I can’t believe when I look at the calendar that it is Valentine’s Day. I am thankful because spring is close, but also wonder where the winter went. I spent some time preparing an outline/script for an interview Debra and I are doing with Positive Momentum for a TV Show series on Alzheimer’s Disease. When I am preparing for an event like this, I am painfully aware that it takes considerable effort to get ready to speak. In my old life at work, I would be able to multi-task daily and be able to handle meetings, make decisions immediately. It is frustrating to me that things do not come as easily now.
The last several months have been exciting. I am very deliberate about what I do and how much to get involved with. With Debra’s help, I do not let myself get overwhelmed or over commit on things. I think we have found a balance in our lives which was a difficult thing to do. In the past I tended to take on a lot of different things at once and now find that I have to prioritize and do one thing a time.
A New Early Stage Support Group started in January. This support group is for individuals diagnosed in the early stage of Alzheimer’s with several participants also Younger Onset like I am who are under the age of 65. Although I helped setup this group, Debra and I will be participants. The meetings are setup to be educational for the first part of the meeting, then we split into two groups, the caregivers go into one room and the person with diagnosis (PWD) goes into a different room. The meetings are every other week and will end in April. We are excited about this new opportunity. I had the pleasure of speaking to most of the participants on the phone when we were setting up the group.
Partners in Aging Networking Meeting in January was another event I was asked to speak at. This group is an example of several groups in the Omaha Metro that meet periodically that represent many different businesses involved with providing care for our seniors. I typically talk for 10-15 minutes about what my life was like at work, a summary of my medical history, the process of the diagnosis, and then what my life is like today living with Mild Cognitive Impairment and memory loss. The message that I try to get across is that I want to raise awareness. I want people to know that Alzheimer’s is devastating, and that it is not just a disease that strikes the elderly.
The South Omaha Community Care Council (SOCCC) asked me to speak at their January meeting. I was amazed at the commitment, support, and dedication this group has for the South Omaha Community. I was in awe and felt very privileged to be asked to speak to this group. Their membership is a virtual Who’s Who of Omaha from businesses, education, government and health care. It was impressive.
February started with a presentation at the Joslyn Art Museum to staff members and docents on dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. My part on the panel was representing someone diagnosed with a form of dementia. There is a very exciting program at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York called the MoMA Alzheimer’s Project. There is a nationwide expansion of programs such as this. We are so fortunate in Omaha to have such a quality Art Museum as the Joslyn. This new program will get underway later in the year and is very exciting that individuals and their caregivers will have the opportunity to experience artwork to stimulate their senses. Music and Art have been found to be very beneficial to those in middle and late stage Alzheimer’s Disease.
Debra and I attended one of the first Early Stage Support Groups (ESSG) in Omaha to share our story last week. The ESSG’s are structured to have a beginning and ending date. The structure is not always the same as far as frequency. Some groups met monthly, others bi-monthly, but all have a defined program and sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association utilizing trained facilitators. That being said, there are new groups being started throughout the year as new people continue to be diagnosed which is the purpose of the group. The group Debra and I visited continues to meet on their own after their group officially ended. They are a close-knit group that continues to meet in a local church. It was evident to me that there is a need for continued socialization for these groups, even after the sponsorship officially ends. We were also privileged to have Dr. Reilly from Methodist Hospital in the group.
A new program, the Early Stage Social Engagement activities kicked off last week as well. These activities are designed to get participants of existing and past support groups together for social activities. Last week we had the first event, a potluck at Faith Christian Church in Omaha. Members from different support groups were represented. Future events include a tour of local brewery, a pizza night, bowling, and miniature golf. These events are scheduled through June of this year.
Still to come, next week I will be speaking at another support group in Papillion. I will also be doing a TV interview Thursday and newspaper interview on Friday promoting a speaking engagement in Grand Island and Kearney Nebraska the following week.
The last item for this post is good news. I was nominated by the Nebraska Chapter to serve a one year term on the National Early-Stage Advisor Group. It is an honor just to be nominated. There are 12 advisors serving currently from across the nation. The process just started so we will see how it goes, but it would be a honor to be able to serve in this capacity.
I will sign off for now, as always, our goal is awareness. This blog is not as much about Debra and me as it is about making people aware of Alzheimer’s Disease. More information is available at alz.org. Please send us your comments and suggestions, we do read everything that comes into the blog.
Mike & Debra