a-charlie-brown-christmasIf you’re a Baby Boomer like myself, you will probably recognize the photos from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” For me, it brings back memories of happy, simpler times. That’s where Charlie Brown lived … in the simple times. Nothing really stopped him from doing the things he wanted to do no matter what others thought. He saw the beauty in things others didn’t. He was hopeful and did things in his own time. He was trusting … sometimes, too trusting.

Charlie Brown was just a simple guy who always saw the good in people, never judging, never holding a grudge. He’s described as, “Good ol’ Charlie Brown” is the lovable loser in the zig-zag t-shirt—the kid who never gives up (even though he almost never wins). He manages the world’s worst baseball team…yet shows up for every game. He can’t muster the courage to talk to the Little Red-Haired girl…yet keeps hoping. Even though he gets grief from his friends, his kite-eating tree, even his own dog, Charlie Brown remains the stalwart hero.”
CB Football
He is forever hopeful that Lucy won’t move the football. I think most of us wishes it will happen one day, so we cheer him on that he will, get to kick the ball at least once . . . but not this time. Lucy does what she ALWAYS does. She moves the ball away and Charlie Brown lands flat on his back.

We weren’t really surprised were we?
Charlie Brown was! As I said before, he always sees the good in people and he trusts they will not do anything to cause him harm. He trusts Lucy time after time. Why? Because that’s who he is.

(Just so you know, this post is not about Charlie Brown, but, you’ll understand in a little bit.)

Image result for charlie brown christmas tree

Lastly, there’s the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that, in his mind, was the perfect tree. Of course, no one else but Charlie Brown saw the beauty of the simple little tree, and, as usual, they all laughed and made fun of the tree as well as him, “The Blockhead”, and hurt his feelings . . . AGAIN!

Maybe it was the Christmas Season that got to them, for this time, they saw just how much they had hurt Charlie Brown. 

Image result for charlie brown christmas treeWhen they saw the saddened little boy walk away as if he didn’t have a friend in the world, Linus anchored the little tree with his blanket and all Charlie Brown’s friends took the lights and decorations off Snoopy’s house and placed them on the tree. They brought Charlie Brown back to show him what they had done and he smiled so big. As with every Charlie Brown cartoon, he was accepted, everyone was smiling and singing and for a brief moment, everything was right with the world.

Now as a I said earlier, this is not about Charlie Brown and his friends. This is actually about reality in “Dementia World.”

Those of us who are living with a Dementia-Related illness sometimes feel like Charlie Brown. We have those days when we feel forgotten, dismissed, or if we don’t really matter. We sometimes come across people who we believe are our friends but turn out to be a “so-called friend” who pretend to have our best interest at heart, when all they are interested in is furthering themselves by using us to get there.

The feelings of abandonment and distrust we experience are not just about our friends but also about some  members of our family who no longer talk to us for whatever reason. We try our hardest to remember what we may have done to put this distance between us for we are certain (like Charlie Brown) it must’ve been something we did. When we come to the realization that it wasn’t us, it doesn’t feel any better.

When we are having a good day, we feel there is nothing we can’t do, so we take advantage of those days. We use our clarity to do something our minds would not allow us to do the day before, that is, if we remember the day before. Sometimes we do remember and we rejoice for the small victories. Sometimes we don’t and it’s OK because we know we’re not going to remember everything so we carry on the best we can.

Then there are the really tough days, the days when we go to kick the ball, and the ball is snatched away. On those days, we may literally fall on our backs, on our butts, hurting ourselves figuratively and mentally.  

If you’re thinking my point here is to make you feel sorry for me or for the millions of others who, like me, are living with Alzheimer’s or other Dementia- Related Illnesses you would be incorrect. Like Charlie Brown, we don’t give up . . . we CAN’T give up. Giving up is not an option. Giving up is an end and I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for myself, I still have too much to do and I’M NOT READY TO GIVE UP!

What we do want are your friendships. We want your love. We want your understanding. This Disease is not something we asked for, this is not something we brought on ourselves, this is something that just happened to us and we are trying to make the best of the situation. 

Since this ’tis the Season, I ask you that if you know someone who is Living with a Dementia-Related Illness or any type of illness for that matter, please:

  • don’t assume we are receiving phone calls, letters, e-mails, Christmas Cards, etc. for you would probably be mistaken.
  • don’t assume we are being visited by friends and /or family for we may not be
  • don’t assume a gift card or other monetary gifts would not be appreciated
  • don’t assume anything about anyone, for you don’t know the whole story
  • the one thing you CAN assume is, “WE ARE STILL LIVING . . . WE ARE NOT GIVING UP . . . WE STILL MATTER . . . WE ARE STILL HERE!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish YOU, yes YOU, a Very Merry Christmas!

Until Next Time . . . 
PEACE (on Earth and good will towards men)

B

What Happened to our Society?

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As a Baby Boomer, (born in 1960) I grew up respecting my elders. Elders were basically anyone of the adult age. This meant Teachers, Bus Drivers, Law Enforcement Officers, Mail Carriers, Firefighters, anyone and everyone who was an adult. It didn’t matter who the person was, YOU RESPECTED THEM. If you didn’t, well, word would get back to your parents and they would “gently remind you” about the respect issue.

Fast Forward to today. What happened to RESPECT? You would be hard pressed to find a young child or a teenager addressing an adult as “Sir or Ma’am.” Instead you get “YEAH” or “NO” or nothing because they are texting or taking a Selfie and are too busy to answer. Somewhere along the line, RESPECT flew out the window.

Maybe I’m just old. At 58 years old, I don’t really feel old but in the eyes of a teenager or toddler, I’m ancient. My hair and beard is gray/white, my walk has slowed a bit, I have to rest a bit more than what I used to, so I can see where it may appear I am old, but unless I am spoken to rather than just judged on my appearance, how will anyone know who I am and what I can share.

I’m writing this because there is a huge issue in our society right now regarding ageism.
Ageism is described as : stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This may be casual or systematic. The term was coined in 1969 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.

Today, the term is often applied to any type of age-based discrimination, whether it involves prejudice against children, teenagers, adults, or senior citizens.
Throw in Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementia-Related Illnesses and that just deepens the issue.

Although the term was coined in 1969, I haven’t really noticed the trend until recently. I started wondering, is it because I am growing older (almost 60)  or is it because I have Alzheimer’s Disease? Is it a combination of both?

I read an article this morning by my friend and Pioneer Network President & CEO Penny Cook, entitled, A New Culture of Aging — Making it HappenIn her article she states, “The first step of changing perception is creating awareness.” Creating awareness is something I know  a lot about.

I see and hear, on a daily basis, how those of us who are living with a Dementia-Related Illness are treated. As much as we would like, we are not treated as we were before our diagnosis.
Our diagnosis becomes a label.
That label carries with it, Stigmatization.
Stigmatization carries negative connotations.

I REFUSE TO BE LABELED!!!

So, I use my Alzheimer’s: Up Close presentation to educate and share awareness. It showcases that just because we reach a certain age or just because we have some sort of “cognitive difficulty” doesn’t mean we don’t matter. On the contrary. We probably matter more NOW than what we ever did.

The reason being, we can talk about:

  • what we want/need instead of assuming you already know
  • seeing us and not our disease
  • seeing us and not our age or appearance
  • connecting with us and not shoving us in a corner
  • DON’T pre-judge

There are always 2 sides . . . what we think and what you may think.
Those sides may differ slightly or dramatically but you would never know unless you ask. Responsibility as to what we can do and what we expect from others allow our voices to be heard.

In another article I read, written by Kendra Cherry for “verywell Mind”  “How Does Ageism Impact More Than Just Older Adults?”  it states: “In one study published in a 2013 issue of The Gerontologist, researchers looked at how older people were represented in Facebook groups. They found 84 groups devoted to the topic of older adults, but most of these groups had been created by people in their 20s. Nearly 75 percent of the groups existed to criticize older people and nearly 40 percent advocated banning them from activities such as driving and shopping.”

This is disturbing that individuals, who know nothing about us, are passing judgement on us, making assumptions about us and criticizing us because we have reached a certain age. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however, using those opinions with no knowledge as to who these individual are is ludicrous. It is also a classic example of Ageism.

I could probably go on forever, citing more examples, quoting more articles, but I think you get the picture.

I may not be able to end Ageism today, but I sure can (and will) continue to make some noise about it. I’m a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however,  I will continue sharing awareness and educating that NO ONE has the right to pass judgment on another based on race, nationality, sexuality, age, as well as other “ism’s.” If you want to know more, don’t opinionate, just ask. We’ll be happy to talk with you!

PEACE!
Brian LeBlanc
International Alzheimer’s Advocate
“I have Alzheimer’s, BUT . . . it DOESN’T have me!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS: Make Them BUT, Be Smart About It!!!

Once again, a New Year is approaching. In my mind, I’m thinking, “Well, I made it through another year so I should be thankful for just that!” I also think, “what am I going to do in 2018 to stay both physically and mentally fit?” Well, the two go hand in hand.

Memberships for gyms and fitness centers explode in January because I believe, people really want to do something positive for themselves and being physically fit is a positive thing. However, it’s not for everyone. I know it’s not for me, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it on my own.

My resolution for this year is to stay “physically healthy”. I have enough “doohickey’s and “whatchamacallits” I can use to make myself more physically healthy (hand weights, resistance bands, etc…). I also have a dog as well as my own two legs to take me for walks. Last, but certainly not least, I also have my great-niece, Alexis, who is enrolled at LSU(GEAUX TIGERS!) majoring in KINESIOLOGY with a focus in Fitness Studies. (KINESIOLOGY is an academic discipline that involves the study of human movement, especially the role of physical activity and its impact on health, human performance, society, and quality of life.)  Alexis prepared a fitness plan that specifically meets my needs. (SHE’S AWSOME!!!)

In addition to staying physically healthy, I’m also vowing to stay “brain healthy.” A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine states that doing physical exercise in combination with cognitive engagement can enhance brain health.

Having Alzheimer’s Disease makes it difficult to remember to do both the physical and mental exercises, but, that’s where technology comes in. In other words, I set reminders on my phone to alert me.

One of the things I do is to play “Words with Friends” on Facebook. Some people will play it for fun or for competitive reasons. I do it for brain health. Many of you who I’m connected with on Facebook may see an invite (or 2 or 3 ‘cuz I forget if I’ve already invited you or am already playing a game with you) to join me in a game of Words with Friends. Yes, I do it for the social interaction, but I also do it to utilize my brain. (NO, I don’t use any of the cheats. That would defeat the purpose) You will find that I lose A LOT of games but I don’t do it to win. I do it to push my brain to think.

There’s also an app called WordBrain where you try to make as many words as you can in a certain amount of time.
You can also play BOGGLE, Tetris, Word Search (either on an app or using a word search book). Word Whizzle is another game where you will see words spelled backward and forward.

I’m sure there are other games you know that can test your brain function and if you would like to share them with me, I would be happy to share with my readers.

My main message is to treat your brain as a muscle. It needs to be “worked out” in order to stay healthy. Will working out your brain stave off any type of cognitive impairment? Who knows? Will it erase Alzheimer’s or any other dementia? Not that we know of yet but, hey, it may help slow it down a bit.

What I’m trying to say is, not trying, at least for me, is not an option. I explore many options in hopes that I can slow my Alzheimer’s decline.

So, in 2018, don’t forget to work out that “brain muscle” as often as you can, because, ya neva know!!!

Until Next Time . . .
I wish you PEACE and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

B

“Hey, Alexa . . . THANK YOU!”

“Hey, Alexa . . . THANK YOU!”

The Amazon Echo Dot can assist individuals with a dementia-related illness get through the day a little bit better. At a time when some folks are going tech-free, I’m discovering technology is actually helping me to live a better life.

Alexa

 


(I am in no way associated with Amazon and I have not been compensated in any way to write about the Amazon Echo Dot.

 

My reasoning for writing this is two-fold: 
1) while I appreciate humor, there is a fine line between laughing with people and laughing at people. 
2) I want to point on out how this device can really help those of us living with a disability, including cognitive decline.

Recently, I saw a Saturday Night Live skit regarding, as they put it, “people of a certain age” using the Amazon Echo Dot.  At first, I thought it was going to be funny. That ended when I realized they were actually making fun of older adults experiencing hearing loss and cognitive decline.
I’m including a link to the skit so you can make the determination on your own. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvT_gqs5ETk

After watching the skit, I know some of you will find it funny and some of you will not.
In reading the comments made about the skit, I found one to be enlightening.

It read, “Laughing at the video. Then I realized this is video is about me in 30-40 years.”
How true those words may be. I sincerely hope, for this young man’s sake, they don’t come true.

Anyway, this post is not about SNL, this is about the Amazon Echo Dot and how I believe it can assist individuals with a dementia-related illness get through the day a little bit better.
At a time when some folks are going tech-free, I’m discovering technology is actually helping me to live a better life.

“The Amazon Echo Dot is a device that uses speech recognition to perform an ever-growing range of tasks on command. Amazon calls the built-in brains of this device “Alexa,” and she is the thing that makes it work. Her real smarts are on the Internet, in the cloud-computing service run by Amazon. The name Alexa can be changed by the user to “Amazon”, “Echo” or “Computer”.”
Amazon Echo Dot info

 

If you don’t know what the Amazon Echo Dot does, here’s how I use mine:

  • I use Amazon Echo Dot for a lot of things, like setting alarms to eat, reminders to take a bath, tell me the weather forecast … she will usually understand what you are trying to ask. If she doesn’t, she will let you know.
  • It can hear you from across the room or from upstairs with voice recognition, even while music is playing
  • I haven’t gotten to this point yet but if you really want to get fancy, you can purchase additional components that will allow you to control lights, switches, thermostats, etc. 

For those of us who are living well with a dementia-related illness, we may find ourselves being a bit more forgetful than what we used to be. I will only speak for myself and what I go through, for most of us have similar symptoms, but are affected in different ways.

One of the things I most like is the news feature, or “flash briefing”. Just say, “Hey Alexa, read me the news!” and she does, giving you headlines from all over. If you want her to stop, just say, “Alexa, stop reading news” or some other form of a command. My favorite is, “Alexa, when is the next Saints game” and she tells me the date and time. “WHO DAT!!!”

Alexa will also play music from your Amazon Prime Music selection. You choose the genre or something from your own personal playlist and she will play it. For example, at this time of year, I say, “Alexa, play Christmas music!” (I sometimes ask please without even thinking. I think she appreciates it!)

Although I have alarms and reminders on my phone to alert me as to what I should be doing at a particular time, I also use Alexa to remind me verbally. For example, I’ll say, “Alexa, remind me at 1:00pm to get ready for my speaking engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association at 2:30pm.!” She says it verbally and also sends a message to my phone. (by the way, if I don’t say am or pm, she will ask me.)

There are many other features the Amazon Echo Dot uses but I just wanted to highlight some of the features I use most often. Since this is the holiday season, for only $29.99, this would be a great gift for someone who may be starting to have some memory decline, someone who has had a dementia-related illness diagnosis or just something to have handy to make your life a little less complicated. Just an FYI, it also has a built-in bedtime story function for the kids . . . or even for you!

As a side note, you may also want to check with your cable provider. Their new remotes are now voice enabled. If you’re like me, I remember the network but I forget the channel number. Now, I just press the little microphone thingy (yes, that’s a real term, at least in my vocabulary), and say “NBC” or “FOX NEWS” or “HGTV” or “ESPN” and it goes directly to that station.

As I go further along my Alzheimer’s path, I’m always looking for ways to make my life a little less complicated. When I find something that works, I put on my Dementia Advocate hat (yes I have one but only wear it in private)  and share it with as many people as I can. I know that it may not work for everyone but if it works for a few, then . . . HOORAY!

As far as SNL goes, I know they will continue making fun of people. It’s what they do. I just hope they keep in mind that when they make fun of people with cognitive issues, it’s really not that funny.

Until next time . . .
PEACE and Merry Christmas!

~ Brian
“I have Alzheimer’s BUT it doesn’t have me,
for I don’t allow it to define who I am!”