~Introducing special guest blogger today Pamela Atwood~
~Gerontologist Certified Dementia Practitioner~
Have you heard of the Daily Happiness Checklist by Dr. Timothy Sharp and the Happiness Institute? I use it every day– some days I veer off course, but usually it helps. The first affirmation is “I’ve reminded myself of my life purpose.” I’m one of the lucky folks with a well defined life purpose. I work every day to make a difference in the lives of people living with cognitive and neurological disorders. I’m blessed to be supported by family, friends and colleagues who encourage my learning and my vision: listening to people and creating systems that can meet their needs. How cool is that? I’m a gerontologist by training, and when people ask me what that is, my response is “I geek out about aging.” Why? My great-grandmother died at age 99, and she said, “Pamela, don’t ever grow old – it’s JUST-NO-FUN.” I knew my life purpose was to make that untrue.
One of my favorite things to do is to teach. I am a professional speaker and love going to other cities and teach using techniques that are uncommon in healthcare education (usually with a red nose and real-life stories). I speak about unusual topics (bullying in senior communities; intimacy and sexuality and aging; laughter therapy; using Improv to communicate with people with dementia). I love learning from my colleagues about their experiences too.
My other joy is learning from my clients. As a Dementia Care Consultant, I get to spend time with families. My job is to cut their learning curve (which I do, substantially) and make them confident caregivers – but I get something out of it too. I also direct a “Forgetfulness-Friendly” choir, self-named Noteworthy Voices. I learn from my elders all the time. From Enid, I learned how to care for African Violets. From Ivan, I learned about the Hartford Whalers after-hours (he had a bar) and how to create a life after being a Jewish POW in Nazi Germany. From Jack, I’ve learned that having a fun personality gets you out of a lot of trouble, even if it annoys your kids. From Madelyn I’ve learned memories are tethered to music. From Molly, I’ve learned to take care of yourself as a Caregiver, because if you don’t, you may be paralyzed by a stroke and have to learn to function gracefully and with dignity – but it can be done. I’ve been given more than I could ever give. And I do it in the memory and honor of my family members who have lived with dementia and Parkinson’s – Lottie, Nell, Elaine, Pat, Dorothy.
And yet, I cannot wait to be out of work. When our systems change, and stigma is a memory, and diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are cured, I’ll rest. Until then, I will continue to volunteer with the American Parkinson Disease Association (www.ctapda.org) and the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org/ct) and continue to educate Caregivers and everyone who is “aging” (www.youtube.com/Pamela_Atwood
) (www.AgingCareAcademy.org). And I’ll work to make it FUN!
Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL
When Jan submitted this tangle for the blog, this is what she told me, "The Path is not always clear, and often filled with serendipity." What a positive way to look at the crossroads in our life!
My new book launched in April on Amazon ~ "The Artistry of Caregiving, Letters to Inspire Your Caregiver Journey" Written from my heart to yours, to help you navigate the emotional journey of caring for another. The book has a unique format. Six chapters and 33 Letters, designed to read on the go, in no particular order. I wrote this book out my experience as my Mom's primary Caregiver for several years. My journey was difficult, stressful, lonely and I felt very isolated and withdrawn. I wrote this to bring comfort to Caregivers of all ages. I wanted to let you know you are not alone, you are understood and I hope this book makes you feel connected, appreciated and affirms all that you do. Caregiving is not an easy job. It can be quite demanding and stressful. I created this book to be a companion for you and I hope you love it!
The paperback edition will be out in July, stay tuned.
~Where Words Soothe and Ideas & Art Delight~