Perry Lutheran Homes raises awareness of dementia during annual StepUp Celebrate dinner

Special to Dallas County News and the Chief
Guest speaker Becky Montgomery addresses the attendees during the third annual StepUp Celebrate dinner on Oct. 19 at Country Lane Lodge in Adel.

The third annual StepUp Celebrate dinner was held on Oct. 19 at Country Lane Lodge in Adel. This year’s dinner highlighted the challenges and blessings surrounding dementia.

Guest speaker Becky Montgomery shared her personal story of navigating the journey of her mother’s battle with dementia. Although the journey was difficult, she encouraged others to focus on the blessings, the moments of humor, the joy and the silver linings. Inspired by her parents, the legendary ISU basketball coach Johnny Orr and wife/mother Romie Orr, Montgomery started her own business, Senior HomeFinder of Iowa, to help families through their own journeys of aging and/or dementia.

“I’m extremely passionate about helping others find the positives in their journey of aging; especially those faced with dementia. I care so much about helping older adults that I made it my life’s work,” Montgomery said. “Supporting organizations that have innovative and excellent memory care communities, like Perry Lutheran Homes, is important to ensure that older adults with dementia can receive the quality of care they deserve now and into the future. It was an honor to be part of the StepUp Celebrate dinner to raise awareness about dementia and funds for those unable to afford the cost of care.”

Juda Saemisch, winner of Exemplar Award, makes brief remarks to the guests in attendance during the third annual StepUp Celebrate dinner on Oct. 19 at Country Lane Lodge in Adel.

Every year at the StepUp Celebrate dinner, two awards are presented to worthy individuals in the community. The first award is given to an older adult, age 70 and over, that has demonstrated to others a “life well lived” through community impact and serving as a positive example for others to follow. The 2021 Exemplar Award winner was given to Juda Saemisch of Perry. Saemisch, co-owner of Re/Max Pros on Main in Perry, has been a very involved community member in real estate, Iowa Association of Realtors, Perry Rotary, Perry Chamber of Commerce, PEO philanthropic group, American Heart Association, Ronald McDonald House and more with the desire to give back to the community. Watch the video about Saemisch and her “Fulfilling Life of Community Involvement” on YouTube.

“I felt honored, rewarded and blessed to be chosen for the Exemplar award; especially being the first woman to be nominated and selected. To me, it’s important to be an example to others in the community as it reflects what our community is all about. Actions always speak louder than words,” Saemisch said.

The second award recognizes an individual who demonstrates a commitment to serving and improving the lives of elder citizens. The 2021 StepUp Service Award was presented to Irwin Levorson of Adel. Levorson’s life of service centers around military and veterans, church and care for his late wife, Wanda, and other elderly residents he has impacted, many of whom had dementia. Each year, community members are invited to submit nominations for this award.

Irwin Levorson, winner of StepUp Service Award, poses for a photo with Perry Lutheran Homes CEO Rev. Max Phillips during the third annual StepUp Celebrate dinner on Oct. 19 at Country Lane Lodge in Adel.

Melissa Gannon, COO & Administrator at Perry Lutheran Homes, led guests on an educational and impactful journey through dementia and its many impacts. Guests took part in a mini dementia simulation wearing safety glasses with strategically placed stickers to demonstrate vision impairment, and gloves with popcorn kernels to demonstrate peripheral neuropathy and loss of sensation. Various fingers were taped together to demonstrate arthritis and loss of fine motor skills, and white noise was played to demonstrate hearing impairment. Then, guests were given instructions on three things to complete. The tasks proved difficult with many in shock that this is a daily reality for many suffering with dementia.

“The mini dementia simulation was to give attendees a glimpse into the daily lives of those living with dementia. Many people think living with dementia is only related to loss of memory. However, there are so many more mental and physical challenges they face every day. We pray that a cure will be found," Gannon said. "For now, early detection is critical so that dementia can be delayed through various medications. And, it’s of the utmost importance to provide the absolute best memory care possible for those currently living with dementia."

Dinner guests, along with others who were not able to attend, “stepped up” and pledged over $10,000 toward the goal of raising $50,000 to help provide for those elders at Perry Lutheran Homes without resources to cover the cost of their care. The Perry Lutheran Homes board of directors sponsored the dinner so that all the funds raised can go directly to support the residents served by Perry Lutheran Homes. Perry Lutheran Homes’ mission and commitment to caring for elders based on their need, not their ability to pay, creates an opportunity for the community to demonstrate their honor and care for elder citizens during their time of need through their partnership. You can help care for elders today by making a secure gift online.

Attendees listen to one of the speakers during the third annual StepUp Celebrate dinner on Oct. 19 at Country Lane Lodge in Adel.