Tiffany Koslovsky

By Kathleen Seaman

Regional Director of the Alzheimer’s Association

Tiffany Koslovsky was raised to be a service-minded member of the community. What started as a volunteer role developed into a career in the nonprofit sector serving organizations like the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and now the Alzheimer’s Association, where Koslovsky serves as the regional director of the Waco office, which is a part of the North Central Texas chapter.

The Alzheimer’s Association is leading the fight to end Alzheimer’s and other dementias. It funds and advances global research in search of a cure as well as enhanced care and treatment for those affected and increased public awareness that drives risk reduction and early detection. It also provides support, services and education to those affected by the disease at the national and local level.

“We are all fighting for better treatments and a cure so that we can finally raise the white flower and celebrate the first survivor of Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Koslovsky said.

Koslovsky is a Waco transplant, and while she still calls McMinnville, Tennessee home, she’s here to stay. Koslovsky recently spoke with Wacoan writer, Kathleen Seaman, and shared how our community can access support and resources, plans for this year’s local Walk to End Alzheimer’s and how her work daily honors many members of her own family.

WACOAN: Tell me about your role as regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association Waco office.

Koslovsky: We’re part of the North Central Texas chapter that is based out of Fort Worth, and Waco is its own separate tier of that. I manage everything in the Waco area. We have one other staff person, Christine Schroeder-Morren, and she’s our education and family care program specialist. I handle all the office duties, but my main duty is our fundraising and relationships here in Waco. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is our large fundraising event. This last year – 2022 – was our 20th anniversary of the Waco walk.

We’re also very active, not just in fundraising, but in relationship building here in Waco. Making sure that people know we’re here and letting people know we also have education opportunities. Not just for [professional] caregivers in various work environments but also for unpaid caregivers. We have a lot of unpaid caregivers [in the area]. There are 1.4 million unpaid caregivers in Texas alone that care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

WACOAN: Is my perception correct that the primary caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia is typically an unpaid caregiver, like a family member or friend?

Koslovsky: We do typically see that it’s an unpaid family member, multiple family members or multiple people. They all take turns. Everybody has to take a turn, and some people have to take time off from their regular jobs to care for family members. Later stages in life, there are memory care facilities and in-home care workers. And we have a lot of wonderful facilities and a lot of wonderful companies here in Waco that [provide those services]. But typically, Alzheimer’s and dementia are something that slowly happen, and the family starts to see signs here and there, so the caregiving really starts before people even realize that Alzheimer’s and dementia is developing.

WACOAN: What is the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia in our area?

Koslovsky: In Texas, we’re creeping pretty close to 400,000 people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. And in Texas, those 1.4 million unpaid caregivers equate to an estimated 1.6 billion hours of unpaid care which comes out to approximately $20.6 billion a year of unpaid care. When we’re out there raising money for research, we’re also asking people to get involved with advocacy. To go to our state and federal leaders to say something has to change. We have to make this easier for them. There has to be a place for them to care for their family members. We are here to fundraise and to bring awareness, but part of that awareness is that we have to make a change.

Our office covers a seven-county area. Think about the doctors, the clinics, the resources that are readily available here in town, but then think about those other counties like Bosque County, Limestone County and Falls County where the resources are not as accessible. Those are the places where our support groups are super important. We try to reach as far out as we can to make sure that people know that we’re here. If we can’t have a person in-person there, then there are online resources we can give as well as our 1-800 number.

WACOAN: What types of support and resources does the Waco office provide for the community?

Koslovsky: We have a lot of different support groups. We have in-person and online support groups. We also have in-person and online education programs for caregivers and for employers to provide to their staff. Again, this [disease] is something that people sometimes don’t realize is really happening until they’ve been involved in it for a little while and think, ‘Oh, wow, this is starting to really progress.’ It really can start to pick up fast. Sometimes, caregivers need some educational warning signs and things to be looking out for. [They might ask,] ‘Are there different research studies?’ That’s one of the other things the Alzheimer’s Association is very, very strong in — our outreach for research. The money that is raised goes to research. Research is how we’re going to find better treatments and a cure.

WACOAN: With such a small staff in Waco, who are your educational resource and support groups facilitated by?

Koslovsky: Christine has a team of 11 or 12 volunteers across the seven counties. She has some new ones that are going through training right now, so there should be more soon, but it’s super important that we get more volunteers.

WACOAN: Who would be qualified to be a volunteer?

Koslovsky: Christine has a really good chit chat with people and finds out where the best place is for them if they want to volunteer. I don’t like to put qualification limitations on people just because they might not be suitable for one thing. I like to make sure we get the right people in the right seat on the bus. I look at it as, ‘We’re so glad you’re here. Let’s find a great place for you.’ Whatever works for us and works for them because I always want our volunteers to be happy and supported and energized with our mission.

WACOAN: How can the community access these free resources?

Koslovsky: They can call our office. They can call our [toll-free] number: 1-800-272-3900, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and even on holidays. They have translation services in 170 different languages. We’re definitely trying to reach the masses. We really want to make sure that everybody knows that they have support. They just need to reach out.

We’re also doing our part in the community. We’re part of different groups and making sure that we’re out there and telling people that we’re here. We have a presence in the [Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce] and the [Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce]. We try to reach out to as many diverse and inclusive groups as we can because Alzheimer’s and dementia don’t discriminate, and everybody needs help.

WACOAN: Do you have a personal connection to the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association?

Koslovsky: The Alzheimer’s Association is definitely something that has been close to my heart. I do this in honor of my Grammy Bee. My granddaddy, Clyde Holland, passed away from Alzheimer’s. My uncle, Don Morris, passed away from Alzheimer’s, and my daddy — everybody makes fun of me, but I still call him Daddy. His name is Ron Holland. I also have my mother-in-law, Evelyn Koslovsky, who passed away. She passed away during COVID. We all cared for her, and she was such an amazing woman. I do it because we have got to find better treatments. I do it because we need to find a cure, and I don’t want people to struggle like we did.

The white flower symbolizes the first survivor, but we’re not able to actually put it in the Promise Garden yet because we don’t have that first survivor.

WACOAN: I love that you mentioned calling your father ‘Daddy.’ My grandfather – my mother’s father – passed away from Alzheimer’s, and she also always called him Daddy. Even when she talks about him to this day, that’s her daddy.

Koslovsky: He will always be my daddy, and people make fun of me. ‘You still call him that?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ And my mom is my mama.

WACOAN: How did you become involved in the nonprofit sector in general?

Koslovsky: I started out as a volunteer. My parents raised us to be supportive people in our community. When you see somebody in need, something that needs to be done, you get up and you do it. You help out. So, it started out as a volunteer role, and then when the opportunity came around to be a staff person, I thought, ‘What better job to have than helping those in need?’ I’ve met some of the most wonderful people working in the nonprofit world.

I worked for the American Cancer Society for a number of years. I was not in the fundraising realm as much as I was in the programs and services. I worked for Susan G. Komen before that.

WACOAN: When will the 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s take place?

Koslovsky: We were just able to decide on our date, which I’m excited to share is Saturday, October 14, 2023. Even better, we have a brand-new location this year. In the past, we’ve had it at Brazos Park East, down on the river. But we’re starting to outgrow [that space], so we will be at Legends Crossing this year. There’s a pond with a walking path near Walk-On’s, Lounge ’93 and P.F. Chang’s, and we will be right there walking around that pond.

WACOAN: What is your expected attendance?

Koslovsky: We had just over 600 people last year, and it was a stormy, wet, gully-washer day. It stormed days before the day of the Walk. I couldn’t believe it. But we all survived. We came out. We were hoping to have more people, but the weather obviously kept people away. This year, we really want to have 1,000 people out there like we would typically have, if not more, because we’re going to have so many different activities.

We usually have a sponsored pet zone, but this year’s sponsor zone is going to be a much larger area. We invite everybody to bring their pets, as long as everybody’s on a leash. It’s super great. I wish that I was going to be able to bring my three fur babies with me, but I’ll be working. There are lots of different things we’re going to have for the animals and their humans.

We also have a kid zone area. This last year, [the kid zone] was sponsored by Hawaiian Falls, and we had big plans for it. Unfortunately, the rain [interrupted] a lot of that for us in 2022. In 2023, we’re already in talks with Hawaiian Falls, and our plans are to really expand that area to make it super fun for the kids.

WACOAN: How long is the Walk?

Koslovsky: Our Walk is usually about a mile-and-a-half to two miles. There’s not a set distance. It’s not like a five-mile walk or anything like that. But we encourage people to come out and participate in our Promise Garden Ceremony, which happens just before the Walk starts. It’s a time for everyone who is going through Alzheimer’s and dementia, whether you’re a caregiver, going through it yourself or you’ve lost somebody. That is a very special moment in our day. That’s the reason we do it.

[At the ceremony, participants hold and raise flowers to signify their solidarity in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The flowers can be personalized with hand-written messages, and each flower color represents a different connection to the disease and reason for participating.]

If you can’t walk that far, or you have some disabilities where you need a wheelchair or a walker, we will have the sidewalk, but we also want to encourage people to just come out and be part of that [ceremony]. You don’t have to come out and walk if you can’t.

WACOAN: How did you end up in Waco?

Koslovsky: I’ve been here for 18 years, and I love Waco. I was born in Houston, but my home is McMinnville, Tennessee. It’s a very small town in Tennessee. My mama and daddy, Ron and Brenda Holland, still live there. That’s where I call home.

I moved to Waco just as a relocation from South Texas, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Waco?’ But we got here, and I have loved Waco ever since.

I’m super proud of this town. It’s a very small-town feel. But we’re not a small town. We’re moving on up. We have everything that we need here. If you want to do something that’s a little bit different, you can travel a little way north to Dallas-Fort Worth or a little way south to Austin, and you can pretty much find anything. I like that.

WACOAN: You’ve mentioned some family members and your fur babies. Can you tell me a little more about your family?

Koslovsky: My husband, Glenn, is a CPA here in town. And I have a son Braylon. He is currently a student at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. This is his second semester, but he’s already a sophomore because he went in with credits. He graduated from Midway High School. He’s actually going to school for Neuropsychology, and he decided that before I started working for the Alzheimer’s Association. He would like to work with families and research to find better non-medical treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. If that doesn’t tell you the impact that Alzheimer’s and dementia has had on our family.

I also have my three fur babies. I have a Cocker Spaniel, Harper Bell; a short-haired mini dachshund, Millie Mae; and a long-haired mini dachshund, who is our bowtie-wearing Mr. Henry Higgins. He wears a little bowtie, sometimes overalls, but today it’s just a bowtie.

My Grammy Bee, we shared the same birthday, and she was one of my biggest supporters aside from my parents. Obviously, her name was Bee, so [she loved] everything bee-related. That’s what it was my whole life, and after she passed away, I’ve always felt bees more around me, or maybe I noticed them more. I have a lot of bees around — on my desk, stickers, this Savannah Bee Company’s Royal Jelly Body Butter.

I would love to be a beekeeper, but I’m allergic to bees, unfortunately. But I love them. As allergic as I am, you’d think I’d be scared to death of them, but I’m not. When they come around, I talk to them. My husband makes fun of me. But I haven’t gotten stung. There’s a reason for that. I don’t know what that is, but I’m just going to put that out into the universe and go with it.

WACOAN: What else besides work keeps you busy?

Koslovsky: We like to travel. We don’t get to do it as much, but anytime we can get somewhere, especially if it has historical or architectural significance in some way, I’m all over it. If you want to throw in some good hole-in-the-wall food, I’m there. A good recharge at the beach with the sand and sea is also a must on a regular basis.

My husband and I cook. We do a lot of home cooking. We like to find recipes from different restaurants we like and then recreate them at home. That’s our date night.

He has perfected fried shrimp, which might seem very easy to do, but we’re pretty picky when it comes to that. He perfected the fried shrimp, and I perfected the tartar sauce. It’s great that we finally figured that out, and that’s one of our favorite things to do.

WACOAN: That sounds great, and perfecting a recipe does not sound easy or simple.

Koslovsky: Well, you don’t want to cook the shrimp too long because then they get rubbery, and we don’t like a lot of breading on the shrimp. We like the taste of the fresh shrimp. Anytime we go down to Corpus Christi to see my son, we always take a big cooler to the fresh fish market and get all our fish right off the boat, so we can bring it back.