and yet . . . HERE WE ARE!

#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 MARCHES ON!

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!

~B

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!

PEACE,
Brian


Dying with Dignity

I feel safer, less anxious, loved, and assured that my wishes will be carried out just as they were planned. There is a secure feeling that is now with me.

Several months ago, I made a video to my future Care Partners. In case you didn’t see it, here is a a link to the video. https://bit.ly/30fWF5O

In the video, I talk to my Future Care Partners, telling them my likes and my dislikes so that when I am struggling with my Dementia, Anxiety and anything else that may make me a little difficult to deal with, they will know what to do.

Realizing that planning how you will pass from this earth is not exactly a fun discussion to have. We also realize that death can come along at any time, so it’s always important to have a plan. Don’t you want to be assured that that when your time comes, you will leave this earth in a manner in which you choose? I know I do,

With that said, Maureen and I have had many conversations about this topic because we both want to make sure that whoever goes first, the other one will know their wishes. We are going to write these wishes in our Journals, making changes and additions as we go along. It’s important to both of us that we give each other what the other wants.

One of the things we agreed on from the get-go is that we want to be cremated. We figured, why would we want to rent space in the ground when we could have our ashes planted in the ground and become a beautiful tree. That is such a beautiful thought that, when in full bloom, people could come sit under our branches and enjoy the shade we could be provide them. To us, that is such a beautiful way to spend eternity.

This blog post is not completely about dying, but more about our dignity. Simply said, I don’t want to spend the last days of my life being kept alive by a machine just to prolong the inevitable. I have work to do, meaning, I am donating my body to science.
– I want them to study my brain to see if something they find could be used to help further understand this most misunderstood disease.
– I want them use my organs to keep someone else alive.
– I want them to use anything they can to benefit others.

I can’t think of a better way to help others, rather than just put me in a hole in the ground.

In preparing for this post, I did l do some research. One of the things I looked at were websites with the title of Death with Dignity. This was not what I was looking for but a lot of folks, now today more than ever, are choosing.
Right from the start it states, “You’re joining a growing movement that works to ensure terminally ill Americans have the freedom to choose from a full range of end-of-life options, including how they die. Seventy percent of Americans support the end-of-life option allowing qualified terminally-ill people to end their lives through physician-prescribed medications. That’s right: seven in ten Americans want this option. https://www.deathwithdignity.org/learn/advocates/

Like I stated above, this is not for me but I respect those who choose this alternative.

So, what do I want to happen during the dying process?

  • First of all, I want Music. I want the room to be filled with my favorite music (I am currently working on my playlist) so that when I pass, I will be relaxed and non-stressed. That’s important to me.
  • One thing I DON’T WANT is people staring at me during my last moments. I know it will be sad, however, living with Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Type 2 Diabetes and no telling what awaits me in my later years, I want to be in my own bed, with nice sheets and soft pillows, have Hospice involved, laughter, (I don’t want it to be solemn for that is not who I am) and I have discussed all of this with Maureen.
  • I DON’T want to be left alone, (unless Maureen leaves to get a Diet Dr. Pepper from Chik Fil-A)

    This will all be put in writing so in case Maureen is not around, it will still be able to be carried out. Why is this so important to have this written?
  • I may not be verbal at that time. (Maureen says she couldn’t be so lucky to have me non-verbal.)
    I feel people should talk about their fears, no matter how serious, funny or anything in between because we don’t want to be trapped with those fears inside.

Before Maureen, I had no idea how I was going to spend my final days and moments nor did I have anything in writing. The only thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to be cremated and have my body given to science. I was living by myself and I had a fear of something happening to me and no one finding me for days. I had a fear of dying alone.

Now, with Maureen ever present in my life, I no longer have that fear for we now have a plan in place. And even if Maureen is not there, there will still be people by my side and I won’t be alone.

With that said, I feel safer, less anxious, loved, and assured that my wishes will be carried out just as they were planned. There is a secure feeling that is now with me.

You see, in Muareen’s line of work, at times she was the only one standing by the bedside of one of her clients, holding their hand as they passed away. She offered comfort but had no idea what their wishes were. She promised me that would never happen with me.

Some things I forgot to mention was, I want to have a Celebration of Life.

I want music to be played and at one point, I want the song, “Feeling Good” by Michael Bublé to be played. I want food and yes, alcohol. I don’t want anyone to wear black. Instead, I would love it if everyone would wear brightly colored clothes. If you have a Tropical Shirt, that would be even better. (I may add more to this as I think about something new. It’s kind of like me … a work in progress. You never know what you’re gonna get!)

The reason why I mention all this is because, if you don’t already have a plan or haven’t had conversations with your family as to how you want to spend your final days and moments, plan now, so that when that time comes, you will pass away in peace and your loved ones will also know they gave you exactly what you asked for.

Doing this is one of the greatest gifs YOU can give to your Loved Ones.
DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE!!!

Until Next Time . . .
PEACE!!!

B

Are There Do’s and Don’ts When it Comes to Dementia?

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

  1. 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.
  2. If I get dementia, I don’t want to be treated like a child. Talk to me like the adult that I am.
  3. 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.
  4. If I get dementia, ask me to tell you a story from my past.
  5. If I get dementia, and I become agitated, take the time to figure out what is bothering me.
  6. If I get dementia, treat me the way that you would want to be treated.
  7. 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.
  8. If I get dementia, don’t talk about me as if I’m not in the room.
  9. 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.
  10. If I get dementia, and I live in a dementia care community, please visit me often.
  11. 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.
  12. If I get dementia, make sure I always have my favorite music playing within earshot.
  13. If I get dementia, and I like to pick up items and carry them around, help me return those items to their original places.
  14. If I get dementia, don’t exclude me from parties and family gatherings.
  15. If I get dementia, know that I still like receiving hugs or handshakes.
  16. 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.

Until Next Time . . .
PEACE

B

ASSETS OR LIABILITIES???

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!

Until next time,
PEACE

B

From Stimulation to Loneliness

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.

Until next time . . .
PEACE!

B

 

Let’s Change the Narrative!

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.

Until next time,
PEACE!
B

Alzheimer’s . . . from the Daughter / Dad Perspective

In honor of World Alzheimer’s Month, my daughter and I were asked to write a few words as to what it’s like to be a Dad with Alzheimer’s and a Daughter of a Dad with Alzheimer’s. Being today is World Alzheimer’s Day, here are our words, our perspectives, our truths.
My hope is that this brings an awareness, some clarity and raw honesty of how Alzheimer’s not only affects the individual with the disease but the family as a whole.  I also hope this shows that Living with Alzheimer’s is still “LIVING”, still “FEELING LOVE”, still being “ALIVE INSIDE!”
B

IMG_2646

Daughter of Dad with Alzheimer’s, from HER Perspective

Being the daughter of a parent living with Alzheimer’s is challenging, unpredictable, and the best way to learn patience. There comes a point where you find yourself, a child, not only wanting to help your parent with the disease, but also being left with no other option but to help. Luckily it doesn’t happen all at once.

It starts with helping them retrace their steps to finding their keys that they put in the fridge, to watching them struggle for a few minutes to find their car in the parking lot, to wondering if they know where a store is five minutes away from home, and then ultimately them not being able to drive anymore at all and having their license taken away. It’s a slow and steady progression, but it still hurts me all the same.

Being the daughter of a parent with Alzheimer’s is having a front row seat to watching someone so close to you literally lose their mind. Nothing prepares you for that, and when the time comes you have to just accept it and take it with a grain of salt. Conversations are a little harder to have, dinners aren’t as cheerful as they once were and outings have become progressively more stressful. But at the end of the day despite all the challenges, the unpredictable circumstances, and my patience running a little too thin…I still love my step dad, and I know he still loves me. 

Dad, with Alzheimer’s, of Daughter from HIS perspective

Being a Dad to a daughter is special, like a gift. Throw in Alzheimer’s and it complicates the entire situation. Her helping to care for me while I live with Alzheimer’s was nowhere on my radar, but she just jumped in and never looked back.

At 22 years old, she has her own life and will not be here forever. My questions are, will I be around or aware to see her married, become a mother, to hold my first Grandchild? Will I be there to celebrate those moments with her?

I know she tires of me asking questions she has answered before but she doesn’t bat an eye. She just answers. When she comes home at the end of her work day/night, she sits with me for a few moments, asking me questions about my day that most of the time I can’t answer but somehow, she already knows the answers and helps me fill in the blanks. Funny thing is, I don’t always recognize when she does this . . . but she knows, and it breaks my heart.

I realize I must sound the same as my Mother did (she also had Alzheimer’s) when I asked her questions. I’m sure, as confused as I sound, she still treats me with the same love and kindness as I treated my Mother. I couldn’t ask for anything more loving than that.

She states, “being the daughter of a parent with Alzheimer’s is having a front row seat to watching someone so close to you literally lose their mind.” I don’t know anyone who would want that for any of their children. I know I didn’t and I also know my daughter doesn’t have to do what she does, day in and day out, but she does it.

My one hope is that she is far, far away when I am in need of the type of care I’ll need in the end. Until then, I try to cherish each kiss on the cheek, each moment, no matter how big, small or insignificant we share.

#WAM2017  #WorldAlzheimersDay2017

Until next time . . .
PEACE!

B

 

WHY ME???

When I started writing this blog post, I had a different topic in mind.
That topic was lost when I forgot the password for signing into this site. I then began the task of resetting the password but didn’t write it down each time I changed it. 
(yeah, I was under the assumption that I could “remember it.”) After the 4th ATTEMPT, I wrote it down and another topic, or rather a question, popped into my mind . . . WHY ME???

I think I’ve asked that question to myself, probably over a thousand times during my almost 57 years on this planet, but each time, I came up with a logical answer . . . 

For instance, “Why did I get punished” was a question I asked myself regularly during my childhood. My most common answers were . . .

“Talking during class time/church or any other place where I was NOT SUPPOSED to talk.”

“Arguing with my teacher/classmate or anyone else I disagreed with during a time when I was supposed to be quiet.”

“Not telling the truth” (I’m still not sure how I always got caught)

“And then the time I got punished for telling the truth and was not believed, so I lied and then got punished for lying.”

You see, my sister, my brothers and my childhood were nothing like the Brady Bunch. Instead of our Dad sitting us down and having a “teaching lesson-like conversation”, let’s just say we had a bit of an issue “sitting down” after our “conversation.” I think you get the picture.

As the years went by, I still questioned WHY anytime something didn’t make sense to me. I usually wouldn’t let go until either I was satisfied with the answer or the person to whom I was asking just gave up answering my questions and moved on.

So, yes, I was very inquisitive because I wanted to learn. I knew that everything happened for a reason and I wanted to know what that reason was.

Then, in 1998, my world changed. My niece, Mary, died from Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 22. I knew how she died for I was there by her side watching her, crying for her, singing to her, as she drew her last breath. My question was, “WHY HER?” I’m not saying I was wishing it upon someone else, I was just questioning, “WHY?”

She struggled all her life. My sister was told Mary wouldn’t live past the age of 2. What her doctors and everyone else who cared for Mary came to know was how much of a fighter she was and how she didn’t like being told what she could or could not do.
She went through, not 1 but, 2 double lung transplants. She fought during all 22 years of her life.  

Mary passed away in October of 1998. One of her last wishes was to take a trip wherever she wanted to go. My sister told me, she chose to come to Pensacola to surprise me for my birthday, which is in September. It was a huge surprise.

I will never forget the last week of her life. She was talking to me from her hospital bed and she asked me, “When are you coming to see me?” I told her I would be coming that next weekend. She said, “NO! YOU NEED TO COME NOW!” I asked her what was wrong and she said, “everybody here is acting all nice and pleasant. When I yell at someone, I want that someone to treat me normal and yell back at me and tell me to shut-up. You’re that person!” I arrived in New Orleans the next day.

I stayed up at the hospital with her, only going to my parents’ house to bathe and eat. On her “last night” one of Mary’s friends and I were with her and we were watching the World Series.  Mary was on oxygen and her tube would sometimes fill with condensation and have to be emptied. If not, she would have more trouble breathing than what she already had. When this would happen, she would alert us and we would drain her oxygen tube.

During a crucial part of the game, Mary was trying to get my attention to drain her oxygen tube. Keeping in mind what she asked of me on the telephone, and in keeping with the sarcastic nature of our relationship, I told her to “keep it down, we’re trying to watch the game.” She started laughing, which made her start coughing, then we were all laughing. All of a sudden, she stopped coughing raised up her oxygen mask, held up a single finger (you know which one) and said some pretty obscene words, put her mask back on and continued coughing! That was my Mary.

We stayed awake most of that night, talking, laughing, telling stories. A little after 1:00 pm the next day, well, you know what happened. Although I was terribly sad, I wouldn’t have traded those last days for anything in the world.

The answer to the question, “WHY HER?” came to me this morning.
She was chosen to show us, even when in the darkest of times, even during her hardest struggles, all she wanted was to be treated normally. Being she could still laugh through it all was also a valuable lesson. 

The same question arose again in the very late ’90’s when my Mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. I thought it was hard to take Mary’s Diagnosis. Nothing in this world could’ve prepared me for this. 

My question, again, was, “WHY HER?”

Here was a woman who was the closest thing to Snow White I could imagine. People even mentioned that she even sounded like Snow White when she sang.
She was a kind, loving woman who helped take care of Mary (who I just wrote about), her Father (who also had Alzheimer’s), her Mother (who was a paraplegic), her sister (who had brain cancer), my Dad (who, for those of you that knew him, was more than a handful), other friends and relatives, and not to mention 5 children who she had during the first 10 years of 60 years of marriage.

She did everything. She was June Cleaver and Carol Brady all rolled into one. She was an amazing Mother, loving and patient wife, dependable friend, phenomenal Southern cook, extraordinary singer and possessed so many other superb qualities.

Through her Alzheimer’s Journey, she almost never stopped smiling. Even when she could no longer speak, she would hum or “la-la-la” the words to a song to try and communicate. I think she did it with me to signify our bond for loving music. She was always trying to help and to not be a burden on anyone. If she had the ability to speak she would’ve apologized to everyone for needing assistance and care. That’s who she was.

She passed away in January 2015, only 2 1/2 Months after I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was an extremely hard time, to say the least, and brought up the question again . . . WHY HER?

Like Mary, that answer came to me through my Mother. She taught me how to live life trying not to burden those whom she loved the most while still staying true to herself through her love of music, her patience and her love of family and friends.

So . . . in looking at the lives of both Mary and my Mother, both of these wonderful, strong, beautiful women who lived their lives in the best way possible, have helped me in answering my, “WHY ME?” question. 

I truly believe Mary and my Mother used their strengths throughout their entire lives and really depended upon those strengths during the last days of their lives. It started me thinking about the strengths that I have that would/has already enabled me, so far, to get me through my Alzheimer’s Journey. I had to look back to one of the main reasons why I got into so much trouble during my early years . . . “TALKING!!!”

Talking is what I have done, and still do, to this day. (just ask my family and friends . . . lol) By using my voice, I’ve been able to speak to thousands of people, telling my story, dispelling the Stigma associated with Dementia-Related Illnesses, laughing at myself as I go deeper into the Alzheimer’s Forest, using my singing talents to bring back memories to others of days gone by.

So, looking at the lives of 2 incredible women, “Mary Estelle Tycer and Norma Mae LeBlanc,” who used their strengths to, unknowingly, teach us how to live our own lives by using our own inner strengths, I’ve finally been able to answer the question of “WHY ME?” 

Thank you, Mary and Mom . . . still teaching me after all these years.
I LOVE and MISS YOU BOTH!

Until Next Time . . .
PEACE!

B