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Before I Forget…..

Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating illness and one I have given attention on my show multiple times.  According to www.alz.org, consider these 2015 statistics:

  • It’s the only cause of death in the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
  • 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another of the more than 70 types of dementia.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Only 45% of people with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregivers report being told of their diagnosis vs. 90% of people with the four most common types of cancer having been told of their diagnosis.
  • By 2050, the costs of Alzheimer’s care could rise as high as $1.1 trillion.  In 2015, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $226 billion.

Although the statistics are staggering, it doesn’t ‘bring home‘ the human cost of the disease.

Several weeks ago I had a gentleman, Greg O’Brien, scheduled for my show.  He wrote the book, On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s.  obrienAs an accomplished journalist, Greg felt it was important for him to document his life experience as the disease progressed.  Having read the book, and realizing how advanced Greg’s disease was, I had wondered if he would be able to do the show.  There was a good chance it could be an ‘off day’ for him.  However, the publicist insisted as late as the day before the show that all was well.  Show time comes – no Greg. I was a bit disappointed but realized this was a perfect example of how unpredictable the disease can be.

So, before I forget, I want to share with you some of the human, personal elements Greg encountered living with this disease.

  • He spoke of a ‘cognitive reserve’, a backup tank of inherited intellect.  The more reserve one has to draw from, the longer one can maintain a sense of present thinking.  Tip: It’s never too late to build up that reserve!
  • Greg’s parents died with the same disease.  As they came closer to the end of life, he had to consider ‘exit strategies’.  Imagine the difficulty in planning one’s own exit strategy – and to do it when you still have the cognitive ability to do so!
  • Each day Greg has to start with 5-Ws – who, what, where, when and why. For me, I have woken up on occasion with a little disorientation – Where am I? To have to do it daily has to be challenging and exhausting.  In my case of disorientation I recover my focus rather quickly.  Can you imagine how frightening it would be to NOT be able to answer any of the 5-Ws?
  • Anger and rage, often involuntary, also occur as symptoms.  marcellI had a guest on my show, Jaqueline Marcell, whose father exhibited a lot of anger.  She wrote the book Elder Rage, or Take My Father… Please!: How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents.
    Her book, written from a caregiver’s perspective, shines a light on a situation that many encounter – caring for a parent with dementia.  Likewise, I had another author, Diane Drummond DuPre from the Myrtle Beach Author Network on my show.  She wrote the book, Mother, I Am Your Daughter: Do You Want to See My Driver’s License Again? dupreDiane’s book takes a sometimes light-hearted look at the challenges of being a caregiver of a parent with Alzheimer’s – with the added dimension of coping with her own diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s. In each case you can see from the authors titles that anger is a part of  this disease.  But truthfully, if I had difficulty with recalling any of the 5-Ws – I’d be pretty pissed off myself!
  • A common experience in dementia patients is known as ‘sun-downing’ caused as light fades to black.  Greg experienced this phenomena and found physical routine helped him reduce end-of-day confusion and restlessness.  This was one of many ‘tips’ that Greg provided as ways to cope with certain symptoms.
  • One thing I learned reading Greg’s book was about the “Five year” look back. If a person does not own assets – a nursing home by law must enroll an individual as destitute – not encumbering the assets of family members. It is certainly something for family members to keep in mind. When Greg was signing documents relinquishing his assets it created a great sense of loss of self – first mental , now material.  Loved ones should be sensitive to the feelings of loss experienced by their loved one.

There is one story that touched my heart regarding Alzheimer’s. I know a couple, Nora and Billy who came to the beach every summer for their vacation.  A nice, loving couple.  About 4 years ago Billy’s physical health started to deteriorate – but he was very alert and present mentally. Nora was an excellent caregiver, taking care of Billy’s needs and only occasionally complaining. A couple of years ago Nora started exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s.  Her disease progressed quickly and it wasn’t long until Billy had to place her in an assisted living facility.  Months later, Nora’s memory had deteriorated to the point she was no longer able to recognize Billy as her husband.  Even though she did not recognize him, Billy continued to visit her.  The heart-breaking part to this story is that on one of his visits, Nora excitedly introduced Billy to her new ‘boyfriend’ at the facility.  The love of his life no longer remembered their decades together.

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia wreak havoc with the lives and memories of those afflicted and everyone their life touches.  Each of the authors, and their books, provides insight and guidance for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia  and their caregivers.  Resources are available – take advantage of the information provided by those who have the courage to share their story!

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Self-Care and Self-Compassion is not just for women

I had a very interesting discussion on today’s show with Canadian, Julie Starr from PossibilityCoaching.net. Her focus is on ‘life coaching for women’. We discussed the importance of ‘standing in one’s power’. To speak truthfully, confidently and knowing one’s importance in the world. It didn’t take long for me to realize that these attributes are important for every individual, women and men. Yes, women sometimes have to give this more attention because they are often pulled in many directions. The demands of work, family, spouse and societal expectations make it easy to push aside their needs and desires. But we all get side-tracked from time-to-time and forget to take care of ourselves and enjoy some of  the comforts that life offers.

We discussed many ways to practice self-care.  (the complete list can be found in an article on Julie’s website) A several key principles that I found practical and easy to apply are:

  1. Less is more – Sounds a bit odd but the idea that less clutter in your life, both mentally and physically, can provide the freedom and space to be more creative, effective and happier. Take a little time each day to ‘clean house’ so to speak.  Get rid of junk in a drawer, closet or kitchen.  Also get rid of some of the junk running through your brain.  The negative thoughts, self-judgment, depression, anxiety or fear.  Toss it – delete it! Do a little at a time each day – and if for some reason a day goes by when you don’t de-clutter – don’t beat yourself up!
  2. Let it be…Let it go – I’m reminded of the word’s of the Serenity Prayer “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference…” To accept and LET GO of the things I cannot change. So much time and energy is wasted trying to control the uncontrollable. Worrying about a future event that may not occur, or reliving a negative past experience and keeping it alive in the present. What’s done is done! I know very well that it can be difficult to ‘let go’.  It is sometimes easier to ‘hold on’ to what we know even if it makes us miserable.  Why?  Because we know what to expect and how to react.  If we ‘let go’, who knows what will happen! The fact is, in many cases, we don’t know what to expect when we ‘let go’ of something or someone – but that should not stop us from releasing whatever is holding us back.  There have been a few times when I ‘let go’ of a fear that had me paralyzed – and the result was spectacular!  Whenever I find myself having difficulty ‘releasing’, I think back to those experiences and find that it makes ‘letting go’ easier and freeing.
  3. Create a Self-Care Plan – Schedule “You Time”.  A time when you pamper yourself, do whatever is FUN for you, and honor the spirit and person you are.  Sure we all have demands on our life but we also deserve to enjoy life – even if it’s just a bit each day.

Self-Care is not Self-ish – it’s simply ensures that we are the best person we can be.  Happy, confident parents ensure their children will have a great role model for their future success.  Happy, confident spouses or partners ensure that their relationship stays strong and healthy.  Happy, confident people attract happy confident people.

Julie Starr

Take care of yourself – be happy and confident!

Negativity in the Afterlife?

When one thinks of the Afterlife a common perspective is some positive experience, ‘Heaven’ contrasted with a negative’Hell’. What if instead of the two possible destinations there was only one place with the same confusing combination that we have on Earth – a mix of both positive and negative?

During my Bringing Inspiration To Earth Show with Barry Eaton, Australian radio host, journalist, broadcaster and author of No Goodbyes; Life-Changing Insights from the Other Side we discussed the information he received from his guides that in facbarryeaton2t the Afterlife is a complex ‘place’, or dimension, with various levels and degrees of light and dark forces. The saying ‘ you can’t take it with you’ seems to only apply to the physical aspects of life, your money, possessions, even your body.  What does go with you are the emotions and experiences.  Love, hate, anger, forgiveness, along with the positive and negative interactions with other people (souls).   So if you have any ‘issues’ with someone, it’s best to get them resolved because it seems like there is no escape.

Another important message in No Goodbyes is the recognition of a ‘gift’ in every passing.  It may not be immediate and not readily seen, but it is there.  For the author, Barry Eaton, it was the the unfolding of his mediumship abilities after the passing of his companion Judy.  For others it may be forgiveness, freedom, self-awareness or simply to recognize that life is fleeting and to make the most of one’s time on Earth.

The Afterlife as presented in No Goodbyes is one similar to this existance – minus the physical aspect.  Emotions, learning, hierarchies, soul groups, and much more.

Is is approriate to use the word ‘sexy’ in a memoir about child abuse?

That was the question asked in the chat room during my recent radio show with Kelly Flook, author of ‘Shhhh!  Sad, Shocking and Sexy‘.

kellyflook2

Kelly had experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a child and took the courageous step to document and present to the world the journey her life took as a result. I can understand the listener’s question. Why make a connection between child abuse and ‘sexy’?  Kelly indicated that she was asked that question often, and she too understands the concern.  However, in her book she includes situations and experiences of romance and love.  It’s not strictly about the abuse. The listener was not convinced that Kelly’s answer alleviated her concern, but acknowledged it was Kelly’s book and it was her right to title it as she saw fit.

This isn’t the first time I had an individual on my show to discuss their memoir of surviving and working through an abusive childhood. On June 15th I had a gentleman from the UK, James Williamson, as guest on my show.  He wrote the book ‘They Can’t Touch Him Now‘.

james

James waited until all those who would be affected by his revelations had passed on. During my discussion with James he told me that he struggled with the writing of this book when it came to describing the details of his abuse.  He wanted to be as specific and informative as possible without exciting those abusers and giving them some freak thrill. James indicated it was a delicate balance that he gave much attention.

According to The National Center for Victims of Crime (www.victimsofcrime.org) and studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

These numbers are stunning.  Each child will grow up with the abuse as a background for their adult behaviors.  Often childhood abuse works its way into becoming adult self-abuse.  Some, like James Williamson, will wait until the abusers and those involved die off before revealing their circumstances.  Some, like Kelly Flook, won’t wait – with the hope that their story can help victims of abuse now.  They will tell their story even if it means alienating themselves from people close to them.

Back to the original question of this post. Is is appropriate to use the word ‘sexy’ in a memoir about child abuse? Recognizing that Kelly was able to overcome the guilt, shame and blame that often accompanies childhood abuse – and have  romantic, loving – and yes – sexy relationships, should be a beacon to those whose who have abusive pasts.  You are not condemned to a life of disappointing relationships – you can – and deserve to live a life filled with Love.

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