So . . . You Think I’m Faking my Alzheimer’s Disease, do you?

So . . . You Think I’m Faking my Alzheimer’s Disease, do you?

Imagine my amazement when through recent conversations with some close acquaintances, I was told that there are individuals who think I am FAKING my Alzheimer’s Disease. Yeah, I know, right?

First off, HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU FAKE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE???

  • I’ve had brain scans. Did I manipulate them by turning my brain off, not thinking anything while in the scanner?
  • I’ve been diagnosed, not once, not twice, not thrice, but 4 freakin’ times
    by a Neurologist, a Neuropsychiatrist, and two Neuropsychologists (appointed by the Social Security Administration, who by the way, declines benefits until no stone is unturned). Did I fake not remembering how to draw a clock or another type of shape?  Did I fake remembering the 4 words I was told 5 minutes ago?
  • Do I fake every day not remembering things from 1 minute, 1 hour or 1 day ago
  • I’ve had my driving privileges taken away by my Dr. for it was determined I no longer have the cognitive abilities or proper reaction time to operate a vehicle. Did I fake that too?

BOGUS

WOW . . . if I was faking all this, I must be a pretty damn good faker to have come up with this diabolical plan. But wait, if I was actually faking it, wouldn’t that take someone who can think and remember what to do, day in and day out, so they could remember to keep “faking it?”

Could someone:

  • who has no clue what day it is
  • who cannot tell time on a non-digital watch
  • who has to have alerts on his phone to remind him to take his medicine, to eat and to bathe every day
  • who can’t remember, day to day, how to work a TV remote

Could someone who is Cognitively Impaired really carry out this plan?

Oh wait, I get it . . . I’m supposed to be curled up in a bed, not able to talk intelligently, not able to feed myself or go to the bathroom by myself, and not remember my wife and children. God forbid, should I be able to use a laptop to write blog posts that will hopefully bring awareness and education to people who don’t understand the in’s and out’s of Living with Alzheimer’s Disease that they only saw in their elderly parents and grandparents.

GEEEEZZZZ, I guess since I’m able to do all of these things, maybe all of those so called medical professionals, all 4 of them, plus their PA’s and NP’s, all with their Diplomas and Certificates and published articles are just full of shit!

Maybe they have a quota as to how many people they have to diagnose with a Dementia-Related Illness each month and they needed just one more to be awarded the monthly “Hey, You Diagnosed Some Poor Sucker with a Fatal Illness Who Wasn’t  Really Sick” award, and I was the lucky one.
Maybe they (all 4 Dr’s, PA’s and NP’s) deliberately lied to me just to turn my life and my family’s life inside out and upside down, all the while so they can collect a $35 co-pay so they have some spending money for lunch!
Wow, did they pull the wool over my eyes, or what?

FAKE

I’ve been open and honest about my Alzheimer’s life since the day I was diagnosed. When I talk about it, I don’t do it to make people feel sorry for me, to have pity on me or to call attention to myself.
If I did that, I’d be dishonoring the lives of my Grandfather, my Mother and Father, or my wife’s Grandmother.
If I did that, I’d be making a mockery of every person in the world who has Alzheimer’s Disease, whether they be over or under the age of 65, individuals who I now call a friend.
If I did that, I’d be purposely putting my wife and children through sheer, underserving, inexcusable, wretched hell.

Well, I don’t have the capability to do something like that. 

I’m not saying I’m perfect for I have many faults and I’ve made many mistakes in my life that I’ve paid dearly for, but I’m not evil!

So, for those of you who want to continue thinking I’m faking my illness, please go right ahead. You have the right to think and say what you want. You can’t hurt me anymore than what I’ve already been. We don’t talk or see each other so it’s not like I’m missing out on anything.

Since receiving my “diagnosis” I’ve become non-existent to you, well, except to be called a fake, not to my face of course.

So please, continue your path in life and feel good about yourself. It must be nice to sit upon your throne and pass judgment upon those of us, you feel, are just skating through life.

Yeah, I’m skating alright. Of course, I can no longer skate on my own (guess I’m faking that too) but I’ve got Shannon (and her family), Asheton, Bradley, Linda and so many others holding me up both physically and emotionally when I need it. Unfortunately, I’ve been needing their assistance more and more lately but they are always there. I know I’m fortunate to have them, and yes, I know who YOU are, and I NEVER take it for granted.

They understand what I go through every day. They see and talk to me on good days, bad days and all days in between, because they get it and I am so thankful for that.

Feel free to call them and ask them if I’m “faking it”.
Better yet, just call Shannon. She would just loooooove to talk to some of you.
Just be prepared though, she’s kinda protective of me.

Until Next Time . . .

PEACE,
B

 

Miracle on Main Street USA

Miracle on Main Street USA

mir·a·cle
ˈmirək(ə)l/
noun

a surprising and welcoming event that is not explainable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. 

My most memorable, recollected use of the word “Miracle” was during the 1980 Olympics. Al Michaels of ABC Sports, with only 2 seconds left on the clock, shouted, “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?” as the under-dogged USA defeated Russia for the Olympic Gold Medal in Hockey. 

There was a three-act play, “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, “The Story of My Life”  which premiered in 1962.

Of course, you have all seen the  Christmas classic (1947), and re-make (1994), of the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street.”  

(Now you know where I got my inspiration for the title of this blog post)

OK, enough about all of that.


If you haven’t read my 2 previous blog posts, you may want to read them. Doing so may give you better insight to understand what has been going on with me. 

In case you don’t want to go back, here’s a very quick recap:
I woke up on the morning of February 5th unable to speak. Not from laryngitis but something that was Alzheimer’s related. I spent the next 2 1/2 weeks struggling to find my voice but, was unsuccessful.

That should bring you up to speed.
In between the 2 1/2 weeks with no voice, Shannon and I celebrated our 9th Wedding Anniversary. We both made each other handmade cards and went out to dinner.

I’ve always prided myself on being creative and was very satisfied with the card I made for Shannon. However, on this Anniversary, she went all out.

I will share a quote from her letter:

“You are my husband, my best friend, the ying to my yang, my partner in life.
My gift to you this year is memories . . .
So, Brian LeBlanc, you made it through 9 years of marriage . . . What are you going to do now???

“YOU’RE GOING TO DISNEYWORLD!!!” We leave in 7 days!
Being that I couldn’t talk, I let my tears do the talking. 
She knew what I needed and she knew where I needed to be.
She was hoping and praying for a miracle.

We didn’t tell anyone where we were going and being I couldn’t speak made it kind of easy for me to comply. I even had to remind myself NOT to post anything on Social Media. (I used sticky notes on my desk to remind me.) We wanted it to be just about us . . . a change of scenery to our favorite place turned out to be just what we both needed.

 

I should have known something was up when, on our way to Orlando, “Brown Eyed Girl” came on the radio. I sang every word of the song. I still couldn’t speak at the time, but I sang that song. It was such an appropriate moment, for when I was with the band “Mass Kunfuzion”, every time I sang that song, I dedicated it to Shannon. So there we were, rolling down the Interstate, on our way to the “Happiest Place on Earth”, and I’m singing to my wife. 

Sunday was our first visit to the Magic Kingdom. It was like re-visiting an old, familiar friend. Although we were surrounded by tens of thousands of people, a sense of peace came over me.  I know it sounds strange but if you’ve read my previous posts where I speak of Disneyworld, it should come as no surprise as to how I was feeling.

 

The following is my own recollection of what happened on February 19th, 2017, that “Miraculous Sunday.” I’m sure Shannon, with her crystal-clear memory recall ability, could fill in the gaps, but this is what I remember.

As it was nearing the time for the fireworks show, I said something. What I said, I have no idea. (Up to that point I was only able to say very few, single words. The rest of my communication was conveyed by using a whiteboard and a text to speech app)

Shannon turned to me and said, “What did you say?”
I think I shrugged my shoulders.
She said, “you just said a complete sentence!”
I thought she may have heard someone nearby and only THOUGHT it was me.

She told me again, “you said a complete sentence!”

Even though I couldn’t remember, not only what I said, but couldn’t remember saying anything at all, I remember feeling very warm.

Then the fireworks started.

I remembered distinctly what came next.
I heard the words, “Oh my God, that is so beautiful!” come out of my mouth.
I immediately turned to Shannon and she was smiling the biggest smile I have ever seen.
She said, “You did it again. YOU TALKED!”
I replied in a very tearful voice, “I KNOW!” 

Again, I felt a burst of warmth spread over me.
I knew something had just happened. I didn’t quite understand what happened, or why it happened, but it happened. We just held each other and it was like no one else was around. 

(the photo below was taken immediately after the fireworks while I was still experiencing unexplainable moisture flowing from my eyes. I think I was still in shock as to what just happened.)
img_5978

Why my speech returned at that precise moment still befuddles me.
Did a miracle just happen?
Contrary to popular belief, miracles do happen.
Shannon and I firmly believe this was a miracle.


It didn’t happen slowly, it was all of a sudden like a switch was turned from off to on. I don’t think I have stopped talking since then. When I’m at home and no one is around, I talk to Dallas. He’s an excellent listener and never, ever disagrees with what I’m saying.

For those of you that have known me for many years know that I love to talk. My family knows that I love to talk. For them, I’m sure it was sort of a vacation for them to not have to hear me talking non-stop about everything and anything. They are, however, thankful and relieved that I can speak once again because they know how lost I was without my voice.

Shannon and I kept the news of the return of my speech to ourselves. We told no one.
The reason being, we didn’t want to say “HEY!!! I CAN TALK AGAIN!!!” and the next day, or 2 days later, my voice disappeared again. So, we were overly cautious. Also, I didn’t want to give anyone false hopes, especially Shannon. So, we remained quiet. 

Imagine what it was like. Here I was, not able to speak for 2 1/2 weeks and all of a sudden, I could speak again, but I had to keep it on the down-low. So, what did I do? I talked to everyone in Disneyworld. It didn’t matter who they were or whether they understood English. I talked and talked and talked.
I think, by the time we were packed up and headed back home, Shannon was probably afraid I was going to talk her ear off. But I didn’t.
So, here I am, able to speak again, and “miraculously” feeling a bit more clear-minded. Maybe I’m imagining it or maybe it’s real. I don’t really care. 
I’m just going with how I feel.

 

Needless to say:

  • I will never forget how Walt Disneyworld makes me feel
  • I will never forget how Walt Disneyworld made me feel as normal as I could feel
  • I will NEVER forget the Miracle on Main Street USA on Sunday, Feb 19, 2017.

Lastly, as far as believing in miracles, well . . . Shannon and I are TRUE BELIEVERS!

Until Next Time,
PEACE!
B

And So IT Continues . . .

This has been a very long week + 2 days. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve lost the ability to speak.

At first, it was scary. I didn’t know how I was going to get through this. Then, my support system, comprised of Bradley (16), Asheton(22) and Shannon (I’m not telling her age!) stepped in, telling me I’m not alone in this, and that “WE” will get through this. They have kept true to their word.

So far, I haven’t received any encouraging news as to what caused this. One Dr. said it could have been the brain hemorrhage that showed on my MRI.
Another said it was the growth and spreading of plaques and tangles in the frontal lobe of my brain.
Another said it wasn’t any of those things.
So, I’m feeling very good about myself . . . NOT!!!

The one positive thing about all of this is the unbelievable support, encouragement, and love that pours in each and every day. It comes through texts, both facebook messenger and posts, twitter, Instagram, and e-mail. The organizations I volunteer for, Alzheimer’s Association (national and local) Dementia Action Alliance, Covenant Care, and Dementia Alliance International) have all sent messages of encouragement and concern. Covenant Care even went as far as sending (and hand delivering) a card full of encouragement along with a praline and pecan King Cake. (Don’t worry, I took an extra dose of insulin. I wasn’t about to miss out on that deliciousness of sugary confection. And besides, it would’ve been rude of me if they asked if I enjoyed it and I answered with, “I don’t know, I didn’t eat any of it because I’m diabetic!” My Momma taught me NOT to be rude.)

Anyway, back to the no-speaking thing.  

Being I can’t communicate, except for very few words, (Love You, Yes, No, and Pee-Pee. Just to clarify, Pee-Pee is for my dog Dallas . . . not for me!) I use a whiteboard and an app named “TextToSpeech”. You pick the type of voice you want, you type in whatever you want to say, and then hit speak. It’s very easy to use. Since I’m still able to form words in my head, I’m still able to type and write. I don’t know how, but neither does anyone else so far. I’m hoping someone, someday with be able to tell me exactly what’s going on.

On the negative side, I’ve had to cancel a number of my speaking engagements and I literally hate that. Since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I’ve never had to cancel any speaking engagements.  Having to do so makes me feel as if I let a host of people down especially when it comes to Law Enforcement. I always enjoyed teaching them the Crisis Intervention Team Training, where I taught them how to recognize someone with Dementia. It’s important since more and more individuals, especially baby-boomers like me, are being diagnosed with a Dementia-Related Illness. I know it is being left in good hands but  . . .

I’m also getting used to not driving anywhere. It’s not the “not driving” part, it’s being isolated and dependent upon others. I’ve burdened my family enough already. Now I’m asking them to drive me places or to get me things. I hate having to ask but they never say no. They always find a way. I’ve come to the realization that I’ll never drive again and, like everything else, that will have to be OK. There’s always UBER, if I need to get out. I can use my Text to Speech App to tell them where I need to go. We’ll see.

I’m just going to continue to do what I do as best as I can. I will advocate through the written word instead of the spoken.

I will keep a positive attitude, especially when it comes to my family. They don’t deserve to have to take care of me especially with a “piss-poor” or a “poor poor me” attitude. They deserve the best me I can be and that is what I strive to do.

Some days are rougher than others. Yesterday I was in bed the majority of the day for I kept falling. My dizziness was at an all-time high. I figured the best way to deal with that and not worry my family was to eliminate my walking.  So I stayed in bed.

Before I go, I just want to drive home one more thing. 
Yes . . . I have Alzheimer’s!
Yes . . . I can no longer speak!
Yes . . . It’s a pain in the ass to deal with!
However . . . I’m Still Here, Living the Best Life I Can!

There are many others in the world who are just like me.
DON’T COUNT US OUT!

We still have a lot of life within us.
We still have a lot to say and we’ll say it through any form of communication we are able.

We will continue our Advocacy, raising Awareness and Educating about all things Dementia-Related.
Even when we are no longer of this earth, our words will still live on.

“I Have Alzheimer’s BUT, It Doesn’t Have Me
for I Don’t Allow it to Define Who I AM!!!”

Until Next Time,
PEACE

B
 

 

And So IT Begins . . .

Before I start writing this post, I want to make sure everyone understands why I am writing this. I’m NOT having a pity party and this is NOT a call for sympathy. I do not want or need any of that. This is just a factual account of my Alzheimer’s Journey as to what has recently occurred.

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SATURDAY NIGHT(2/4/17) AND SUNDAY MORNING (2/5/17)
I LOST MY ABILITY TO SPEAK.
BECAUSE OF THE DIZZINESS AND CONFUSION THAT ACCOMPANIES THIS,
MY DRIVING PRIVLIGES HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED.

I can still communicate by text (the word suggestions help me quite a bit), by composing emails and by writing on a whiteboard.
Thank God I can still spell.

During my 56+ years of living on this earth:

  • My voice has gotten me both in and out of trouble.
  • My voice has allowed me to sing in church for masses, weddings, and funerals, as well as for public (non-secular events) for over 45+ years.
  • My voice has been used for the last several years for sharing my Alzheimer’s Journey. My hope is that my message has reached at least 1 person and that 1 person is better off now than they were before.

All my life, I’ve been told I could have a conversation with a tree if no one else was around to converse with. Now, because of my Alzheimer’s Disease, my voice has been silenced . . . for now!

For those of you who know me understand what it meant for me to talk. It’s the one thing I’ve always been told I do very well. I will stay confident in the hopes that I will regain, some, if not all, my speech. Giving in to this disease is not an option for it is an admission of defeat. As long as I am able, I will not allow this disease to defeat me. I owe it to my family to stay as positive as I can . . . which is not always easy.

Thankfully, I can still laugh, which, according to my wife is what first attracted her to me. I knew it wasn’t my looks or my height (she’s taller than me) so I’m glad I had (still have) a loud and hearty laugh. I hope to give her many more moments of laughter for years to come.
As a side note in a very short period of time, I’ve learned to use “creative sign language” as well as write my “sarcastic comments”  on the whiteboard. That brings smiles, laughs, as well as eye rolls!

In a recent MRI, the results showed a minor brain hemorrhage and quite an increase of Amyloid Plaque from 2014 (the year of my initial diagnosis) until now. (if you like you can click on “Amyloid Plaque” to get an idea of what I’m talking about.)

The build up of Plaque on the left side of my brain could be responsible for the misfiring of neurons, thereby not allowing words to flow from my brain to my vocal chords. How it allows me to write words, I have no idea. I’m just thankful I still have a way to communicate.

I remember when Alzheimer’s Disease caused my Mother to lose her ability to speak. She would try to communicate the only way she remembered how and that was through song. She no longer remembered the words but she sure knew the tune and would either hum it or “la-la” it in perfect pitch. It was up to us to try and figure out what she was trying to say. She always tried to converse in one way or another and I owe it to her to do the same.

I can still say, very few, short and simple words but nothing in sentence form. I’ll take what I can get. 

Again, I’m not asking for any sympathy or pity.
What I will ask is that you keep my family and me in your thoughts and prayers. I am not alone on this journey. Shannon, Asheton and Bradley are right here with me. Without their unconditional love and never-ending support, I would not be able to do this.
I can’t forget my little furry care partner, Dallas the Cajun Dog. The amazing intuition he has is uncanny.

In 2 days, I will escort my beautifully, stunning wife to dinner as we celebrate another year of married life. I picked the place and Asheton made the reservation for me. Just because I can’t speak doesn’t mean I have to stop existing. With a mini-whiteboard or small notepad, we will celebrate with delicious food, great conversation as well as our love for each other.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Until next time . . . PEACE!

B

 

The Happiest Place on Earth

The Happiest Place on Earth

Yes, I’m talking about “THE” Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disneyworld.
However, it’s not for the reasons you may think.

Let me explain . . . I recently came across an article by Sandy Wells of KABC News entitled, New Approach to Treating Alzheimer’s Disease Replicates Life As It was 60 Years Ago.” http://www.kabc.com/2017/01/09/new-approach-to-treating-alzheimers-disease-focuses-on-long-term-memory/

The article talks about “Reminiscence Therapy” 

Here is an excerpt from the Article:
“Specifically, how that works, and what it has shown is reminiscence therapy really reduces agitation, improves mood and improves sleep quality, all of which are major factors when you’re dealing with the challenges of facing Alzheimer’s Disease. When you think about Town Square, really, what it is, is a complete, immersive environment that’s designed around a 1950’s – 1960’s time period, specifically from 1953 to 1961.

For those of you that don’t know the in’s and out’s of Alzheimer’s Disease, the first thing to go is the short-term memories. It’s why I have trouble remembering things from day to day, week to week, etc . . . However, talk to me about things from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, I’m as clear as a bell. So I think it’s awesome that a Town Square atmosphere is going to be built specifically for Individuals with Alzheimer’s in mind. It will put them in an environment where they are comfortable, non-anxious and happy.

So what does this have to do with WDW? I knew you would ask that question sooner or later, so I am prepared to tell you.

My first time going to WDW was in 1976. At that time the park was only 5 years old and the Magic Kingdom was all there was. Since that time, I have been back at least 15-20 times. I’ve lost count. I have seen it grow from just 1 park to 4 and I have been so many times, I know where everything is.

The last time I was there was in September. Shannon surprised me with a trip for my birthday. We had such a wonderful time.
One thing that stood out, and still does, was when we were waiting for the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular (the fireworks). Shannon had to go to the restroom so I stayed where we had found a good spot. Several minutes later, Shannon called to tell me she was lost and couldn’t find me. She was more worried about me than being lost. I talked to her to find out her location and I knew right where she was. I told her to look for the light. I turned on my phone’s flashlight and held it up, shining it in her direction. She saw it and followed it back to me.

She asked me, “How did you know where I was? How did you know to hold up the light?”  I had no answer for her. I couldn’t explain it other than to say, “I don’t know, I just knew.”

 On our last day there Shannon and I were talking about how much fun we had and then, she told me this . . .
“Since we have been here, you have shown no signs of Alzheimer’s, you didn’t talk about Alzheimer’s and you didn’t talk to anyone about Alzheimer’s. You even found “ME” when “I” was lost. You were who you used to be and I want you to hold onto that.”


With that said, she took me to the ticket counter and upgraded my park pass to an Annual Pass. She said, “I want you to come back here as often as you can, take as many photos as you like and just be who you used to be.”  I didn’t know what to say. I was elated, emotional, speechless. I didn’t think it was possible to fall more in love with her than I already had, but I did. And no, it wasn’t because she was giving me this gift, it was the reason why she was giving me this gift. She wanted me to feel normal.She wanted me to feel how I used to feel. She wanted me to have the clearest, non-foggy mind I could possibly have in a place I knew so well.

On the ride back home, I thought a lot. I tried to think as to why WDW transported me back to an earlier, normal-brained time. I knew part of it was because I had visited there so many times that everything was familiar. However, something just didn’t click. I was still unsure . . . until I spoke with my sister.

One day, on a phone call with Linda, I was telling her about the gift Shannon had given me. I told how it made me feel being back in WDW. Then I explained to her about not being able to clearly understand why I felt that connection, that is, until she asked me a very simple question . . . “Don’t they play music all through the park?”

When she asked that question, a wave of emotion washed over me, just as it is now. I started hearing the sounds, the musical sounds of  WDW, in my head. It wasn’t a particular sound or a particular song,  it was just the most beautiful, joyous, happy sound I’ve ever heard. Linda, reminded me of my love of music and how musical therapy (listening to your favorite songs from years gone by) can transport you back to a particular time and place. All the pieces of the puzzle fit together and I finally had the answer to my question I had been pondering since September.

I’m not sure why I didn’t think of the music but then again, I’m not sure what I think or don’t think anymore. 

The reason I am bringing this up now is next week, I will be in Orlando to be on a panel for the The National AT Aging and Dementia Decision Tree Workshop. I am going there a little early so I can make a quick visit to WDW. Call it being a “kid at heart” or call it “just wanting to feel normal.” I just want to be who I was before Alzheimer’s came along and robbed me of so many things.

Thank you Shannon, for giving me a gift of love, a gift of happiness, a gift of normalcy. Whether you are there with me or I’m by myself, you will ALWAYS be in my heart.

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Until next time . . . “Have a Magical Day!”

B

58 … 11,370 … 1,000%

I know you’re probably looking at the title of this blog post wondering what it means. I promise I’ll tell you, but first, I would like to (I’m trying to think of the word that means to look back on certain events but not only can I not figure out the word, I can hardly remember yesterday, so I will just say . . . ) look back on 2016.

2016 was a very busy year for me. I can’t remember a time in my professional work life when I was this busy. All I can say is, it was a different kind of busy. Being that I’m not able to hold down a 8 – 5 salaried job doesn’t mean I’m sitting back in my recliner with Dallas (my dog) eating ice cream and watching daytime talk shows. (by the way, have y’all seen Harry, the new show with Harry Connick, Jr.? It’s  on Mon -Fri @2pm CST, on ABC. Just sayin’.)
Where was I . . . Oh yeah, 2016.

Working with several organizations (ALZ Assoc AL/FL Panhandle, National ALZ Assoc Early-Stage Advisory Group, Dementia Action Alliance, Covenant Alzheimer’s Care, Dementia Alliance International) keeps me busy. And no, I’m not complaining.
Busy =  Engaged Brain . . . Stagnant = Fog. I’ll take an engaged brain any day.

This brings me to the first number in the title . . . 58
58 
is the number of presentations I took part in during 2016. Yes, with only 52 weeks in the year, there were times when I doubled up in a week and even in a day. I didn’t care. I did what I was asked to do without question. In my mind, it was another opportunity to spread Dementia Awareness. It was another opportunity to demystify the Stigma associated with Dementia, especially Early-Onset Dementia.

No matter where I go, people still associate Dementia as that of a disease of the elderly. When I stand at the podium and tell the audience, “I’m 56 years old and I have Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease”, the reaction, the looks on people’s faces is consistent. It’s that of surprise, shock, and yes, disbelief. I get comments like, “My Mother / Father / Grandmother / Grandfather had Dementia and they couldn’t speak, let alone stand up in front of an audience like you do and talk about their life wth Alzheimer’s. I ask the age of their loved one and they are/were considerably older than me. I take that as an opportunity to talk about my life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others who have Early-Stage Dementia and are able to live somewhat of a full life.

I also have people tell me how “brave” I am to talk about my life with Alzheimer’s Disease. Military personnel, Law Enforcement Officer’s, Fire Fighters and others who put their lives on the line every day are who I consider brave. I’m just a guy with Alzheimer’s Disease who can still talk about what it’s like to live with the disease. As I say in my presentation, “Alzheimer’s: Up Close and Personal”, “I don’t try to paint a rosy picture of what it’s like to live with this disease for if I did, you would not understand what we go through on a daily basis.” Although I don’t consider myself “brave”, I do thank them for the compliment. My Momma taught me to be kind.

My Dementia Advocacy isn’t just restricted to the AL/FL Panhandle. I also go to different places in the U.S. That’s what brings me to the second number in the title, 11,370.
That number represents the number of miles I have traveled by air and highway during 2016. To give you a breakdown, 5,836 were the number of air miles, leaving a balance of 5,534 representing the number of highway miles. The air miles weren’t shocking since I made a number of trips to Washington, DC and Chicago, but the highway miles are what really surprised me. 

One of the most memorable moments was during a presentation in Washington DC at the National Academies of Sciences • Engineering • Medicine for the “Preventing Dementia and Cognitive Impairment Workshop”.

I was asked to speak at the workshop, to give an abbreviated presentation of my “Alzheimers: Up Close and Personal” presentation. Looking at the other presenters, they were Ph.D’s. CEO’s, MD’s and then there was me. The only abbreviations I could think of to go behind my name was ALZ, which is how I introduced myself. 

Being that my presentation was scheduled for later in the afternoon, I was able to listen to the other presenters. It was a bit intimidating due to their Scientific, Medical, and Professional backgrounds but I knew I would be presenting from a first person point of view, talking about myself rather than someone or some thing.

When it came time to speak, I walked up to the podium. To the left of me was a wall of windows. Right before I started to speak, I looked out the window and there was the Lincoln Memorial. It was such a surreal moment. A feeling of calmness came over me as I started my presentation. During my 15-minute allotted time frame, I glanced at Mr. Lincoln’s Memorial several times. I not only felt proud to be there, but I felt as if I were representing the millions of people living in the United States who were living with Dementia. At the conclusion of my presentation, the unthinkable happened. The entire room stood up and gave me a standing ovation. No one else, the entire day, received that type of acknowledgment. What a memorable moment that was, memorable enough to stay with me. 

My local advocacy has put me in front of audiences numbering in the 20’s and 30’s to 100’s. Each time, I share my “first person point-of-view” as to what it’s like Living with Alzheimer’s each and every day.
Although I’ve spoken to Medical Professionals, Civic Organizations and Caregivers, the one group that affects me in the most emotional way are the Law Enforcement Officers. Each and every day, these men and women put on their uniforms and then put their lives on the line. That’s what I call bravery! 

chevy-police-vehicle

Through Crisis Intervention Team Training, I speak to them as well as teach them as to how to identify people Living with a Dementia-Related Illness, individuals they may come into contact with each and every day. Again, I speak from personal experiences of public confusion, disorientation, broken or unintelligible speech, etc. to give them an idea of what to look for. They ask very good questions and don’t mind if the presentation goes over the allotted time.

Most of them, as do most of the audiences I speak to, have a connection to a family member or friend who has had or has a Dementia-Related Illness.
Most of them have already had experiences with individuals with a Dementia-Related Illness and will now interact with these individuals differently and in a more positive way.

And this brings me to the last number in the title, 1,000%, which is what I give to everything Alzheimer’s.
Whether it’s:
   – preparing/updating one of my presentations
   – presenting to a small, medium or large audience
   – making sure my family knows how much I appreciate what they do for me, day in and day out

I make sure I give it my all.

I give 1,000% for I don’t know when I won’t be able to do this any longer.
When my time comes, I want to know that:
– I gave everything I had to give.
– no matter how big or small, I made a difference
– I gave people a better understanding of what it’s like to “Live with Alzheimer’s”
– I played a part in the destigmatization of Dementia
– people are now aware that Dementia is NOT just a disease of the elderly
– I helped people realize and understand that just because someone has Dementia does  not mean that it’s the end of all things.

There is still so much work to be done. There is still so much Dementia awareness and education to be shared.  I’m hoping 2017 will be a breakthrough.
Whether or not that happens, I will continue my travels and will continue giving 1,000%!

PEACE,
B

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My Day That Will Live in Infamy

October 28th, 2014 was on a Friday. I know this because I just looked it up on the calendar. It would be a day that changed my life, my family’s life, forever.

Shannon and I were sitting in my Neurologists’ office, awaiting the results from my MRI and Cognitive Testing. Once he was seated, he started explaining things, the way Dr’s do, but I remember stopping him and asking the question . . . “DO I HAVE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?”
He paused for a moment, and then answered, “YES.”

I don’t remember much after that. I know he explained the results of the MRI and my Cognitive Testing (which I found out later that I failed miserably) and he explained the results of the genetics and protein studies. The only thing I DO  remember was Shannon, holding my hand while I cried uncontrollably, and telling me, “It’s going to be OK. We’ll get through this together” or something along those lines.

I thought of my Mother, who, at the time, was still alive but in the last stages of her Alzheimer’s battle. (she would pass away 3 months later)
I thought of my Father who passed away in 2010 with Vascular Dementia.
I thought of my Grandfather who passed away in 1985  with Alzheimer’s.
I thought of Shannon’s Grandmother who had passed away only 2 months earlier with Alzheimer’s.

I’ll tell you, being around Alzheimer’s and Dementia Related Illnesses is difficult in and of itself, but it does not compare to Living with the Disease. I equate it to the obnoxious relative that comes for a visit . . .  and winds up staying . . . only to get more annoying as times goes on . . . and NEVER LEAVES!

I’ll tell you something else. The brain is strange and wonderful. Although Alzheimer’s has erased a lot of my short-term memory from my brain, it still allows me to remember certain things. I’ll explain.
Let’s go back to October 28, 2014. 
On the way home, Shannon and I were silent. I guess that was to be expected after the news we just received. I guess I was trying to wrap my head around what I was going to do from this point forward when I had my “Eureka Moment!”

I turned to Shannon and said, “I know what I have to do.”
She asked what I was thinking.
I said, “I have to talk about it.”
She replied with something that has stuck with me for the past 2 years . . .
“Once you put it out there, you can’t take it back!”

I have heard those words so many times in my head as well as during the many times I repeat them as part of my “Alzheimer’s: Up close and Personal” presentation. I can tell you those words have come back to haunt me for when I broke the news about having Alzheimer’s Disease, it did 2 things:
1) Being that I am not in my 70’s or 80’s and I can still do “some of the things” I have always done, some people doubt that I actually have Alzheimer’s Disease and have taken the time to tell me so.
2) I have lost a lot of friends and/or acquaintances because they don’t feel I am still the person I once was. Therefore I’m not able to converse, tell/understand jokes, etc . . .

I chalk it up to lack of Alzheimer’s knowledge and awareness in our society. That’s why when I told Shannon I wanted to talk about it, neither one of us expected I would be speaking to all types of audiences in numerous locations explaining what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This is not exactly the life I wanted to live, nor is it how I wanted to spend my retirement, however, we sometimes have to accept the cards we are dealt and make the most of it. It also makes it a bit easier to have 3 people, whom I love most in the world, right by my side. Shannon, Asheton and Bradley are right with me on my Alzheimer’s Journey. They help when I need them, they help when I don’t “THINK” I need them and they are there to laugh with me, to cry with me, to joke with me and to make me feel as normal as can be. They are the true example of family.
(I almost forgot to mention, Dallas, my furry friend, who has the intuition as to when I am having good and bad days and attempts to take care of me.)

So, I can look at October 28, 2014 as the day that I received the diagnosis of having a devasting, fatal disease and have a continuous, daily pity party
or,
I can look at October 28th, 2014 as the day that put me on a positive path to help others understand this devastating, fatal disease and at the same time, keeping me “In The Moment.”

I think you know which choice I chose!

Thanks for reading!
Until next time,

PEACE!
B