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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for charlie brown christmas tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B

Taking Care of Our Own

This post is a bit different from what I normally post. I don’t mean to offend anyone, I’m just passionate about what’s going in our Nation. 

For all the folks that want to open our borders to immigrants from other countries, immigrants who will be supported by us, I have a solution.
Open YOUR home to support these individuals as well as their families, and be responsible for all of their actions. Feed them, clothe them and take of their medical needs. That is what you want for them, right? 
Giving them an opportunity, right? Well, now you can. No, I’m not being negative or prejudice. I’m being real.

With that said . . .

Why not take care of our Veterans who need our care? You remember our Veterans? The ones who fought for our rights and freedoms? Our Veterans who, because of their service to our country make it possible for you to stomp on and burn our Nation’s flag? Our Veterans who have to wait because a non-US citizen “needs” medical treatment because they matter more?

Why not take care of our aging population, the ones who gave us life, the ones that took care of us first?

Why not take care of those of us who have a fatal disease and put those dollars into research, respite care and hospice care?

We need to take care of our own, before we begin to take care of others.

I’m sure you take care of your families first, making sure they have all their needs met. Why can’t we, as a nation, take care of each other first and then, and only then, look to taking care of others?

If you still insist on taking care of others first, let me know. I will gladly take donations to help fight Alzheimer’s Disease, the disease that assisted in taking the lives of many of my loved ones and will ultimately assist in taking my life. There are also other organizations that could also desperately use your help.

If you still insist on taking care of others, open your home to a Veteran, a member of the homeless population, or any other US Citizen that could use some help.

See what needs you can assist with in your own community. There are so many individuals right here in my community that are doing wonderful things for the betterment of the people that live here. They are awesome individuals who do these things, not to call attention to themselves, but because they are fulfilling a need for the individuals that live here.

Now, if you are STILL not satisfied, I’m sure there are many Middle Eastern Countries that will welcome you, as well as your support, with open arms and will even provide you with free housing. It may be cramped, dirty, hot and uncomfortable, but don’t worry, your visit will not last very long.

That is what you want, RIGHT?

Have a Great Day!

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

Discovering a Gift I Already Had

I was recently challenged by my friend Diane Tisseur, Groovy Lens Photographic Art (check her out) from Quebec, Canada, to post a Nature Photograph for 7 days, while challenging a new person each day to do the same. I’m so glad she did.

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Photo from Day 1 taken about 3 years ago 

Being asked to do something with my photographs forced me to look at what I had photographed years ago. Seeing these images brought back feelings of joy, peace and satisfaction. It also filled me with a sense of pride to look at some of the beautiful things I created using my camera, my iPhone  but especially, my mind.

Seeing these images transports me back in time, a time I can remember clearly. It’s like listening to your favorite song or smelling a favorite/familiar scent. You go back to that particular time and experience what you were feeling at that time. Being my short-term memory is depleting, utilizing my long-term memory allows to clearly experience the joy and excitement I once had about photography.

It is also forcing me to think outside the box  in an effort to take new photographs. It’s giving me a new sense of purpose, a feeling of excitement. To be honest, it’s giving an escape from thinking only of Alzheimer’s.

So, thank you Diane, for giving me a gift I already had but was hidden in the back of the closet. I’m digging it out and will be putting it to good use.

PEACE,
B

Alzheimer’s Has, at least, Two Faces

Alzheimer’s Has, at least, Two Faces

 

In 1996, Barbra Streisand  directed and starred in the movie, “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”  Streisand plays a homely-looking, Columbia University English Professor with low self esteem issues, who, through a personal ad placed by her sister, meets Jeff Bridges , a Columbia University leading figure in the Math Dept. They agree to marry based upon what they describe as a “palsy-walsy pseudo-marriage.” They see each other, as well as themselves, being not who they really are but seeing themselves only on the surface.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What does Alzheimer’s have to do with a Barbra Streisand movie? Well, other than the title of the movie, it has to do with the perception of how we see ourselves and how others see us.  This brought to mind what I wanted to write about. Confused? Great! Welcome to my world.

Maybe this will help:
More than several months ago, at least I think it was, Shannon (my beautiful, understanding, loving wife) and I were returning home after a presentation I gave to a local Rotary Club. I always ask her how things went for I know she will be honest with me. This time, instead of giving me an answer, she started to cry. (I must tell you that due to the fact that Alzheimer’s has already begun its destruction of my short-term memory, I don’t remember many things, however, I do remember this.)
I asked her what was wrong and this is what she told me.

“You stand up there looking all polished and professional, reading from your prepared speech, smiling, cracking jokes, basically being the man I fell in love with, the man I married, the man I  terribly miss.
They, your audience, don’t see who you are when you are away from the spotlight.
They don’t see the confusion, the anger, the anxiousness.
They don’t see the man who can’t remember how to do the simplest of chores.
They don’t see the man who has a reminder on his phone to eat and to take a bath.
They don’t see the man who can’t remember something he was told 5-10 minutes ago.
They don’t see the man who, without a prepared speech or notes can’t speak without stuttering or going blank.
So I’m sad and I’m pissed off that you can show that side of yourself when you are in the public eye but they don’t get to see what Alzheimer’s has done to you . . . what it has done to us.
How do you do that?”

I was speechless. To be honest, I had no answer. I just sat there feeling sad. I knew she wasn’t mad at me, that she was mad at the situation. I feel sad right now writing the words as I recall that event, not sad for myself, but for her. You see, she thought she was getting someone she would get to spend the rest of her life with travelling, laughing, living out all the dreams we shared. Now she sees only glimpses of that man . . . glimpses of me or who I used to be.

The only explanation I could give her was the Public Relations / Marketing / Advertising guy was stored somewhere in my long-term memory bank. When I got in front of an audience, whether it was 1, 10 or 100, something clicked. All of the insecurities and difficulties that Alzheimer’s brought on just went away and the long-term stuff came flooding forward. It only happened when I was Advocating for Alzheimer’s. I had no other way of explaining it.

There’s a part in every speech I give where I say, “This is the best job I have ever had that I don’t get paid for.”

I guess my passion for what I do pushes through the fog and allows me to get my message out. The funny thing is, when Shannon and I first met one another and we just sort of clicked, we said to one another, “Everything Happens for a Reason!” I think there was more to this reasoning thing than we realized.

After she told me how I am perceived in public compared to how I am in reality, it made me realize how difficult it is for people to understand that I, and other people like me, have Alzheimer’s Disease. We probably all have that dual persona, one where the long-term memories kick in and and the other where it turns off. It also makes me realize that more Alzheimer’s Awareness and Education is needed in our society.

The biggest takeaway is understanding what a Care Partner goes through on a day-to-day basis. I (and those of us with Alzheimer’s)  don’t remember how we act, what we say, how we say it, etc., but our Care Partners do and it’s probably the most difficult job imaginable.  It’s why I use the term Care Partner instead of Care Giver. It’s because they are right there along with us, loving and caring for us every step of the way.

I found a quote from “The Mirror Has Two Faces” that I thought to be pertinent.
Rose Morgan: This thing that we call a wedding ceremony is really the final scene of the fairy tale. They never tell you what happens after. They never tell you that Cinderella drove the Prince crazy with her obsessive need to clean the castle, cause she missed her day job, right?

The quote reminds me of my diagnosis and because I’m not able to work any longer, how I probably drive Shannon and the kids crazy with all my bitching and complaining about things that really don’t amount to a hill of beans; how they have to put up with my anxiousness and OCD; how I snap their heads off if I am having a bad day; how I forget things oh so quickly.

I know I’m not easy to live with because of this damn disease, but I’m still me, not all the time, but for now at least some of the time. I know the face I and my family see in the mirror. We don’t like it all the time but it is what it is. I have no choice but to accept it. My family chooses to accept it.
I think it’s why the one thing I DO REMEMBER is how much I love them and how very much they love me. I also appreciate the friends that have not deserted me, with hopes they NEVER go away.

PEACE,
B