#AlzheimersDisease, #VascularDementia, #Type2Diabetes, as well as other ailments, is not exactly how I envisioned my older years. Yet, HERE I AM, BUT NOT GIVING UP! So many other Diseases now have cures, ways to slow progressions, and have ways to assist individuals to live a good life. However, WE DON’T have those things so HERE WE ARE, STILL WAITING PATIENTLY . . . VERY PATIENTLY.
For those of us who are Living with a Dementia-Related Illness, we’re not just standing by and letting time slip away. We raise awareness, talk to the newly diagnosed to give them some hope as to what the future looks like for them. We also assist others who are further on with their disease, many now living in a Care Community. Sadly, most are forgotten and that adds to their progression. Then there are the lucky individuals who have consistent visits from their family and friends. This helps to keeps their hopes, strength and clarity strong.
I remember seeing my parents (Mother with Alzheimer’s, Father with Vascular Dementia, just slipping away, day by day. I sure didn’t expect to receive my Alzheimer’s Diagnosis in OCT, 2014 and then attend my Mother’s Funeral in January, 2015. That was a very hard time, but, I knew I had to push on.
I knew I had to do something to call attention to, not just Alzheimer’s Disease, but also ALL Dementia-Related Illnesses. That is what led me to become a Dementia / Alzheimer’s International Advocate. I do this in honor of my Mother not only to keep her memory alive inside of me but to honor her life for being one of the the strongest individuals I knew.
Our Advocacy efforts during COVID-19 took away our face-to-face speaking opportunities but we were, however, thanks to technology, able to Advocate by utilizing ZOOM, Go To Meeting, and other online platforms. It wasn’t the same as being there in person but our messages were still delivered.
It will take something stronger than COVID-19 to stop us from Advocating. We will be taking the stage once again (virtually) to continue telling our stories, our accomplishments as well as our difficulties.
Just so you know, June is “ALZHEIMER’S and BRAIN AWARENESS MONTH.” You will probably be asked to post something purple on your timeline to assist us to make others aware. I hope I (WE) can count on YOU to post something PURPLE!
Until Next Time, PEACE! B
Yes, we are open and honest about the lives we live each day. We are not afraid to talk about the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY. We don’t want anyone walking away from one of our presentations and just hear about the good. The BAD has to be shared so that everyone will walk away with a complete understanding.
We are fast approaching the month of June. June just happens to be To raise awareness of these cruel diseases, I would appreciate it if my friends could post put this on your page for today.Hold your finger anywhere on the message to copy and paste to your Timeline.💛
Dementia knows no age. It equally takes the memories of man, woman and even children. It cruelly attacks our most recent, precious memories, leaving us with our long-term memories, which allows us to remember what was but not yesterday or today. It can stop our brain from functioning at a moments notice like a pitch black curtain descending in our heads, causing us to lose our words and complete thoughts in mid conversation with no way to retrieve them, leaving us standing there with a blank expression. No matter what we do to try to stop it, DEMENTIA MARCHES ON!
I’m not writing this to depress you or to make you feel sorry for those of us that are living with a Dementia-Related Illness, I’m just trying to help you understand what we experience, sometimes for a minute, an hour, a day or days. To put it bluntly, IT SUCKS!!!
What I do ask you is to not feel sorry for us. I ask that you to interact with us just like you would anyone else. But wait . . . that’s not all!
Dementia not only affects memory. There are also side effects that come along with our Disease. Some, but not all are anger, emotional roller coasters, hallucinations, depression, anxiety, difficulties with visual and spatial abilities, problem solving, difficulties handling complex tasks, difficulties with planning and organizing, and later on, difficulties in completing every day tasks and more issues as we progress. To make matters worse, according to #AARP, some scientists say there is compelling evidence that the negative effects of the COVID virus could last even longer, possibly creating a surge of cases of dementia and cognitive decline years down the road.
I could go on and on but, I don’t want to and I think you get the point.
When 2021 was approaching, I realized that I was entering my 7th year of my Alzheimer’s journey and my 3rd year of my most recent diagnosis of Vascular Dementia. Has that stopped me from #LIVINGWELL? The answer to that question is NO! If anything, it pushed me forward to do things I might not have done before.
In 2019, I moved . . . again, but this time staying in FL. I moved to Largo to join my Life Partner / Care Partner Maureen Rulison. She has been a blessing in disguise, (she says she is not in disguise) organizing all my medications, vitamins, setting me up with my new physicians and basically helped organize my life. Adding to my list of addresses, we just recently moved to, what we hope to be, our forever home. (the U.S. Postal Service just breathed a sigh of relief! hahahah) We talked a lot about living on the water. With Maureen’s determination and the stars aligning, we were lucky to find what we were wishing for. Our backyard is Tampa Bay (the body of water, not the area) and the dolphins and birds greet us with a good morning every day. It’s surreal to live in a beautiful location and this location and all that it offers does help with my anxiety.
I’m saying this here and now, unless we win the lottery, we are NOT moving again.
I feel like I have jumped around a lot with this post, but I know I haven’t written a new BLOG post in quite a while so I had some catching up to do. My New Orleans friend of hundreds of years, Giorgio, texted me the other day with this message . . . “Good Morning my friend . . . I’m noticing there’s only 5 days left in January. When are you going to make your January post?”
Well Giorgio, here ya go my friend. Thanks for the heads up and not allowing me to get lazy. I need that push every now and then.
I would also like to thank all those who follow me and send your encouraging words. It really means a lot.
If I could leave you with words of encouragement . . . “If you are LIVING with a Dementia-Related Illness, don’t give up! If you know someone who is LIVING with a Dementia-Related Illness, drop them a line. It may be just what they need . If you can’t decide whether or not to keep in contact with someone who is LIVING with a Dementia-Related Illness, the answer is ALWAYS, YES!
What do you mean Mashed Potatoes and Strawberries don’t go together? Have you ever tried dipping those sweet, delicious strawberries into the creamy, buttery mashed potatoes? No? Neither have I and I doubt I ever will for I can just imagine the taste. YUK!!!
Although the title of this post may make you think I’m going to write about food, you would be mistaken. It’s more like things that don’t seem to go together but as time goes on, they do. You’ll see. This brings me back to a previous blog post “Changes in Lattitudes, Changes in Attitudes” https://bit.ly/2ZOaY0G where I referenced the opposite traits of the Cheetah and the Sloth. If you haven’t read that post, you should, but if not, it’s OK.
When living with someone who is structured, business minded, intelligent, organized, etc . . . and the other individual is ME, well how could anything go wrong? Throw in 2 different types of Dementia as well as other medical issues, that’s when things get interesting.
Let me explain so you can see the full picture . . .
Maureen wakes up at the crack of dawn, has her Chai Tea, heads into the office and starts working. I, on the other hand, have no idea what dawn looks like (other than the dish-washing liquid) and I will usually wake up long after dawn has turned into mid-morning. I go into the office, barely awake she tells me good morning and then immediately heads straight into telling me her, my, our schedules for the day. I usually have no idea what she is talking about for I don’t remember things from one day to the next, but if she says it’s on the calendar I just nod my head and then head to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of the the Morning Nectar of the Gods, otherwise known as COFFEE, which she had already prepared for me when she got up. All I have to do is flip the switch and that delicious aroma fills the kitchen.
I then sit down on the sofa, open up the Calendar on my phone and try to make sense of what I see on the calendar and try to remember all she said a few moments ago and appreciate all that she does for me. Since COVID-19 as well as some progression of my Alzheimer’s, I would not be able to run my own life as structured as she lays it out for me. She keeps my calendar organized, my medicines organized, my appointments organized, and so much more, all while running her own business. How she does it, I have no idea, but I am so very, very grateful.
So, what does this have to do with Mashed Potatoes and Strawberries? You’ll see.
I remember back in the early 70’s when my sweet, little niece would demand that I sit and watch Sesame Street with her every morning while she ignored her own breakfast and ate mine. Although it drove me crazy sometimes, I look back and I cherish those memories and wish I was back in the 70’s to relive those moments. Anyway, during one of the teaching moments, Sesame Street characters used to sing a song, “Which one of these things is not like the others”? or something like that.
I bring this up because that’s the way some of the morning conversations Maureen and I have during “MY” first thing in the morning. Now granted, she has already been up for several hours and her brain is moving at full capacity. Depending upon how I wake up (foggy, dizzy, sleep deprived, etc…) she will start out as she usually does on one topic but then goes right into the next one. The problem is, I’m still trying to digest what she WAS talking about as she is already into topic #2. I need to say, she is doing nothing wrong. I have asked her from the beginning of our relationship to NOTtreat me as if I have Alzheimer’s and she does that very well. When she switches topics. and goes straight into the other one without missing a beat, she doesn’t do it to be cruel, it’s just the way her mind works and because of my requests to not give me any special treatment.
I’m not sure my mind ever worked like that so in a way, I become quite fascinated as to how she keeps things straight. Any way, after she changes the topic, it takes me a little bit to realize that not only did she stop talking about one thing and switched to another, she is already half-way through topic #2. She sees the look on my face, realizes she has lost me and she says, “where did I lose you?” I reply,”somewhere between the mashed potato’s and Strawberries!) That’s my way of saying, “my brain was filling up with information (mashed potatoes) and all of a sudden, in comes another completely different topic (she mixed in the strawberries)thathas nothing to do with the topic she was just talking about and it all mixes together into one big lump of instant brain fog. Then here comes the Sesame Street song in my head (“Which one of these things is not like the other“?)
“Yes you did but I don’t know where” which is why I started saying, “it was somewhere between the mashed potatoes and the strawberries.” Although they are completely different I’m not really sure how I came up with that. Welcome into my head.
Other than they both come from the ground, they have never appeared on any menu as any entree’ or on any plate I have ever been served. All I knew it was the first thing that popped into my head that gives an example of two things that were opposite. Plus it always gets a laugh.
Maureen and I learn things about each other, sometimes daily. It helps us both to understand the other one better. Will it stop her from giving me my morning briefing? No because I have come to look forward to it. Will it change the way she delivers it to me? Maybe . . . Maybe Not. It depends upon whether or not she remembers. If not, Strawberries and Mashed Potatoes will fly!
I guess what I’m trying to say is, there is a difference between “KNOWINGof” someone with a Dementia-Related Illness and “Living 24/7 WITH“ someone with a Dementia-Related Illness. I know there are experts, or who claim they are experts when it comes to knowing all there is to know about Individuals with Dementia and some do a very good job of explaining things, but, in my humble opinion, if you want to know from the experts, talk to either a Care Partner / Life Partner or go straight to the horse’s mouth and talk with someone who is “LIVING WITH a Dementia-Related Illness.
Either way, be prepared to be served some Mashed Potatoes and Strawberries because if you have met ONE person with a Dementia-Related Illness or One Care Partner, you have only met ONE person!
Shortly after I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2014, I came up with my tag line, “I Have Alzheimer’s BUT . . . It DOESN’T Have ME!!!”
What that meant to me was I didn’t want to be identified by my Alzheimer’s, rather, I still wanted to be identified as Brian. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way. Instead of continuing to identify me as Brian, it felt like more and more people started saying their good-bye’s. Phone calls, text messages, e-mails just went unanswered. It was a very lonely time and some days, it still is.
I use Social Media as a way to keep up with the latest trends, news, discoveries and anything positive I can find regarding Dementia-Related Illnesses. I also use Social Media to remain . . . SOCIAL. Most days I receive the “Memories” post that reminds me of past postings, photos and, of course, memories. While I enjoy looking at some of the photos, there are other photos that make me sad. These are usually photos of people I thought would be my friends forever but have now disappeared.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, whining, or looking for sympathy. I am simply trying to figure out why some of these folks just don’t engage with me anymore. These aren’t people who were just acquaintances, these were people I thought were my true friends and still would be throughout the rest of my life. This has proved not to be.
I am very thankful for those folks who still stay in touch with me. It brings me joy, smiles, warmth and all sorts of “feel good” feelings. I am so very thankful these folks have kept me as their friend and not toss me away like an old, used up newspaper.
This brings me to the title of this Blog Post, “Are There Do’s and Don’ts When it Comes to Dementia?” I know there aren’t really any rules but when I did some research, I came a cross the information below which is the closest thing I have found regarding the Do’s and Don’ts of Dementia
16 THINGS I WOULD WANT, IF I GOT DEMENTIA by Rachel Wonderlin
If I get dementia, I want my friends and family to embrace my reality. If I think my spouse is still alive, or if I think we’re visiting my parents for dinner, let me believe those things. I’ll be much happier for it.
If I get dementia, I don’t want to be treated like a child. Talk to me like the adult that I am.
If I get dementia, I still want to enjoy the things that I’ve always enjoyed. Help me find a way to exercise, read, and visit with friends.
If I get dementia, ask me to tell you a story from my past.
If I get dementia, and I become agitated, take the time to figure out what is bothering me.
If I get dementia, treat me the way that you would want to be treated.
If I get dementia, make sure that there are plenty of snacks for me in the house. Even now if I don’t eat I get angry, and if I have dementia, I may have trouble explaining what I need.
If I get dementia, don’t talk about me as if I’m not in the room.
If I get dementia, don’t feel guilty if you cannot care for me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s not your fault, and you’ve done your best. Find someone who can help you, or choose a great new place for me to live.
If I get dementia, and I live in a dementia care community, please visit me often.
If I get dementia, don’t act frustrated if I mix up names, events, or places. Take a deep breath. It’s not my fault.
If I get dementia, make sure I always have my favorite music playing within earshot.
If I get dementia, and I like to pick up items and carry them around, help me return those items to their original places.
If I get dementia, don’t exclude me from parties and family gatherings.
If I get dementia, know that I still like receiving hugs or handshakes.
If I get dementia, remember that I am still the person you know and love.
These 16 things make so much sense to me. It’s basically saying, “treat me as Brian”. I know there are some things listed above that “may seem” wrong, however, don’t look at it as wrong. People who are Living with a Dementia-Related Illness may sometimes have their own reality. I go through periods of time when my own reality may be skewed. If someone tries to correct me and guide me towards the reality they have, especially when I’m in my brain fog, let’s just say it usually does not end up pretty for I become argumentative, unreasonable, foul-mouthed and even more confused as I was to begin with. I know this because I ask Maureen to tell me, when I come out of my fog, if I did anything mean or say anything foul. I try to learn from it, but sometimes it just doesn’t stick.
I know I rambled and may have gotten off topic but, this is what happens sometimes with those of us living with Dementia. Some of my friends may have seen me acting in a peculiar way when I was in my fog. That could be a reason they stopped keeping in contact with me. Some other friends may have had a family member who recently passed away with a Dementia-Related Illness. It may be too hard for them to see me going down that path. Some other friends just may find it too hard to see me like I am. I didn’t like seeing my Grandfather or my Mother while they were on their Alzheimer’s Journey so, I understand.
Whatever your reason is for not staying in contact with me or someone else who is Living with a Dementia-Related Illness, those reasons are yours and yours alone. Just know, it’s OK. We may wonder why but the thing about Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia-Related Illnesses, we may just forget . . . until we see those Memories pop up on our Social Media feed.
Hey, have you heard about that COVID-19 thingy? It’s EVERYWHERE in the world, well, almost everywhere. Antarctica is the only continent with no confirmed cases of #Covid19. The impacts of Covid19 are now being felt at the North Pole for planned aerial surveys and resupply flights have been canceled.
What does this have to do with Dementia Strong? NOTHING, nothing at all . . . or does it?
On any given day, those of us who are Living with a Dementia-Related Illness usually spend a lot of time inside. Sure, we go walking to get exercise, we go to the grocery stores with our loved ones, we go to #Starbucks, we may even take an occasional trip to the Grocery Store if we feel like it, as long as we dress in our Hazmat Suits. But there’s a huge difference between being inside because we feel more secure and less anxious and being “MADE” to stay inside for we don’t know who has or who hasn’t been exposed to someone with the virus.
We can no longer go to our favorite restaurant to have our favorite meal because you can no longer go inside. You can get it to go, but it’s just not the same when you realized you’re eating your favorite meal from a styrofoam container.
Visiting with your friends and family means using #ZOOM or #FaceTime or #Skype or #HouseParty or any other ways we can make video calls. Yes, it’s nice to be able to see their faces, hear them laugh, and find out what’s been going on with them, but the physicality is not there. You can send a virtual hug, but it doesn’t have the same effect when you can’t hug them. You can’t even visit them in a hospital unless you’re wearing a mask and gloves. It’s the little things that are missed the most, especially when we are ordered to follow the rules.
I know I mentioned earlier about going to the grocery. Maureen and I still go about once a week and yes, we follow the arrows on the floor at Publix telling us which way to go, and yes we wear our masks, and yes we bring our wipes and wipe down the baskets, even though we see the employees wiping them down before we do, and yes we follow Social Distancing, but yet, when we get back into the car, we start wiping everywhere. Talk about anxiousness setting in.
Maureen tells me “you know, you don’t have to go. I can do this by myself.” I realize she can but when it’s the only time during that particular day that I can get out of the house, I jump at the chance. I then started to wonder, does she say that because she may want to get out of the house by herself? We are together 24/7. Surprisingly, no one has been harmed during our “Corona Vacation”!
I must say, whether it’s been a day, 6 months or 10+years you have shared your life with someone, when you spend 24/7 with that person(s) for weeks and weeks, you learn A LOT about them. Some things you just don’t want to know. You can become closer and then distant, all in a 5 minute period.
Throw Dementia into the mix, well, that brings it to a whole different level.
I’m not trying to single “US” out but, the law should have stated, “practice social distancing and treat everyone like they have a Dementia-Related Illness” then they would have surely stayed away from one another.
No, I’m not looking for pity, it’s just a fact. Friends don’t usually call unless they are Dementia Friends or are related to Dementia Friends in one way or another.
They don’t visit, because, you know, they may catch it, even though we are NOT CONTAGIOUS!
They’re afraid to speak to us for . . .
– we may not understand what they are saying, or
– we may not be able to respond to the questions they ask, or . . .
Anyways . . . continue your #SocialDistancing, wipe down anything BEFORE you touch it and then wipe your hands AFTER you touch it, wear a MASK, and just be kind to EVERYONE. It’s a very unusual time for ALL OF US so just remember, although you’re wearing a mask out in public, your eyes can still show that you’re smiling!
“When you “DO” for someone what they can do for themselves, you disable them emotionally.”~ Jack Hosman (Maureen’s Dad)
I believe I mentioned this phrase before, “DON’T DO, BE” but in the “Dementia World” it is so very important and worth repeating.
Sometimes, Care Partners, family members and friends may see a PLWD (Person Living With Dementia) struggling to do something and their normal reaction is to jump right in and do it for them. You don’t want to see your loved one / friend struggle, so you help them.
Unbeknownst to you, your loved one / friend get’s extremely frustrated and lashes out at you. In your mind, you were only trying to help them. In the mind of the PLWD, you took away their ability to figure it out for themselves and, without asking, jumped right in and did it for them. In a way, you paralyzed them.
I can talk about this at length for it is something Maureen and I struggled with when our relationship started and we continue to do so to this day. You see, she is a “DO-ER” and a “FIXER”. It’s just who she is. On the other hand, I am a stubborn S.O.B. (and a slow learner) and I can do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING I set my mind to, but then reality (ALZHEIMER’S) steps in. That’s when I ask for help.
I have to say, most of the time Maureen is very patient with me. Of course that has a lot to do with my responses to her question, “Do you need help?” If I answer her in a not-so-nice manner like, “NO!!! I CAN DO THIS!” she gives it right back at me. She doesn’t do it to be mean, she does it because I have asked her to treat me as she would anyone else. I don’t want any special treatment.
When I am in my “FOGGY STATE of MIND” she doesn’t ask me anything for I am not able to answer her questions. I can barely make sensible words (from what Maureen tells me at a later time) but I still try. That’s the stubborn part of me that is, I guess, always with me.
You see, when I first started my Advocacy back in the beginning of 2015, I started using my slogan, “I Have Alzheimer’s, BUT, It Doesn’t Have Me” because I was bound and determined not to be recognized as Brian, the guy with Alzheimer’s. I wanted to still be known as Brian, the guy who is Living Well with Alzheimer’s and he doesn’t allow it to define him. I still believe that to this day. I figure, if I allow it to define who I am, then I have lost the battle and I am nowhere near that stage of my life yet. I still have a lot to do and a lot to say.
OK, I got a little sidetracked. Back to “Don’t Do . . . BE.”
As the quote stated at the beginning of this post, doing for someone without asking “disables” them. It doesn’t physically disable them, but it does emotionally disable them. It takes away their confidence and when it happens over and over again, they lose their self-confidence and increases their doubt as to what they can and cannot do. This could start a mental decline and that’s what I fight, every day, not to go down that path. I know it will happen but NOT TODAY!
Actually, Maureen not only allows me to “BE” but she now asks me to assist her with things she is struggling with. That gives me such a boost of confidence and strengthens our relationship.
One last thing I would like to mention is for the Care Partners that are assisting their person in a Care Community. What if your person is non-verbal? How do you know if they are struggling with something? That would happen over time, as you get to know your person, you would become more familiar with the non-verbal signs of them struggling and they may become more comfortable with you assisting them. It becomes a partnership as well as a relationship . . . one person helping another.
So, my main message / suggestion to you is this, “if you see your loved one struggling with something, don’t be so quick to jump in and do it for them. Ask them if they need some assistance. If it becomes something that could lead to them hurting themselves, you may want to ask them again to avoid any type of injury. Yes, I know it’s a slippery slope but as time goes along, you and your person will start working as a team and they may actually start asking for your help instead of waiting until it frustrates them. That is something I still struggle with but, more times than not, I ask Maureen for assistance and she is only too happy to jump right in.
I came across a post today that disturbed me.
It read: A tough conversation — when do older people stop being an asset and start being a liability or do they ever?
My question is, as an individual “LIVING with Alzheimer’s Disease and now, Vascular Dementia, and approaching my 60’s, am I going to be considered a liability by some? Will the public see me as well as others like me as a “Diseased”, “Memory-Impaired” “Demented” person?
How can a person all of a sudden go from an individual to a liability? Is that how the majority of the world sees us? If they do, they are very, very, sadly mistaken.
Just because I have Dementia-Related Illnesses does not mean that I cease to contribute to Society. On the contrary. It is my opinion that I contribute more now than what I ever did when I was employed. In 2013, my employer dismissed me for, what he claimed, was not carrying out my duties to the fullest of my ability. Although I was upset at the time, when I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year later, he may have been correct. I now understand and accept that decision however, it didn’t mean that I was a liability.
My Grandfather and my Mother both Lived with Alzheimer’s but I, nor anyone I know, ever looked upon them as a liability.
My Father Lived with Vascular Dementia. Again, no one I know of looked at him as a liability.
I can’t speak for everyone so I won’t try. I can speak for myself and others I know very well that living with a Dementia-Related Illness, or any type of illness for that matter, is hard . . . very hard. It’s frustrating, not just for ourselves but for our families, our loved ones, and our friends. They have a front-row seat to our frustrations, confusion, and anger but in this case, the front row is not necessarily the best seat in the house.
I have so many friends and acquaintances who have a Dementia-Related Illness, who are CarePartners for their loved ones, who are Executives, CEO’s and Members of Dementia and Elderly Organizations and Communities. They, like me, as well as thousands of others, do not look upon Individuals with Dementia-Related Illnesses or any type of Illness / Disability as a Liability. They see US, not our Disabilities. WE see us as Individuals. We are Person-Centered Focused.
Never should anyone, no matter age or gender, be looked upon as a Liability. No one is perfect and no one ever will be. We are human beings and no matter how perfect we strive to be, we never will be, so we strive to be the best selves we can be.
If that’s not enough for others, oh well!
When I give my presentations, I speak about “Living Well” with Alzheimer’s Disease and the lengths I go to keep my life on track. and organized. I talk about my girlfriends, “Siri and Alexa”, (it makes everyone laugh), and how they tell me when to check my blood sugar, when to take my medications, when to eat, when to bathe (yes, I still need to be reminded to take a bath) and a multitude of other things.
I also talk about my travels. Whether it’s a Dementia-Friendly Cruise where I not only speak while onboard but fortunate enough to see some amazing sights. I talk about speaking at and attending Alzheimer’s and Dementia conferences where I’m surrounded by like-minded individuals who wind up being my friends, not just acquaintances, but real, caring, special friends who I stay in contact with and they with me.
I also talk about the powerful tool that music is and how I use music to keep me calm on anxious days or make me happy on sad days or just listen to it to make me smile. A few years ago, my friend, Wilk McKean, asked me to join his music group, “Dr. Breeze.” We sing around the Pensacola area but my heart really swells when we sing at Senior Care Communities. There is no finer moment than to see their smiling faces, their feet tapping, their hands clapping and their voices joining ours as we sing familiar songs.
The one constant associated with performing at these Senior Care Communities is one of the same questions I am continually asked . . .
“How do you keep going back to these “places” to sing. Doesn’t it make you feel weird?”
(I already know what’s coming next but I ask anyway)
“What do you mean by, “weird?”
They say, “Well, you could wind up in a place like that. Doesn’t that scare you?”
I very calmly reply, “NO, because if I do wind up in a “place” like that, I hope someone like me or a group like Dr. Breeze, comes in to sing for me.”
The only answer that comes out of their mouth is, “OH”!
What I don’t talk about, the one thing that is so very hard is LONELINESS! If you didn’t know that Loneliness and Dementia are very common, please feel free to GOOGLE Loneliness and Dementia. Don’t worry, there are only about 43,000 articles that pertain to this subject. Get comfortable, it will take a while to get through them all.
I don’t usually talk about LONELINESS because . . . I HATE IT! I DREAD IT.
People that know me find it hard to believe that I am a very lonely person. The majority of my friends only see me in social circles and when I’m in those circles, I’m not lonely.
I realized, by not talking about loneliness, I am doing a disservice to my audience. Selfishly, I don’t want anyone to see me as a lonely person and I definitely don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me.
Yesterday and today were very lonely days for me because I had just spent 6 wonderful, educational and fun days in Louisville, KY at the Pioneer Network Conference. The Conference was amazing. There were over 800 Educators, Speakers, Care Partners, Exhibitors and Individuals Living with Dementia-Related Illnesses, all gathered together in one place with the sole focus on Pioneering a New Culture and Facilitate Deep System Change in the Culture of Aging.
It was an incredible experience. I saw people I hadn’t seen in a year or so, met new people from all over the U.S., Canada, and other locations throughout the world. 6 days of positive energy. 6 days of like-mindedness. It was incredible.
Then Thursday came. Everyone was leaving. My friends, my new friends, my special friends, all going back to their families, their places, their homes. I tried to stay positive as I hugged everyone good-bye but it just got too much. I broke down and embarrassed myself a bit.
All I could think of was I was coming home to emptiness and that is something I don’t handle very well. I live by myself voluntarily. I feel it makes me stronger to be the one responsible for all that is me. Sometimes, things don’t necessarily work out the way you want them to. I did have raised expectations of some phone calls and or emails coming through but it wasn’t to be. I just have to figure out a way to not let loneliness overtake me. It’s no one’s responsibility but my own.
I know one thing I will start doing . . . I will include loneliness as part of my presentation.
Thanks for reading. If you feel this will help others to have a better understanding of loneliness or anything else, feel free to share.
Each day, I scour the news sources looking for the next “big thing” in the Dementia and Alzheimer’s World. Some days there are very interesting stories full of hope and promise and then there are days when the headlines lead you to believe the next “big thing” has been found, only to find the words, “hopefully” or “in the future” or “in the next 10 years” in the body of the article . . . you see where I’m going.
The thing I continuously see are people like me who are Living with Alzheimer’s and people who are Living with Other Dementia-Related Illnesses being referred to as Patients and/or Sufferers.
I’m not sure about you but I am NOT a PATIENT of any newspaper, magazine, documentary, news channel or TV host.
I also don’t SUFFER from my Alzheimer’s. I struggle.
Part of what I do when I’m advocating is to remind everyone that, although I have a disease that will, one day, contribute to my death, I also remind them that I am NOT anyone’s patient except for my Doctor. “XXX” is my Doctor and I am his/her patient. That’s it. No one else has the right to claim me as a patient. I find that to be highly insulting and it gets on my very last nerve.
When I, and others, are referred to as “SUFFERERS”, it also strikes a nerve. I will speak only for myself on this for I ‘m not sure if others feel like they are suffering. I don’t feel that way. Suffering means, “the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.” I can understand the hardship part from a financial point of view and on the days when I am in my fog, but I still don’t consider myself suffering.
If I offend anyone by saying this, I don’t mean to. I’m simply stating how I feel. There may be some folks out there who feel as if they are suffering. The only thing I can say to that is, each of us are individuals, and life is going to affect us in individual ways.
The focus right now on those of us Living with Alzheimer’s or other Dementia’s is “SEE ME, NOT MY DISEASE” or “PERSON CENTERED FOCUS.” Person Centred Approach is about ensuring someone with a disability is at the center of decisions which relate to their life. What it boils down to is, who knows us better than US? Instead of making decisions for us or about us, why not include us in the conversation. Ask US what we think. Discuss options with us . Just treat us for who we are and that is human beings.
I know in the later stages, I will be unable to communicate my wishes as to what I would like or dislike. With that said, I already have an Advanced Healthcare Directive and Appointment of Agent as well as a Durable Power of Attorney. It was important to me to make sure I was making the decisions for my life. I did not want to put that responsibility on anyone else. As a side note, as long as I can still eat, there will be peanut butter, chocolate and of course there will be music.
My advice to anyone and everyone is to have these documents prepared. My advice is free and you, as an individual, can do with it what you like.
I’ve said many times, “This is NOT how I expected to spend my retirement but, it is what it is.” I try to be productive every day, BUT . . .
Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not.
Sometimes I write, sometimes I watch Netflix.
Sometimes I just sit, look at photographs and listen to music.
Sometimes I go to Starbucks.
Sometimes I just sit and think.
Sometimes I just sit and cry, but not for long.
I’ll admit, it’s a hard life, but I know there are others who have it worse so I don’t dwell in the darkness for long. I have loved ones who I can call day or night. I have friends, a lot fewer than what I once had (that’s a blog post for another day) that I can lean on when needed, and lastly, I have myself.
In my Alzheimer’s mind, I’m still me. I can still drive, I can still work, I can still fix technological things, I can still balance a checkbook. OK, I can’t physically do ANY of these things anymore, but that’s OK. I know what my limits are . . . most of the time.
At the end of the day when I lay my head on my pillow, I know I’m still me. I’m not everyone’s patient, I’m not suffering and I’m not the me I used to be but that’s OK. You see, I don’t worry about the things I wasn’t able to do today for when I wake up tomorrow morning, I won’t remember. I’ll just re-invent myself all over again, until the next day, and that’s OK with me.
If 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.”
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.)
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.
When 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 MerryChristmas!
Until Next Time . . . PEACE (on Earth and good will towards men)