Category Archives: Early On-set Alzheimer’s Disease

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

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

A Small Outing Can Be a BIG Deal

I am 56 and I have dementia (a.k.a. Progressive Degenerative Impairment, Early Onset Alzheimer’s, etc). I share my thoughts and emotions, in hope that this will help others who are part of this dementia daze. People wonder why I don’t want to go places anymore. Why I don’t like to do the things I used to do. My heart aches to have my old life back. I want to do the things I used to do, go the places I used to go, drive for hours and be with people. I can still do sostorenoiseme of these things. However; with each “adventure” I have to weigh the consequences. Take for example a simple trip to that mega superstore that we all hate but seem to flock back to. For me the confusion begins the minute I exit the car. Walk through the sliding doors someone’s collecting carts and jamming them together with a clatter, clatter, bang, bang. A child is screaming, a couple fighting, someone stocking shelves, person in front of me blocking the aisle while on her cell talking about an affair. Noise, noise everywhere! Voices become amplified as though I am in a cave. Concentrate, just follow the list. Out of dog treats – pick a different one. Moved the tuna – track it down. Chicken won’t be done for 30 minutes – what else can I get for dinner. That means redoing the menu. OK, what do I need? Noise everywhere, baby crying, kids running, people talking, carts banging. Aisles are closing in. Someone I know, oh help! Talking fast – I hear them, but the words are not connecting. Boxes on the floor, carts in the pathway, chatter, noise – chaos! Whew! Finally done. Double-check the list. Go to the checkout – one lane open, 8 people in line. Noise intensifying – coming from every angle. Can’t think, getting stressed, sounds like everyone is speaking through a boom box. Do they know how loud they are? Need to get out of here! The outcome of an adventure to me often results in such mental fatigue that it takes me days to come out of the fog. The one little outing that others take for granted, is often a tremendous undertaking for me. So yes, please continue to invite us to participate in events; but understand there are times the answer has to be no and there are times we will say yes and at the last minute can’t make it. This is my life and Roy & I are making the best of every day – some times that means staying home is the best option.

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

I am so honored, my friend Gene Suchma (another PWD) drew an illustration to go with my post!  Thank you Gene!  Visit more of Gene’s art work at http://cartoonsandfineart.com

Written By Laurie Scherrer

© Copyright 2014 Laurie Scherrer

“Oh God – Why Me?”

Before getting diagnosed with dementia I would answer philosophical questions with pat biblical answers – questions such as why God allows suffering in the world. Now I see some of these questions in a whole new light.
The questions are no longer philosophical – – they are real. Why did God allow ME to suffer with dementia at only 55? Why did He do this to my family? How can He say He loves me yet allow me to suffer so much when He could have prevented it? I don’t want clichés or religious sounding answers.
Through my challenges and doubts, I have come to realize a few truths.
1. Our life is just a speck of light in eternity. So the pain I feel now doesn’t even amount to a pimple in the scope of the world and eternity.
2. God sent His Holy Spirit to comfort me. He said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” – that is showing He loves me. The Holy Spirit is not answering the burning why questions in a way I want them answered but He is comforting my soul. He has opened my eyes to see the world & people in a different way. I have experienced a new relationship with God, my husband, my family, and the beauty that surrounds me. Through dementia chat groups, I have experienced compassion with virtual friends that I never thought possible. To me, FB was a waste of time … now it is my support line.
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How long has that Albino bird lived in our backyard? Maybe it just came, or maybe it’s been there for years and I never saw it? Another rare bird came for a short visit, a spotted fawn walked within 6 feet of me, two kinds of Hummingbirds, beautiful butterflies, an exotic bug – so many new things. Were they always here?

3. On this side of eternity I will never be able to answer why, but I do know God will sustain me through it. He will give me new beauty and love – as long as I am willing to look through His eyes. I try to find something to be thankful for everyday – something new.
4. There are two ways to ask “Oh God Why Me?” Why did God surround me with so much love & beauty? Why did He give me such a loving family? Why does He comfort me? As I look at all God has blessed me with in life, with a thankful heart I ask “Oh God Why Me” – what have I done to deserve this? “Oh God Why Me” really depends on the attitude that I want to portray in life. I choose to be joyful and thankful.

Written By Laurie Scherrer

With Dementia The Hardest Part IS Knowing

In many cases, the hardest part of an illness, is not knowing – waiting for those test results to come back. I used to say; “I can deal with anything – once I know what it is.” With dementia, the hard part IS knowing; knowing what you may do to your family, that they may not be able to care for you alone, that the person you are may totally change.

Although we may not talk about it, people with dementia battle with the constant fears of what we know this disease does. We deal with knowing that some day we may become mean, be incapable of making decisions, loose control of our body functions – and even worse our words and emotions. We cry and pray that we will not hurt or forget our loved ones, and yet know we probably will.
We watch our friends, and sometimes family, turn away – unable or unwilling to cope with the changes. And feel the hurt that causes our caregivers. We long for the days when we could read a book and understand what we read, entertain friends without getting overwhelmed, carry on a conversation without feeling lost, and complete a task without getting frustrated. And know those days will never return.
To be aware of dementia – you need to be aware that we often know what is happening to us and how it is impacting those around us. It hurts not being able to control these changes.
I have decided to grasp ever day of sunshine, knowing that someday I may not be able to walk alone. To find one blessing each day and share it with others, in hopes they will pass one on. And to avoid unnecessary turmoil and negativity so I can stay positive . And to say “Thank You” and “I Love You” often, so it will be remembered.
Caregivers – thank you, from all us.

Love & Laughter, Laurie

The Diagnosis

On August 13, 2013, Penn Medicine gave me the “official” diagnosis of Progressive Degenerative Impairment evolving into Alzheimer’s or an FTD. What a total kick when the doctor casually said I should get an attorney to apply for disability. “What do you mean disability?” He obviously did not know how much of a career person I was and how it would impact me when he said I would no longer be able to work. Much has happened since that day. We’ve faced many changes, decisions, tears and laughter.
When & how this started: I think I noticed minor changes as early as 2010, which I figured were stress or just general life changes. Doesn’t everyone go through periods of forgetting things? After my nephew, Andrew died in November 2011, changes became more obvious and more frequent. These I passed off as stress, depression and guilt over Andrew (“if I had only …”). By January 2012, my math ability was pathetic; I was constantly behind in everything, found it difficult to make a decision and I was having problems remembering verbal communication. I knew something was wrong and considered going for counseling.
I had to work longer hours to keep my work organize and accomplish my tasks. Multi-tasking had become impossible as I could only focus on one thing at a time – one conversation, one task, and one piece of paper. I spent over an hour speaking with a new customer and two days later, didn’t remember who she was or the conversation. This progressed to getting lost coming home from work and repeating myself – sometimes the same sentence five times. The more stressed I became the worse it got and as the symptoms progressed, I became more stressed.
After MRIs, Cat Scans, 8 weeks of psychological/neurological evaluations and many doctor appointments, the three doctors referred me to Penn Medicine for a final evaluation and to confirm their suspected diagnosis.
What we have found …
The disease I have is progressing. Although I take medication in hopes of slowing down the progression, there is no cure. At a slow, yet steady pace, we notice and deal with the changes.
What Rick Phelps recently wrote in a chat, expresses a lot of my feelings:
http://phelps2645.blogspot.com/2014/06/today-i-am-thankful.html
What it’s like now …
I have “bad days” or hours where confusion and fatigue take over. At these times, depression and frustration easily kick in as well. We are learning the signs of a “bad moment” and how to deal with them and trying to take advantage of all the good days. There are times that I must have “down time” or just a quiet retreat to let my brain rest.
There are many times when speaking and understanding what is said is challenging, causing me to have to ask people to repeat what they said. I have to work very hard to comprehend what you are saying and even harder to express what I want to say. This is especially difficult when I am with a group and trying to process more than one conversation or thought. Continuous talking/listening wears me out quickly and I just have to escape to silence for a bit.
Sometimes, I don’t remember what I am doing or why. And yet, other times, I wonder why I can’t work – I feel wonderful and “normal”. Generally, mornings are good for me. I get up between 5 and 6:00 a.m. and accomplish as much as possible. By late afternoon, my life usually becomes disrupted and I need to rely on more memory aides. This generally starts with problem-solving difficulties (i.e following a recipe, looking up a phone number, taking care of the wash from beginning to end, etc.) and may progress to difficulty with speech and comprehension.
We have found that the evil confusion gremlins become most anxious when I am away from my comfort zone. Grocery Shopping, for example, is a huge project for me. Dealing with the people, making sure I get everything on the list, use any coupons, and standing in line with a crowd of people talking, is a day’s work for me. And yet, I can put some music on and paint the shed for ten hours without getting tired. I’m still me. That has not changed, but we are learning that adjustments need to be made to keep my life productive.
I’m told that sometimes I say things that are inappropriate, and totally out of my character. I don’t recall doing this, but if I do – – please let me know. I don’t mean it.
Changes …
We are constantly learning ways to modify everyday activities to compensate for the down times.
Meals are prepared in the morning as much as possible.
Reminder notes – I constantly forgot to hit “start”, thus the dishes, clothes, oven or coffee, never finish. So now they say “START” and all I have to do is remember to read the note?
My iPad has made life so much easier. Everything is on my iPad.; contacts, calendar, alarms (to feed the dogs, eat, start dinner), notebook, task list, brain teaser games, etc.. Where I go – it goes.
I participate in many chat groups trying to learn new and better ways to deal with the current symptoms and those to come.
We plan as much as possible for mornings (difficult since we were both night-owls).
When verbal communication is difficult, I don’t answer the phone.
And now this step, we try to educate our friends and family on what to expect.
Life as Usual …
We intend to live our lives to the fullest we possibly can, enjoying every minute we can with our family and friends. We want people to continue to feel like coming over and hanging out. There will be times when I have to walk away and perhaps go lay down or find a quiet place – especially when I am away from home. There will be times when I repeat myself or don’t follow a conversation.
I hope this clarifies some of the questions and concerns about my disease. Please pray for Roy and I, as we face the challenges of Dementia.
Love, Laurie