Category Archives: Living with Alzheimer’s

Dementia Doesn't Stop this Travel Enthusiast AARP

AARP The Face of Dementia – Living with Hope

Living with Hope.


I was featured on AARP! ~Click to Watch the video!

 Currently, there is no hope for a cure, but there is hope for having a meaningful life after diagnosis. I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to share how those who have dementia can live with HOPE and continue to THRIVE in their daily lives. ~Laurie

Dementia Doesn't Stop this Travel Enthusiast AARP


Here’s another promo video that gives a brief summary of the series. ~Enjoy

Face of Dementia Living with Hope Play Video‘Click the video image’ to watch on their website.

Accepting Change

Like the waves hitting the beach, life is constantly changing and we are constantly changing with it.  Change is an inevitable part of life.  We develop, we age.   We laugh, we cry.  We dislike, we love.   And as our lives transform, we either try to deny or resist the change, take action to modify the change, and/or we embrace the transformation and work with (or through) it.

Although there are many things in our lives we can take control of, not all changes can be modified. Not all changes are welcome.   There will always be people, circumstances, occurrences and events that we don’t like and don’t want to have invade our perfect world.

For my husband Roy and I, the major changes came in the form of illness.  For me, it was a diagnosis of Early-onset Alzheimer’s and Frontal-temporal Degeneration.   For Roy, it was a diagnosis of Common Variable Immune Deficiency.  Both are life altering medical conditions that have and will continue to impact our plans, dreams and daily activities.

Throughout my life I have always believed in the power of a positive attitude and grasping each challenge as an opportunity.  My house, office and car were a collection of positive affirmations like “If I think I can or can’t – I’m absolutely right”, “If it’s to be, It’s up to me”,

“I have a choice – I can let my mind shape me or I can shape my mind” and many more.  Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote outlines how beliefs shape destiny: “Your beliefs become your thought, Your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become Your values, Your values become your destiny”.

Although positive thinking is not always easy, staying in the habit helped me to accept and often excel through some of my more difficult challenges.  However, when I was diagnosed with dementia, I found myself drifting away from a positive attitude.  I felt that I couldn’t change things and IT wasn’t up to me and I had NO choice. I felt my little engine that once could, had no control to make it up this hill of life. I was becoming sad and depressed.

After my self-inflicted pity party, I realized that I needed to accept my diagnosis and the changes it would bring and make the best of whatever time I could.  I found that the stress and worry of denial and non-acceptance was draining what energy I did have.

“Accept what you cannot change.  Change what you cannot accept”.  After a period of grief, anger, and denial, I began to seek my old self.  I found that once I accepted the changes my life was going to take, I began to appreciate the joy and beauty around me.  As my stress lessened – my confusion lessed and my energy level increased.  The more I embraced the change with a positive attitude, the more Roy and I were able to discover ways to reduce the amount of “dementia daze” (the state of confusion and disorientation) and the more I was able to feel joy again.

To me, embracing change means accepting that it is unescapable and with a positive disposition determining how to make the best of it.  Together, Roy and I are learning to embrace our challenges and modify our objectives and our life style. We are finding some of the things that trigger confusion and figuring out ways to overcome the hurdles that prevented me from enjoying life. “I can’t” has become “How CAN I”.

Yes, I still have challenges and days of confusion, disorientation, fear and emotions. However, most of my days are full of purpose and love.  While embracing the challenges of change, we are also embracing every moment with joy.

Love & Laugher,

Laurie

I no longer wanted just to survive with dementia, I wanted to thrive!

When I was diagnosed with Early On-Set Alzheimer’s and FTD (Fronto-Temporal Degeneration/Dementia) the doctor’s only advise was “Go home, put your affairs in order, see an Elder Care Attorney and come back in six months.”  We left his office with the understanding that I would forget my loved ones and die at any time.

This same doom and gloom diagnosis is given to most people diagnosed with dementia.  Although the average life expectancy is eight to ten years, there is no encouragement of living a meaningful life.  No strategies are offered to identify what triggers dementia episodes and what might help.  And no information is provided on support groups or how to connect with others living this journey.  

At first, I accepted the doctor’s verdict.   Wallowing in self-pity and low esteem, I gave up and set about to prepare for the inevitable.  Then I found that there are many people living a meaningful life after diagnosis!  Through Dementia Mentors, Virtual Memory Cafes, and Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio, I learned to identify and avoid some of the triggers that aggravate my dementia.  Together, my husband Roy and I discovered ways to compensate for many of the hurdles that cause confusion and found that there are many tactics to help people with dementia to live a productive life.

Socializing with other people living with dementia in support groups was wonderful, but I wanted more.  I no longer wanted just to survive – I wanted to Thrive!  Although I knew I could no longer handle the responsibilities and stress of a job (or the driving), I longed to feel like my life had a purpose.  Then I connected with the Dementia Action Alliance and my doors were opened.  Finally, a group that focused on quality of life!

The Dementia Action Alliance USA (DAA) is a non-profit national advocacy and education organization of people living with dementia, care partners, friends and dementia specialists committed to creating a better country in which to live with dementia.  I have been honored to work with the DAA on many projects/committees and had the privilege of speaking at Re-imagine Life with Dementia Conference in June.

The DAA is making a difference now, not waiting until a cure is found.  Funds are needed to continue and expand the fabulous programs and support they offer to make meaningful life possible while living with dementia.

 

Please consider helping the DAA to improve quality of life for people living with dementia.  Your donation can be in honor of someone living with dementia or in memory of a loved one.  To learn more about DAA or make a donation please visit DAAnow.org or click this link:  https://daanow.org/donate-now/

Thank you for caring and for all your support.

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

Dementia Christmas Tree Analogy

I’m not sure what dementia is supposed to look like.  Although I have some really good moments when I feel like anything is possible, I also have moments when confusion and disorientation take control of my emotions, my actions and my body functions. Dementia doesn’t just happen over-night.Think of a beautiful tree all decorated with lots of new lights, ornaments and ribbons.  One day one of the bulbs start to flicker.  You tap it a little and it goes back on. Over time, another starts to flicker and another.  Sometimes you can get them to come back on and sometimes they will not come back on.

So, you make adjustments to distract from the burnt-out lights.  Move an ornament or add some tinsel to enhance the lights.  All the while this is happening, your tree remains beautiful and brightens the room.  People who don’t see your tree often or who visit during the day time may not notice the lights flickering or those that are totally off.  But youkathys-christmas-tree know that in time all the lights will fade.

I have times when my lights flicker and some of those “bulbs” don’t want to come back on, for example with math.

For now, enough lights are still shinning that I can try to brighten the world. Physically I am strong and healthy.  My husband Roy and I have found that I CAN do many things that I did before – I just have to do them diff

erently. We try to find an adjustment to compensate for the flickering
bulbs.

Sometimes people say “You don’t look like you have dementia.” and I’m thankful my lights aren’t flickering or that we’ve made the right adjustments.  For now my tree stands tall, bright and beautiful.  With routines and adjustments I able to live a beneficial, happy life. The day may come when all my light bulbs are dim, but for now, I
am thankful for all the days when I can be useful. As my husband reminds me, a Christmas tree is also beautiful during the day when the lights are off.

I am not the same Laurie I was, but with adjustments, planning and routines my lights can still sparkle.

There are many variations using the analogy of dementia being like a Christmas Tree. I think this is such a great analogy that after writing it I put it into a video.  I am honored that Dementia Action Alliance (daanow.org)  is using this video in their network for good fundraising effort.  Dementia Action Alliance networkforgood

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

© Copyright November 2016 Laurie Scherrer

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.

Is it Senseless to Dream and Plan?

To dream the impossible dream . . . or is it? A journey with Dementia

My Dad, who had visited oStand Up To Your Obstacles Pealever 200 countries, often said he regretted that he and my Mom never fulfilled their plans to tour the United States.  My husband, Roy, and I have shared that same dream for many years.  Although we have traveled to many states for various functions, we have never truly “seen” the states. Knowing that at some point my dementia will prohibit such a trip, we set a date and started to plan. 2018 for a four to five week trip exploring our wonderful country. AWESOME!

As we shared our dream with others, the reactions were mostly targeted on why I could NOT take this trip. People were quick to point out my confusion and lack of focus, as well as the expense. Some openly expected me to fail and expressed it as an unrealistic waste of time to try. My excitement started to wane, being replaced with a feeling of loss for a trip I would never take.

Dreams are the foundation of hopes and ideas. They are often the beginning of the challenges weundertake, and the stimulus for our accomplishments.  They are the drive that empowers us to keep moving forward. We dream of getting a new job or a new house, raising a family, being successful, and overcoming obstacles. “Hope is a waking dream” (quote by Aristotle).   Therefore, as you destroy my dream, you also destroy my hope.

“Is it unrealistic to dream and make plans, even though the odds may be against it?”

As I contemplated this, I became inspired by some of the well-known “greats” of the world who accomplished their dreams in spite of their disabilities. Helen Keller, though deaf and blind gained a bachelor’s degree, campaigned on, disability and women’s rights and became a well-respected speaker. Beethoven composed some of the most sublime pieces of music after he was deaf. Bethany Hamilton after loosing her arm in a vicious shark attack, got back on her surfboard and (in addition to many other championships) went on to win First place in the NSSA National Surfing Champion. There are thousands of people who reached for a dream in spite of the odds. Some made it and some did not, but they all battled tremendous obstacles to follow their dream.

When people try to protect me by saying and expecting that I am unable to do something, in essence they are crushing a piece of my spirit. Yes, I have many limitations. As so many others have, we are learning to deal with them. We are learning to make adjustments, working around challenges and obstacles, while still maintaining the ability to love and laugh. Michael Jordon said; “If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never change the outcome.”

Maybe I am setting my expectations too high, or maybe I just need to figure out how to overcome the obstacles. If you take away my hopes and my dreams, I am left with an empty life of watching my degenerative brain impairment slowly make changes to my life. No, I won’t let otheObstacles Don't Have To Stop You Michale Jordanrs squash my dreams! Instead, I will reach for the unreachable star and follow my dreams “no matter how hopeless, no matter how far” (Don Quixote).

Now having made that decision, I need to get started on some plans. Stay tuned for future posts on planning for 2018! Sure, there is a possibility that it may not happen, but think of all the fun we will have planning and dreaming!

Love & Laughter,  Laurie

Written By Laurie Scherrer June 2015

Here’s my Inspiration:  Gomer Pyle “To Dream The Impossibe Dream”

© Copyright June 2015 Laurie Scherrer

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