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

AGEISM Strikes Again!!!

“I chose to write this blog post today because of the positive revision of the Older American’s Act, originally written in 1965. I also chose to write today for I am having a very good “brain day”. Those kinds of days have been few and far between lately so I must take advantage of when my brain says, “Hey, use me while you can. I’m good to go!”  ~B

Have you ever heard of “Early-Onset” Breast Cancer? “Early-Stage” Heart Disease? “Early-Development COVID-19”?

I ask these questions because the Diseases I mentioned above have no age limit. You can develop Cancer before age 1. You can be born with Heart Disease. You can develop so many things in your teen years.

If you developed any of the Diseases above, no matter your age, you would be treated the same, meaning a 3-year-old will be treated the same as a 45-year-old. Same illness, just a different age group.
Do you think Jonas Salk, after developing the shot for polio said, “This is only for individuals over the age of 45!” NO! It was designed to help ANYONE at ANY AGE!

Enter Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia-Related Illnesses, some of the most complex, misunderstood, stigmatized Diseases in the world.  Can you recall any legislation brought before Congress that had to be voted upon based on the age of any American Citizen for any known disease?

Thanks to Mr. Google, I found the following:

  • Alois Alzheimer noted the unique symptoms in 1906. 1906: Alzheimer’s Disease is first described by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in his patient known only as Auguste D. The patient experienced memory loss, paranoia, and psychological changes.
  • Jonas Salk (1914–1995) became a national hero when he put to rest the fear of the dreaded disease with his POLIO vaccine, approved in 1955. Although it was the first polio vaccine, it was not to be the last; Albert Bruce Sabin (1906–1993) introduced an oral vaccine in the United States in the 1960s that replaced Salk’s. (no age requirement)
  • Congress passed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965 in response to concern by policymakers about a lack of community social services for older persons. The original legislation established authority for grants to states for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging. The law also established the Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer the newly created grant programs and to serve as the federal focal point on matters concerning older persons. (over the age of 65)
  • The Children’s Health Act of 2000 (Pub. L. 106–310, 114 Stat.1101, enacted October 17, 2000), signed by President Clinton on October 17, 2000, was brought into law to conduct a study focusing on children from before conception to 21 years of age.
  • HIV AIDS – There is no cure for HIV, but there is treatment. Without HIV treatment, your immune system can become weak and you can become sick with life-threatening illnesses. This is the most serious stage of HIV infection, called AIDS. Anyone can be infected with HIV, no matter:  Your age, Your sex, Your race or ethnicity, Who you have sex with.

Look, I didn’t ask to have Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and who knows what I’ll get later on, but I sure as hell know that standing around crying about it sure won’t change anything. I also know there are many individuals (including some of my very close friends) who are worse off than me.

The Disease that we live with, day in and day out, a disease that robs us of our memories from yesterday and last week, a Disease that has no cure and no way to slow the progression (YET), SUCKS! Thank goodness we still have most of our memories from years ago.
What also SUCKS is that we sort of know what our end will look like. We have seen our Loved Ones go before us and at times, I wish, like the majority of folks, I wouldn’t want to know how it all ends. You just don’t want to know some things.

I know a cure or the stop of the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementia-Related Illnesses could happen tomorrow, next week, next year or the next decade. It will happen.
Thank goodness, the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act now includes individuals under the age of 65.  All I ask is, that we continue to have the same access to programs and policies that are open to everyone else, regardless of our age.

That’s all I have for now . . .
Until Next Time,
PEACE

 

 

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