Category Archives: Alzheimer’s

The Importance of Daily Routines

I had the pleasure of sharing a discussion with my friend and author Gary Joseph LeBlanc.  In this video chat, we dicuss the importance of a daily routine.  Enjoy!

Importance of Routine Round Table13379e7000cec2ee9107c432fe437b95

In addition to Gary’s relentless work advocating for dementia care, he is involved with training and implementing “The Purple Wristband” program in many hospitals and has written a number of short fun stories and recently published a book for caregivers.  He also owns and operates a Book Store and cares for his Mom (late stages of Alzheimer’s).   His books are all available on Amazon.

Link to Gary’s Book for Caregivers

Walking For Alzheimer’s Association

Roy & I will once again be participating in the Alzheimer’s Walk.  This year – we have a walk just for Berks County!!! YEAH!!  The 2 mile walk will be held at Penn State Berks Campus on Saturday October 8th, 2016.  We have been hoping that the Alzheimer’s Association will increase their training and support efforts in the Berks County Area (currently they mainly service Philadelphia area).  We are encouraged that this may be a step in that direction.

Wimg_3160-1e were so blessed last year with 29 people walking in our team “Laurie’s Loves”!  What a fabulous show of support!  Our goal was $2,500 – we raised $2,725!!  I am hoping we can reach $3,000 this year.  Thank you all so much for the love & support – by joining us on the walk or supporting our efforts with a contribution!

If you would like to join Laurie’s Loves and walk with us or if you would like to make a donation for the walk the below link will take you directly to website page:

http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2016/General?px=9374300&pg=personal&fr_id=9251

If you prefer to mail a check – please complete the form on mimg_4715y walk page and mail it with your check

 

Thank you all for all your love & support!

Roy & Laurie

Virtual Lights of Love

Virtual Lights of Love Candlelight Service

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Each year the virtual Lights of Love Candlelighting Service is held to promote dementia awareness by remembering those with dementia and those who were taken by dementia.  To particpate in this event, my family spent part of their Thanksgiving Day reminding me how that they will always be here to support me. I love you all.

Living Well & Fading Slow with Dementia

Living Well & Fading Slow by Laurie Scherrer

Dementia is a Slow Process – Sometimes referred to as “Death in Slow Motion”

Dementia does not have a set pattern or schedule. It affects people in brain-cell-deathdifferent ways, often pulling files of “things we don’t do” from the back of our brain. Some PWD (Persons with Dementia) get angry, some cry. Some develop inappropriate sexual behaviors and some become violent. Some have trouble with balance and others have trouble with perception. Some drift off to a far away place, while others get stuck in the past. Some symptoms progress quickly and others are gradual. All symptoms eat away at a part of our memory and our past.

I am one of the estimated 5.3 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I am one of the estimated 200,000 Americans under age 65 trying to adapt to the challenges of each new symptom. I am one of the many PWD advocating for Dementia Awareness and legislative changes to improve the quality of life for PWD and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia related diseases don’t happen over night. They can involve years of challenges, frustrations and changes. Although fiction, the movie “Still Alice” portrayed some of the struggles encountered during the beginning stages of dementia.   The early progression of dementia is extremely frightening. Knowing that you are slowly being robbed of memories and abilities, and knowing the struggles you and your loved ones will deal with gnaws at your heart.

Alzheimer’s is one of many dementia diseases with memory loss and cognitive impairment symptoms strong enough to interrupt the process of daily living. Currently, the only way to diagnosis Alzheimer’s with complete accuracy is by having a neuropathologist examine the brain under a microscope. Since that involves dissecting the brain, the diagnosis will usually be listed as “Suspected Alzheimer’s”.   Regardless of what label is put on the disease, dementia is usually a long process of losing a piece of your brain bit by bit as you, and “those around you”, watch the changes and deal with the challenges. Through most of dementia, there are good moments (seconds, minutes, hours and sometimes days) when the brain seems to give a glimpse of clarity without any confusion.

Frequently people have the idea that PWD don’t know what is happening – not true! At the beginning, most people will deny or find excuses for the changes we are going through and try to cover-up the challenges; but we know. Often, we learn to hide our symptoms so well that people around us don’t suspect what we are going through.   Most fight to stay in their “normal” world, not wanting to admit the ability to function has changed.   Eventually, the confusion and cognitive impairment can no longer be muted.   As each new symptom takes away another piece of our brain, we ache for the “old me” back, for the comprehension we once had. We watch in agony as our aptitudes slip away and we are no longer able to have a career, multi-task, manage money, drive a car, or take care of our garden.

Many PWD have chosen to fight back by sharing their story and to make adjustments so they can continue a life of adventure, love and laughter for as long as possible. With the help of his family, Glenn Campbell remained active in music for five years after his diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment. President Ronald Regan along with his wife, Nancy, continued speaking for 6 years after his diagnosis. Greg O’Brien, who was diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 59, wrote a book and now, six years later, continues to share his story in hopes of increasing awareness of Early On-set Alzheimer’s. Like the Campbells, O’Briens and Regans, with a good support system many PWD accomplish great things before dementia takes total control. All the while, knowing and often planning for what is to come.

My name is Laurie Scherrer and I have Dementia, suspected to be Early Alzheimer’s and FTD. I may be one of the 200,000 people under 65 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but I am more than a statistic. I am an active dementia advocate trying to make a difference and increase understanding of dementia and the stigma of helplessness that goes with it.   Yes, I have changed a lot in the last few years and my life will never be like it was.

For now, with adjustments I am living a life full of laughter and purpose.

Love & Laughter.

Laurie

Dementiadaze.com

© Copyright May 2015 Laurie Scherrer

Famous Dementia Doers Who Made A Difference

Recently, when I set out to do a blog on famous PWD (persons with dementia), I was disappointed by the number of people diagnosed with dementia related disease (such as Alzheimer’s) that didn’t speak out. How sad.

In my research of over 200 “famous people” PWD, I found exactly 5 who did something to make a difference.   The others kept their diagnosis hidden until after their death or care facility placement, when the family announced they had been suffering for years.

These five promoted dementia awareness, fought for legislative changes, wrote a book or song and/or became an Alzheimer’s Advocate.

 So I say THANK YOU for being a “Dementia Doer.”

1- Ronald Reagan – In 1994, he informed the Nation he had Alzheimer’s in this hand written note: http://www.reagan2020.us/speeches/announcement_of_alzheimers.asp

2- Charlton Heston – He informed the public he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in this letter: http://www.fanunity.com/heston/alzheimers_text.html

 3- Rita Hayworth – EOAD first noticeable at age 46. When she died, at age 68, President Ronald Regan included in his statement: “Rita became known for her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Her courage and candor, and that of her family, were a great public service in bringing worldwide attention to a disease which we all hope will soon be cured.”

4- Glenn Campbell – After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011 he went on to complete his “Goodbye Tour” with three of his children.

 5-Patricia “Pat” Summit – The book she wrote, “Sum it Up”, covers her life including her experience being diagnosed and living with Alzheimer’s. She is currently an advocate for people with Alzheimer’s Disease.

During the last 18 months, I have met the most remarkable PWDs who are using their precious cognitive time to make a difference. These “Dementia Doers” continue to: promote dementia awareness, fight for legislative changes, write books, blogs or websites, and/or act as mentors to other PWD.

I want to say Thank You to MY list of famous PWD, including: Robealz herosrt Bowles, Harry Urban, Norms McNamara, David Kramer, Chris Roberts, Paulan Gordon, Susan Suchan, Karen Francis, Rick Phelps, Truthful Kindness, and Jennifer Bute. Like Rita Hayworth and Pat Summit, most of these people were diagnosed before age 58.

Thank you for letting the world know our brains may be dyeing, but we’re still having some fun and trying to DO SOMETHING to help others and make a difference. Ronald Regan said: “At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done… I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”

Love & Laughter, Laurie

Written By Lauire Scherrer

Dealing with Dementia Daze

In Aug 2013, when I was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s and FTD, I thought it meant the end of my life. Like me, the doctors, friends and family seemed to automatically focus on the last phase of dementia. Since the doctor suggested we see an attorney and “get our affairs in order”, I pictured myself over night becoming the person who couldn’t take care of myself and couldn’t remember my loved ones.

This is so far from reality. Reality is – –

There Is Life after Diagnosis!

How much and what quality depends in part, on how well we recognize and react to the changes. Although we cannot stop the progression of this disease and the changes that are happening to me, together we have learned to tackle some of the challenges. These are some of the ways we have adapted to reduce or deal with Dementia Daze Days.

Avoid Stress and Drama whenever possible!

Stress has a strong impact on dementia symptoms and can cause days of confusion.   There are times I have to just walk away or hang-up and tune it out.

Music is a MUSTIMG_1224

For those stressful moments that can’t be avoided, I put on heavy headphones, listen to MY music and allow my mind to escape. My iPad and our stereo are programmed with my music selection.

Restaurants

Yes we can still dine out (albeit, financial status may prohibit how often). To reduce the confusion we go to restaurants during off hours, like 3:00 or 4:00 when there are not as many people. We ask for a table away from heavy traffic flow and not by a TV.  This creates a better environment for me to stay focused.

Grocery stores

We found the store activity is lowest very early in the morning. At our store if you are buying lottery tickets or cigarettes, they have to check you out at customer service – some days it is worth spending a dollar on a lottery ticket! Who knows, some day I may actually win!

Mall Shopping –

Haven’t figured this one out yet. Shop on-line.

Daily Activities

My iPad has become my lifeline! My day begins with checking my iPad calendar. I have notifications to feed the dogs, take my pills, complete tasks, etc. Each event has a different ring tone and displays what the event is – thus I have verbal and written instructions.  It contains all my contacts (address, phone number, email, birthday, and spouses name), scheduled appointments, daily tasks, medications, doctor information, and my daily journal. All the information I would need is in one place. For me it is a necessity.

Telephone Calls

I keep pen & paper (or iPad) near the phone so I can make notes. If I don’t know the caller – it goes to the answering machine. “Telephone Tips for Calling PWD” (available on http://www.dementiadaze.com) is printed and handed to any business that I deal with.

Log all changes and discuss them!

We keep a record of changes, new symptoms, worsening conditions, odd behavior, etc., we discuss them and share with the neurologist. When necessary, we discuss what modifications may be needed.

Escape

Our hot tub is our refuge! That is where we escape to talk, cry, laugh, or just be together. No phones, no electronics, no noise, no confusion. Together, we deal with changes, make plans, discuss the future and make new dreams.

Just Say NO!

This was one of the most difficult challenges for me. Sometimes we have to back out of a scheduled event such as a wedding, a party, or having guests over. Experiencing Dementia Daze is like digging for a coin in a muddy swamp on a foggy day – everything is murky and unclear. The more you move around, the deeper you and your goal sink. The deeper you sink, the more difficult it is to get back out. The best thing to do is sit back and let the water settle and the fog clear.

We are committed to recognize changes and make adjustments to reduce the challenges for as long as we can. I am so blessed to have a wonderful husband to walk beside me through this journey and family to give us both support.

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

Written By Laurie Scherrer

Telephone Tips For Calling People With Dementia

Telephone Tips for calling PWD (Persons With Dementia)EPSON MFP image

  • SPEAK CLEARLY & SLOWLY
    • One sentence, slight pause, next sentence, etc.
    • Sounds, Words & Meanings can become distorted
    • Sentences can run together and loose meaning
    • Brain is trying to process the conversation AND the meaning
  • DON’T YELL
    • Dementia doesn’t mean hearing impaired
  • STOP ALL OTHER CONVERSATIONS & DISTRACTIONS
    • Mentally & Verbally – concentrate on the call
    • Your small distractions can cause confusion
  • STATE EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED & WHERE TO FIND IT
    • Account Numbers, Billing Date, etc. – explain where to find the information
    • Request Information one at a time – consecutive steps are confusing
  • REPEAT NUMBERS & IMPORTANT DETAILS
    • Processing numbers is Difficult – Say only THREE numbers or less at a time
  • AVOID TRANSFERRING THE CALL
    • If you MUST Transfer the Call
      • Give the name & number you are transferring to
      • Stay on the line and give the new person the caller’s name & explain the situation
    • CONFIRM ALL IMPORTANT INFORMATION
      • e. “Just to confirm, can you read me back the number I gave you”
    • BE THE LAST TO HANG UP
      • Give your caller time to process
      • It takes longer to process information – this ensures that all questions have been asked
    • LEAVING A MESSAGE
      • Provide all informationphone-calls
        • Date & Time of the call
        • Your Name
        • Company Name
      • State important information at LEAST TWICE
        • Phone Number, Company Name, Your Name and extension

 Many of these basic telephone etiquette tips can make a big difference in eliminating confusion for PWD (Persons With Dementia). Dementiadaze Logo2

Mix-Up my Routine = Mix-up Me

With dementia, functioning on habit can reduce some of the “Think Work” that is normally considered routine activities.   Recently, my schedule was changed and I now know – Mix-up the Routine = Mix-up Me!

For about a year, my sister, Becky called every morning at 7:00 and we talked during her ten-minute drive to work. After her call, I feed & walked the dogs, took my pills, organized dinner, played with the dogs, checked my email and skimmed FB until Stephen called.

Between 8:15 – 8:45 every morning my brother Stephen called and we talked during his ten-minute drive to work. After hanging up, I took my shower, scrubbed my teeth, got dressed, took care of all FB messages, posts, etc. and started checking off the tasks I had recorded in my IPad.

Although I did not intentionally program this as my routine, it became my habit – my time guideline. My day revolved around their morning phone calls.

One-week Becky’s work schedule was changed and Stephen was unable to call me for three days. This insignificant little change threw me into four days of “Dementia Daze” (some call it a fog).  Suddenly the “routine tasks” that I performed ever day were a challenge. I couldn’t remember what I had done and stiConfused, Lost Signll needed to do. Since I couldn’t accomplish the “routine” tasks the other tasks on my list seemed extremely overwhelming. Unable to process how to rearrange my day, I walked around in circles, pacing the room, trying to think it all through. The feeling of being lost triggered more confusion and frustration.  By the time poor Roy got home at 4:15, I was not in a good place.

The fourth day I realized why I was out of sorts and began to make lists to help me get into a new routine and have become adjusted. For those of you who are caregivers, take this to heart. Little changes in the morning can make a big difference in the outcome of our day.

With Love & Laughs,

Laurie Scherrer

Written By Laurie Scherrer

© Copyright February 2015 Laurie Scherrer

Last Night I Wept

Last night I wept.  I wept with an uncontrollable cry that consumed my throat, my heart and my gut.  Wrenching from me the feelings of guilt, loss and fear that have been held inside and stripping away every ounce of joy and hope.  I wept for the loss of my plans and dreams for life. I wept because I know I am no longer what or who I was and am afraid of not being able to control the evolving me.  I wept for loosTear is made up of.ing my freedom to get into the car and go & do whatever/whenever. I wept for the lost memories that now are only photographs to me. I wept for the financial burdens this has brought. I wept for my family and the changes they will have to make and the challenges they will have to endure.

There was no consoling me for there was no comfort for the overwhelming grief of what was and what is to come. I wept until my shaking body gave in to exhaustion and I drifted to sleep.

Dementia (Alzheimer’s, FTD, LBD, etc.) doesn’t just happen over night. It slowly robs us of our past, our present and our future. Bit by bit taking away the person we were as it slowly eats away our brain. I can longer be the Laurie I was. It has robbed me of the ability to have a successful career, entertain large groups, enjoy parties, drive to see friends or relatives, or even keep up with household tasks.

It would have been easier, if I didn’t have the transition of knowing what is happening to me. It is difficult seeing myself become less responsible and more dependent. It is frustrating when confusion takes over my ability to reason, think, communicate and comprehend. I am still Laurie, however I know by the way people treat me and by the way I react, I am different – I am changing. And at times I am afraid. And at times, I weep.

Today, I rejoice. The weeping is over, the day is new and I am so thankful for all the things I can still share and accomplish. I’m thankful I can laugh with Aunt Joyce while getting a manicure, and laugh with Roy over the beautiful colors of the huge bruise on my butt (fell on ice), and laugh with Becky over the ridiculously difficult puzzle I gave her. I’m thankful there is joy in the little things.

I’m sure my emotions will once again invade my happy space and require some grieving time, but not today. Today, I am going to laugh and enjoy all the beauty in my life.   Know any good jokes?

Love & Laughs,

Laurie

Written By Laurie Scherrer