The Journey is Not Always as it Seems!

Being today is the last Friday in June, also the last Friday of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I knew I wanted to write about something but I didn’t know what that “something” was going to be. A trip to the grocery store today gave me my inspiration.

For those of you who may not know, I now live alone in an apartment. Although I still have a drivers license, I don’t have a vehicle for I can’t afford one (insurance, gas, maintenance, etc) so I found an apartment complex that is within walking distance to everything I need.

When I got up this morning, my intention was to head to Winn Dixie for I needed a few things, however, my brain had other plans and the fog rolled in. (For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you may want to see one of my earlier blog posts Fog, It’s Not Just a Weather Condition.) 

When in a “Foggy State” not only is my brain not operating at full capacity but my balance is a bit off. The last thing I wanted to happen is to fall either while walking to or from the grocery, so, I remained inside.

I busied myself with other things, completely forgetting I needed to go to the grocery. Opening the refrigerator to fix lunch, I suddenly realized, I was supposed to go to the grocery. Forgetting things like this used to make me angry but now, they make me laugh at myself. It took me several years to realize it was no one’s fault other than my own when I forget things. Then after a couple of additional years, it wasn’t my fault, it was Alzheimer’s’ fault! (I’ve always been a slow learner).

I started getting ready, making sure I had my wallet, my phone, and my backpack and off I went. The walk is only about a 1/2 mile each way so I get my exercise in while getting my errands done. Another thing I’ve learned it’s easier to use a backpack to carry my groceries than it is to carry the plastic bags that can easily burst or rip. (I learned that the hard way.)

With my shopping done, I packed my backpack but couldn’t fit everything so I had to carry 2 grocery bags. I made my way across the parking lot and was about to make my way to the sidewalk when I car came up behind me.

From what I could see, there were 3 teenagers in the car. There may have been 1 other but I don’t really know or care. The driver and the kid seated directly behind him started shouting obscenities at me. I didn’t understand what I had done. It wasn’t like I crossed in front of them for they had come up behind me. I just couldn’t understand what was happening.

Then I heard the words, “you homeless f***er!” “Get a job you piece of s**t!” “Go beg somewhere else you blah, blah, blah!” They just kept on screaming, cursing, yelling and laughing at me. I then realized I was approaching an area where there are people usually using that spot, holding signs asking for food and or money. Many of them have backpacks and an assortment of bags with them. I guess they thought I was making my way to that spot to ask for food and/or money.

I didn’t know how to feel. I was being verbally assaulted because I was mistaken for someone who, they thought, was below them, someone who didn’t fit their description of an upstanding member of society, someone who, in their words, “you f***ing BUM!”

I started walking again and they continued cursing and yelling but the traffic started to drown them out. They made their way out of the parking lot and made a point to slow down as they passed me on the street to continue shouting at me. I just ignored them and made my way home.

Once I got home, I unpacked my bags and backpack and then I got angry. I wasn’t angry at those little punks who probably thought they got to me and made me feel bad. I was angry at something else. I was angry at my Alzheimer’s.

If I didn’t have Alzheimer’s Disease, I’d still be working, making A LOT more money than my monthly Social Security Disability.
I’d still be driving, able to get where I needed/wanted to go, rain or shine.
I’d probably still have my network of friends to interact with.

Thinking of these things, I was getting angrier and angrier . . . really pissed off!
Then a notification went off on my phone. It was from someone on Facebook. I didn’t know this person but they were thanking me for opening up about my Alzheimer’s Life. They had read a few of my blog posts as well as my Facebook posts and they thanked me for helping them better understand their Mother, who is currently living with Alzheimer’s.

As fast as the anger came upon me, calmness replaced it. The words, my own words, the words I now say at the end of my presentation came flowing into my brain with such clarity . . . (I still had to get a copy of my presentation to make sure I had the exact verbiage)

“Regardless of whether you have an illness, regardless of your gender, regardless of your race, the way you are perceived by others, although it may be hard to take at times, it’s not something you need to concern yourself with. Look at it as a learning experience you can use later in life and a teaching experience you can use today.

For those who use words or actions against you, it’s because they don’t understand. You know who you are. You know your abilities.

Everything you’ve been through in your life . . . every success, every failure, prepares you for what lies ahead.

It’s why I’m not embarrassed to stand before you or anyone for that matter and say, “I HAVE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE!” I don’t do it as a way of looking for pity and sympathy, I do it as a way of saying, “HEY! Look at me. I’m only 57 years old, I look somewhat normal but I have this disease.”

It starts a conversation. It’s my way of advocating, spreading the word, making aware, or whatever you want to call it.  It is now my life mission!”

Everything in life happens for a reason. We may not understand the why’s but accepting things makes it more manageable.

Until next time,
PEACE!
B

Hope for the Future?

Scanning the headlines under the topics of Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia and other related topics, I see a trend. The trend is for the future and that’s awesome. My hope is that no one will have to go through what I and millions of others have gone through and are going through now.  Trust me when I say, you DON’T want to experience Alzheimer’s Disease.

This is why, towards the end of every single presentation, I make this statement, “I made a vow to myself to share Alzheimer’s Education and Awareness for as long as I am able, in order to benefit those that come after me. I do this in the memory of the loved ones I have already lost, for the new found friends I have recently lost, and for the friends and loved ones I will lose.”

Scouring the headlines, as I do most every day, I see  I see things like:

  • Eat Healthy  (newsflash … we’ve been told to eat healthy for decades now. People have followed these programs exactly as they were laid. Some people still developed Alzheimer’s. My Mother ate healthy all her life, measuring her food on a food scale and eating her veggies and she still died with Alzheimer’s Disease.)
  • Excessive alcohol use linked to early-onset dementia risk (I have yet to see an Alzheimer’s / Dementia health warning posted outside a bar, restaurant, sports stadium or any other establishment that serves liquor. Even if these types of postings would start popping up, do you think it would make a difference?) 

  • Head injuries may lead to early Alzheimer’s (The NFL has made a difference by imposing new rules and bringing Dementia / CTE awareness to the forefront. However, pay close attention to the sidelines as to when a player makes a great play. Everyone gathers around the player and SLAPS HIM IN THE HEAD! and it’s not a little soft tap, and it’s not just once. Maybe they should look into that also. Just sayin’.
  • How daytime sleepiness may raise Alzheimer’s risk (This is my favorite. Do you know how many people may decide they need a nap during the middle of the day because they are tired but don’t do it now because they feel it may lead to Alzheimer’s Disease? So instead, to relax, they head to their favorite Sports Bar and have a beer.) 

There are a lot of things floating around right now appearing in the News Feeds, but in my humble opinion, it’s all speculation. This headline sort of summed it up for me and is also the most honest headline I’ve seen in a while:
Alzheimer’s Drug Trials Keep Failing —
It May Be Because We Don’t Understand the Disease

There is hope though. While Pfizer made the decision to back out of the Alzheimer’s Drug Research arena, enter Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, each contributing $100,000,000. It’s refreshing to see individuals like Gates and Buffett step up and do something like this, not for the glory but for the good of humankind.

Living Well with Alzheimer’s Disease is hard but as the saying goes, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Throw in the fact that there is no way to prevent it from developing, to stop the progression or to cure it, it has not stopped most of us from living somewhat of a positive, purposeful life.
It has also not stopped the countless number of researchers, drug companies, and benefactors from doing what they do each and every day to search for a cure.

I am confident that one day, there will be a cure. Before that, a way to stop the progression of the disease. Before or after that, a way to prevent from developing. Finally, after that . . . THE CURE.

Until then, I’m just going to continue living, as best I can, day by day, in the moment.

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

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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

 

So, Where’s the Alzheimer’s Awareness?

“Living with Alzheimer’s is not the way I wanted to spend my retirement, however, I’ve made the decision to play the cards I’ve been dealt. Although the cards are not stacked in my favor, I’m still going to bet on the positive.” ~bpl

June, the sixth month of the year, the halfway point of 2017, the month in which we celebrate Father’s Day, my wife’s birthday and generally, Summer gets into full swing.
Oh, yeah, it’s also “Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month”, although looking at news outlets, you would never know. 

This morning, with Dallas, my faithful companion in my lap, my coffee in one hand and my Atkins Breakfast Bar in the other, I settled into my recliner to watch my Favorite Show, “CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley.” This show is my go to Sunday morning show for I’ve been watching it since it’s inception in 1979. My mother (Norma LeBlanc, 1929-2015, Alzheimer’s) watched it religiously, which is how I grew to love the show.

I was a little put off this morning. Being the first show in the month of June, there was no mention of June being “Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.” I thought for sure there would be “some mention” of it, but it was nowhere to be found. I started flipping through the channels on the other morning shows and found nothing. I “Googled” the major networks and looked at their news feeds . . . NOTHING.

Before anyone says anything, yes, I am aware that the Terrorist attack in London took the top spot and wouldn’t expect any other news item to be at the forefront. My heart goes out to those who were injured and especially to the individuals (and their families) who lost their lives in a senseless manner. So very sad. 

But on this Sunday, like any other Sunday, those of us who advocate on a daily basis still soldiered on, screaming at the top of our lungs, (in a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn sort of way) sharing Alzheimer’s Awareness and Education. But it was business as usual. NO ALZHEIMER’S SUNDAY STORIES!

Instead, CBS Sunday Morning ran a story on HIV/AIDS, which I’m glad they at least paid attention to one of the diseases that takes lives too early. I’m also thankful for the advances in HIV/AIDS research. I can only hope for the day Alzheimer’s Disease is on the same playing field.

You may think that since I have been Living with Alzheimer’s Disease since 2014 (diagnosed in 2014 but according to my Neurologist,  probably living with it for up to 10 years prior) that I’m whining. Well yeah, maybe I am a little.

I won’t speak for anyone else, however, I know there are many that will agree with me that Alzheimer’s, in my opinion, has been treated like the red-headed step-child of the disease world. Although it is the 6th leading cause of death when it comes to diseases, it has been severely underfunded when it comes to research dollars. In the last couple of months, Alzheimer’s research dollars finally reached the BILLION DOLLAR MARK, and it was just barely over the BILLION DOLLAR mark and still far behind other diseases.

Part of the reason why? Alzheimer’s is one of the most misunderstood and complex diseases there is.
Imagine how it would be if there was a way to stop the progression, prevent it from developing or even cure it. I bet the $$$ would be flowing.

I just wish Alzheimer’s was given as much attention as others.
Take Breast Cancer for instance. When November rolls around, for the very first NFL Football game that month, there is pink everywhere. On NBC’s Today Show, the male anchors take part in “No Shave November” campaign.

Alzheimer’s has June 21st, “The Longest Day”.
According to The Alzheimer’s Association:

“The Longest Day is all about love.
Love for all those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
On the summer solstice, team up with the Alzheimer’s Association
and select any activity you love — or an activity loved by those affected —
to help end Alzheimer’s. Together, we will raise funds and awareness
for care and support while advancing research toward
the first survivor of Alzheimer’s.”

The Longest Day is a great idea, do something you love, in memory of someone who had Alzheimer’s or with someone that has Alzheimer’s Disease and raise money for the cause. But what about the other 364 days of the year. 
OK, 363 days of the year for we have the “Walk to END ALZHEIMER’s“. 

Professional sports such as Basketball and Baseball take place in June. Why don’t we tap into those organizations so everyone will see PURPLE everywhere they look. I give BIG PROPS to our Double-A Baseball Team, The Pensacola Blue Wahoo’s (farm team of the Cinicinatti Reds) for working with us (The ALZ Assoc of the AL/FL Panhandle) to hold an Alzheimer’s Fund Raiser called, “Paint the Park Purple.”  The event is June 12th if you would like to join us. (contact me if you would like information)

Also, Seth and Lauren Rogen do an awesome job of bringing Alzheimer’s to the forefront with their “Hilarity for Charity” event. (Hilarity for Charity® (HFC) is a movement led by Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller Rogen to inspire change and raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease among the millennial generation. Lauren’s Mother was diagnosed at the age of 55).

I still feel we are falling short when it comes to awareness. Look at Social Media! I can post, and others can post, all types of Alzheimer’s Awareness stories, photos, articles, etc. and get “some” traction, but post a pic of a laughing baby, a drunk person falling down stairs, an adorable pet of any kind, or a nude person and it gets “A BILLION” more likes and shares than our Alzheimer’s Awareness posts. I’m not sure what that says about society but I just know it gets more likes than the stuff I post.

And to make matters worse, when we, those of us who Advocate publicly, are asked to speak at Alzheimer’s functions, we are consistently told, “well, you don’t look like you have Alzheimer’s.” I know I’ve said this before but, unless we are sitting in a wheelchair, not able to do anything for ourselves, it’s hard for others to believe we actually have Alzheimer’s. After all, we are walking, talking and living a life that’s hard for society to comprehend.

So, what do we do? I guess, for the time being, we continue doing what we have been doing. I know through my own Alzheimer’s Advocacy, I’m not going to reach every single person, but if I reach at leat 1, I’m doing what I set out to do. Maybe that’s what it’s going to take. Reach 1 person at a time, one day a time. I guess I can do that because time is something I have a lot of right now. I may as well use it constructively.

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

 

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

If You Can Reach At Least One . . .

Since becoming an Alzheimer’s Advocate, I have spoken to groups numbering 1 to 1,000. The locations have been auditoriums, small halls, retail stores, bars, and churches. Neither the number of people nor the location ever affects the way I share my Alzheimer’s story. I speak with the same passion, I speak from the heart, I speak from real life experience.

Shortly after my diagnosis in October 2014, I knew what I had to do. It was something I had been doing all my life . . . something I had done in my professional life. Since I no longer had a professional life, I knew sitting around watching TV all day was not going to do me any good.  I had to talk about it.

Alzheimer’s is a funny (not a ha-ha funny) disease, in that you never know what memories you will keep or forget.
One memory I have kept is of a wonderful Manager I had years ago. He was a retired Navy guy. I’ll call him, “Mike”. “Mike” was the BEST Manager I ever had for he pushed me. When he felt I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough, he called me a “Rack Lizard.” If I remember correctly, (and no, I’m not joking) a Rack Lizard was a Navy or military term used for someone who was a bit lazy, “laying around
 in their rack (bed) all day.) He used it not as an insult or not because I was lazy, but as a tool to push me to be better. 

It was in the early 2000’s, a very busy time in the Communications business for we were launching Digital Cable and High-Speed Internet.  We were knee deep in customer calls wanting information and technical support so we had to hire a large number of temporary employees to help with the overflow. I was the Technical Support Supervisor and I felt I was not giving my regular team members the proper attention. So I went to see “Mike”.

I told him I felt like I was not reaching all my employees and I didn’t want them feeling ignored or unappreciated. What he told me as a response to my concern was something that has lived with me to this day.
He said, “As much as you would like, you are not going to reach every single person. However, if you can reach at least 1 person and that 1 person succeeds because of your interaction, then you have done your job.”

It was awesome advice. From that point forward, I remembered what “Mike” said and it got me through some frustrating times. Although it was excellent advice, the flip side was you never really knew whose life you may have touched, who that 1 person is.
Well, I got see to see that 1 person.

I recently co-moderated a couple of focus groups. We spoke to 2 different groups and they were individuals with Dementia-Related Diseases as well as their Caregivers. The discussions ranged from how they (the person with the Disease as well as their Caregiver) are managing their lives to what they learned from their Physician when they were first diagnosed. 

The discussions were very interesting for I could relate to almost every person in the group. We may have had a different Dementia-Related Disease, but some of the symptoms are the same. The first group was a bit reserved at first but after they warmed up to us, they opened up. We felt it was a great success.

The second group was fewer in number but they opened up immediately. One particular person, I’ll call her “Sally”, was very anxious. She was there with her sister.“Sally” had not yet been diagnosed but was showing signs of someone with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. (I am not a Doctor and my opinions are my own.) Her sister said she had become extremely forgetful and was getting wore.

From what her sister shared with us, “Sally” was consistently worrying about things she forgot about the day before. She was forgetting about the present day and was not remembering what was going going to happen tomorrow. Basically, she was worrying 24/7 and not really focusing on the here and now.

As I said previously, “Mike’s” advice had a huge impact on me, so much that I use it when I give my “Alzheimer’s: Up Close and Personal” presentation.
It comes in the latter part of the presentation . . . “As much as I would like to reach every single person in the world, I know that is not possible. However, if I can affect at least one person in a positive way, I am doing my job.”

I gave “Sally” some of my own advice that worked for me. I told her (and reminded her sister to help her remember) to let go of the things she forgot about the day before and not worry about tomorrow. The only thing she could do was to live in the here and now . . . LIVE IN THE MOMENT! She began to repeat the phrase over and over as if she was trying to burn it into her brain. Surprisingly, it calmed her, not completely but she was a lot better than what she was. Her sister told me she would help her to remember.

 Now, when I talk to folks, I don’t usually see them again, unless I go back to that same group. Being I was out-of-town, I knew I would probably never see these folks again. I would have to hope that my words helped them in some way . . . not everyone, but just one. 

The next day, I was going back to my hotel and I was hungry. I figured I would stop off at Publix and get both lunch and dinner so I could just eat in my room. I was at the deli counter when I heard someone saying, “excuse me sir . . . excuse me sir.” I turned and it was “Sally’s” sister. She said, “It IS you!” then proceeded to give me a great big hug.

She said, since they left the focus group, “Sally” was changed. She was a bit more relaxed and would say every now and then, “I’m going to live in the moment.” She thanked me for making a difference in “Sally’s” life by listening to her and giving her advice that truly made a difference and had a positive impact. I immediately thought of “Mike” and how finally, after all these years, I experienced “THE ONE!”

We spoke for a few more minutes and I left to go find my dinner. I admit, I was a bit teary-eyed after experiencing something I thought I would never experience. But my joyful moment was interrupted by another voice . I heard, “Mr. Brian . . . Mr. Brian, is that you?” Lo and behold, it was “Sally”. She was waiting for a prescription. She ran up to me and gave me a great big hug, saying, “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! You changed my life!!!”

I may have, but I don’t remember ever hearing those words before. I just let her hug me and I hugged her back. She told me she had been “Living in the Moment” since the day before and she didn’t even worry about things she forgot. She said she slept the whole night through for the first time since she could remember. She couldn’t thank me enough and she would never forget me and would pray for me and my family as I lived with my Alzheimer’s.

What a WOW moment!!! It was an incredible feeling but also very humbling. Once I got back to  the car, tears flowed. I have given that advice to probably thousands of people and not once has it come back like this. It was a life-changing moment. Now that I have it in print, I will be less likely to forget this experience but if I do, I’ll remember when I re-read this.

I owe a debt of gratitude to “Mike” for sharing his knowledge, his experience and his words of wisdom with me, oh those many years ago.  “Mike” your words have served me well, sir and in case you haven’t experienced “the one”, well he’s writing this blog post!

Now, about that Rack Lizard term . . . .  🙂

PEACE,
B