEO Kim Callinan became an advocate for the organization due to her own experiences. She watched her grandmother slowly lose all cognizant abilities and face critical health issues while prolonging the process through medical intervention. “We didn't recognize that we were simply extending the time because we were refusing to let her go even though she had no idea who we were.” Later she had the opposite experience when her grandfather passed in Hospice with an advanced directive to stop medical care when the conclusion was it would not improve life, but simply extend his suffering. “We were able to be there with him while he could still relate to us as he passed,” Callinan said.

Callinan spent much of her professional career as a communications and social marketing expert but felt that she needed to do something geared more toward helping individuals and families cope with long-term health issues. Her experience with her own family shaped the direction she wanted to go with a nonprofit agency. Five years ago, she joined Compassion and Choices to advocate for letting people choose their own path in the fight against Alzheimer and dementia.

The program allows patients and families to make advanced directives on how they want to control their end of life. Advance planning involves making thoughtful decisions, putting them into a written advance directive, and discussing those decisions with loved ones and healthcare adviser, someone they can trust to advise medical providers about care preferences if the patient is unconscious or mentally incapable of speaking for yourself.

To help families and patients determine what and when to make these critical decisions, Compassion & Choices has developed an online program called Dementia Values & Priorities Tool, to address the reality of the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s.

Through a series of questions, this free online resource helps patients and families identify and document their care preferences in advance of a dementia diagnosis. It then creates a dementia health care directive to attach to an advance directive, so their health care proxy can carry out their personalized care plan.

Creating a dementia-specific advance care plan lifts the burden off of loved ones or patients to make difficult decisions when they can no longer speak for themselves. It helps people determine their healthcare wishes in advance, should they be diagnosed with dementia and allows people with dementia to stop medical treatment if they want, so they can die naturally if that is their wish.

A second online tool is the Dementia Decoder which allows patients and caregivers the ability to generate specific questions for doctors, nurses or other health providers. The questions are designed to get them the complete information they need to deal with Alzheimer’s. This tool also addresses other fatal illnesses like cancer so the patient can be fully informed on their condition.

“Our goal is to provide information that most people would not know how to address and to control their own end of life decisions and not prolong their suffering,” Callinan said. Information on both these tools can be found at the organizations website at: https://compassionandchoices.org.

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