Shaken and Stirred

Teaching is a pursuit I really enjoy. Creating syllabi, designing presentations, setting the pace and structure for the instillation of concepts are all fun for me. I have a lot of information to share, and having the opportunity to disseminate what I know to enthusiastic seekers is a privilege.

This year, at Bergen Community College, through the Institute for Learning in Retirement, I am conducting a course called Dementia Sucks: The Class.” My book is the basis for the material, but I’ve gained a great deal of new insights since the book’s publication, and I’m eager to share them.

While I’ve delivered a number of classes and talks on this subject matter before, I have to admit this session was a little unsettling for me. I like to ask attendees why they come to my talks to ensure that I hit on topics people really want covered. This time, I got a surprise.

Two of the eleven students in attendance had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. This was a first for me. I am accustomed to speaking to people who are caregivers, or who are in the red zone for becoming caregivers. One gentleman was accompanied by his wife. The other was still high functioning enough to drive and conduct an independent life, but he was clear that he had this dire diagnosis and wanted to learn all he could while he could.

The way I structured the course, the first class was designated to introduce my qualifications, define dementia and outline the most important considerations for potential caregivers and potential dementia sufferers before the worst happened. The second class was about preparation and the third was about surviving. And I promised that in the last session, I would be discussing the latest exciting research and suggesting resources.

I had to gently change up my approach, because I didn’t want to upset the folks who were already in the grasp of this dreaded disease. And their situation is more urgent. Waiting to take action is particularly dangerous for them.

Something Substantial to Offer

In the last few weeks I have been lead by several different people to look at “The End of Alzheimer’s” by Dr. Dale Bredesen. I had noticed this book at my library recently, but I was in the middle of another book on the subject, so I passed it up.

Then I got followed by someone on Instagram whose handle is “Alzheimer’s Has Been Reversed.” I didn’t pay much attention, because I thought it was probably a scam of some sort.

At a business seminar, I spoke with a wellness coach following his talk. He suggested I read Dr. Bredesen’s book.

And then, leaving a business expo in New York I met another wellness coach. We actually had dinner together and she recommended the book.

Looking more closely at the Instagram message I’d initially disregarded, it was, in fact, about Dr. Bredesen’s work!

So I went back to my library, found the book and took it home. Apparently, everything I believed to be true about Alzheimer’s Disease, that it was caused by a variety of ailments and could be treated, successfully, with lifestyle changes, better nutrition, supplements,¬†exercise and meditation, was empirically documented.

I don’t know anyone personally who has benefited from Dr. Bredesen’s protocol, but the reputable sources validating the work made it clear that it is legitimate. I emailed a link to my student (the independent gentleman) suggesting he investigate further.

The universe is miraculous, and I am grateful to be witness to this incredibly important development. I suspect the mainstream media will not be announcing this discovery anytime soon. There’s too much money to be derived from advertising the ineffective drugs that don’t work, and all the expensive ancillary services that reap profits from the misery of others.

It is my sincere hope, that while the rest of the world shakes their head over the latest political affront, that we will quietly guide those in need to this non-medical solution to a hideous epidemic and solve it before millions more succumb.

And I’m happy to do it, three to twelve students at a time if need be.

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The Club Sandwich Club

Most of us have heard of “The Sandwich Generation.” This refers to the phenomenon of people caught between generations, helping their children achieve maturity and independence while also having to assist their aging parents. The pull on the attention of these people, who often have demanding careers and businesses, can not be overstated.

For those who run businesses, the problem is compounded, because they often employ staff with similar issues. Those workers are often in the unfortunate position of having to take time to assist their own family members. Distracted by their outside responsibilities, they may be fearful of revealing their situation to their superiors, concerned that they might lose their position if the true nature of their obligations was known.

With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, and 70% of those aging people destined to experience a long term care event, the numbers of family caregivers will increase exponentially. So the impact of this trend on business and the economy will escalate.

If you have never been a family caregiver, it’s difficult for you to grasp the enormity of the task. Depending on the circumstances, the person giving care can be in deep distress and potential in danger. And it’s absolutely imperative that everyone becomes aware of the frightening potential of this approaching epidemic.

The Meat of the Sandwich

Let’s first look at the basic caregiving situation. In virtually every family, there is usually one person who takes care of everyone else. Usually, it’s “Mom.” But 40% of the time, it’s “Dad” (especially if there is no Mom or if Mom is the one who is sick). Typically, this person works, either full or part-time. There may be a crisis, like a fall, or a critical illness, that requires immediate intervention by the caregiver-in-waiting.

There’s also the “sneak attack” care scenario: aging parents start asking for “favors” from their adult children. They need help understanding something: an unusual piece of mail or threatening phone call; news from a medical provider; a change in service from an insurance provider. Then it gradually morphs into escort services, rides to therapy, picking up items from the grocery store or pharmacy, and before you know it, you have a full-time, unpaid job that eats your life.

It’s not uncommon for these caregivers of aging parents to also have children. The expectation for those with healthy kids is that they will grow up, graduate from school and become independent. That is not always the case. They may have difficulty finding work in their chosen profession, or take a job and leave it, only to return to the nest. Sadly, many develop substance abuse problems, adding another stressor to the mix.

These are just some of the typical situations vying for the attention of family caregivers. These people also tend to have careers and subordinates who work for them (who may also be family caregivers).

Adding Zing

So, for the “Sandwich Bosses,” the people who run companies or departments, what are some ideas for improving their lives? Here are some ideas:

  • Put yourself first. If you go down in flames, so does everyone else you care for or supervise.
  • Hire the right professionals to do the things you don’t know how to do, like wills and estate planning.
  • Learn to say “no” when the demands of others are becoming too much.
  • If it’s bad for you, it has to be just as bad, or worse, for your subordinates.
  • Create an environment where it’s safe for people to talk about their situation. No one should have to fear losing their job for having to care for loved ones.
  • Teamwork is essential: cross-train¬†employees to cover for each other so business can continue with minimal interruption.
  • Remote work: allowing employees to work from home can go along way toward easing stress on family caregivers.
  • Identify resources: there are places people can go to solve a lot of their problems. Being able to provide guidance toward support services and establishing formal policies can be a huge help to everyone involved.

These are just a starting place. Caregiving is complex and different for every family. Understanding what you’re up against, practicing self-care, and supporting valued employees can keep you and your enterprise moving forward as the demands of a growing population of people in need encroaches on your productivity. By preparing for it now, you can meet (meat?) the challenges as they will undoubtedly be delivered at your doorstep.

Ep 58_Tracey

For more on this important topic, listen to author Tracey Lawrence speaking with Tiana Sanchez on “Like a Real Boss”.