By Lori La Bey, founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks
I have to admit caring for my Mother with dementia was not on my bucket list. In fact, the possibility never crossed my mind. Dementia crept into our lives slowly. Its visits were spontaneous and behavior changes subtle, giving me the perfect excuse to live in denial.
Mom’s dementia symptoms began our thirty-year journey down the yellow brick road. We were off to see the Wizard. Yet along the way, I found I had the answers I needed: acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, and unconditional love. All were tools my Mother taught me growing up. I also needed to acknowledge and embrace our new lives. You see, dementia was not just my Mother’s disease. It was “our disease,” hers, mine, and everyone she encountered. I found each of us has a choice on how we are going to live with dementia.
Will it Be a Gift or a Disaster in Your Life?
Through illness, I was taught life lessons I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. The beauty of each lesson can’t be put into words, but each is embedded in my heart and my soul. Each is a memory of magnificent proportion. Each was brought forth by a simple question I would ask myself.
“What’s the Lesson?”
Each lesson was wrapped in a love deeper than I previously knew. By asking this simple question when I felt pushed up against a wall, simple answers came.
I felt strongly that old ways of caring and serving those with dementia weren’t working, and, for me, working in a broken system wasn’t an option. So, in 2009 Alzheimer’s Speaks was born. My goal was to raise all voices, share knowledge, and empower all to shift our dementia care culture from crisis to comfort.
People kindly refer to me as the spark igniting the first Dementia Friendly Community in the United States, and for helping expand the UK’s Memory Café concept in America.
There is nothing like finding your purpose and passion in life which allows you to help others. This fall we are setting sail with a Dementia Friendly Symposium and Cruise which will be an exceptional experience as we live gracefully together with dementia.
Makers of the Hollywood film, “His Neighbor Phil,” consulted with me to design a marketing plan. I was thrilled they were willing to try something new. The response has been remarkable as I have taken the film around the country doing talk backs. The film has proven its extraordinary ability to connect with audiences, remove stigmas and give hope.
As for the future, I will continue to keynote, speak, train, write, advocate, collaborate and push innovation forward developing new delivery systems and attitudes towards those living with and dealing with dementia.
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