Fellow Visionaries! Do Not Give Up!

Every once in a while I hear a peer of mine say they are going to give up trying. Burnt out by the current medical and care world, tired of being told their ideas are not worthy of exploration or not inline with the “industry standards.” They are tired. We are tired. Not too long ago, I overheard a woman say that she was going to quit her position and move into a role where she could no longer be abused for her ideas. She was referring to an incident with a care community she worked for, poured her heart and soul into, deciding after she left, to implement one of her ideas in their memory care community. They executed the plan point by point and took credit as if the idea was their own. They did this, not only after she left the job, but also after they told the ideas didn’t fit the image they wanted, nor were any other communities doing anything like this program. I wanted to go up to her, hug her, and tell her to keep going! This would have been a touch creepy since I didn’t know her, nor was I fully apart of the conversation. I chose to not say anything to her. I regretted that decision later that day and posted on Twitter this statement,

“It is rough being a visionary, to suggest ways to improve care and connection, only to be knocked down and see the organization or program, a few months or years later, be implement without you, the exact thing you brought to the table. But keep going. We need you!”

I know this statement doesn’t make up for remaining silent, but I hoped a larger audience would see it, and maybe find some comfort, or at least feel a spark of energy to keep going.

Anyone at any time who has called themselves, or were called by others, a visionary or innovator, has experienced someone telling you your ideas are “stupid” (or a related statement fitting for your setting) and have them turn around without you to do exactly (or something almost identical) what you worked for and shared. It starts in grade school and moves into the professional world. It hurts, stings, is frustrating and causes us to feel a range of emotions. You have every right to go through this emotional journey, but please, don’t give up!

Whether you are the type of person that uses this experience to fuel you or not, know that we must keep going! While someone may have used your ideas and plan as their own, it was still set into motion by people who have a different lens of the world. You could go and do the program, exactly how you envisioned it, and it could be completely different because it came from the unique perspective and talents you bring to the experience. You may be working with a different group of people, in a different area or stage of life. The impact will be no less powerful. The lives you touch are no less worthy.

As I type this, I am feeling the sting of this experience. In short, a graduate program recently implemented two ideas that I had regarding theatre and older adults. These programs, while not exact, were quite similar to what I shared with the program back in 2012 in meetings with faculty. At the time of presenting these ideas and sharing how I would like to apply the degree to my work in aging and dementia, I was given the run-around. They combined a blend of comments with those sounding something along the lines of, “We don’t work with that population. It is not something we focus on and don’t see ourselves changing.” This hurt of course, but I moved forward. These theatre programs were put in place over the past two years, without me, without my input, without my knowledge, and one of the programs received international attention. This stings, respect for these individuals sinks lower, and where does one go from here? This place of hurt, betrayal, and abuse? We move forward! We create something new. We focus on those we wish to serve and support, and we envision a new program, event, and/or connection. There is enough work for all of us! While the actions of organizations such as this university are wrong and borderline unethical, it happens. It occurs on some scale every single day. If we are true visionaries, we will find something new, improve on what this group of people did, learning from their mistakes and enhancing their successes. There is another theatre piece in me, another creative idea already starting to take motion, and the people that this work will impact will far outweigh the hurt of this present moment. It is hard, but don’t think of the administration that is abusing you, think of the people these programs and models will benefit. If necessary, confront those abusing your innovation and vision, but don’t allow it to take over your every thought, or cause you to want to quit your job. Only you know the line that must never be crossed in your life. Keep going, keep creating, keep working towards a better way to care, serve, and support the lives of those around us.

Helping People Retire? Ageism? Moving Forward

This statistic came across my Twitter feed again today, “by 2035, older adults will outnumber children under the age of 18 across the country.” When an older adult is generally considered to be anyone over the age of 65, we have a lot of work to do to better our society and our world. This asks us to deeply consider if we have the responsibility to support each other as we enter into becoming care partners for loved ones, and transition into retirement. It requires us to think long and hard about ageism and how our communities are built and function.

Do we have a responsibility to help our employees and fellow neighbors age? Do we have a responsibility to support those looking to enter into an aging and dementia profession? To support those already working? I think so, though the answer is as layered and complex as the question.

We live in a society where we are defined first by our profession and second by our hobbies, family life, and interests. This obstacle is only growing and gaining intensity in many circles. While our careers and the professional titles we hold are important to us, they are not the sum of who we are, our worth. There comes a point when for, whatever reason, we need to leave our jobs, retirement, family obligations, our health. What do we do next? Some feel shame, lost, or guilty, while others rejoice, feel great freedom, or maybe feel neutral about the whole thing. So, what can our places of employment and our society do to improve how we age and transition from active professionals into continuing one’s vocation outside the traditional form of employment? In addition to saving money and taking care of one’s health, we all must also look at our personal lives and know what brings us joy, our priorities, what sustains us emotionally, socially, spiritually, and intellectually.

When looking at agism we need to understand not only what it is, but also its many forms. We see and talk about the discrimination that happens along the spectrum, from those that are “too young” to those that are “old,” but do we ever consider the age-related discrimination that happens when someone wants to work with older adults, but is not admitted into the school because it is not one of the “it” populations for that program. Do we talk about the age-related discrimination that occurs when we separate the population into “abled-bodied” and those with “mental or physical limitations?” These points need to make it into our conversations.

Do the staff members within our care communities and in-home care organizations have a responsibility to help individuals who have recently retired or are transitioning into needing the next level of care? Making sure they are supported in the fullness of life? Do they have the responsibility of understanding and helping maintain the life each individual has created for themselves beyond their professional life? I think, yet again, yes.

We are holding on for dear life to the value of our professional selves, and it is not serving us well. How do we let go? How do we allow ourselves to be the sum of our professional and personal selves at every age?

This is not meant to hold the answers, in fact it may raise more questions, but we must talk about this and find ways to take action. Comment below what you think. I want to hear from you.

Bonae Memoriae the Blog


Blog Purpose

What is Bonae Memoriae (BON-ay meˈmo.ri.ae̯) other than a Latin phrase that we might stumble on when trying to pronounce? It means, “of happy memory.” It is the name of this blog and my mission statement in short.

When working with dementia we are never sure what the person we are sitting next to might be able to recall or what they will remember from our time together. So we approach our visit with great care and creativity, working to make our time joy-filled. If we do this, it will be a happy memory. As the saying goes, “People will not always remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

The purpose of this blog is to be a guide for those who read it. It is not meant to be a medical or mental health resource, or diagnostic guide, but to discuss moments of the dementia journey. Not everything will be founded in scientific research, but all will be based on experience, both that of my own and of those I work with who have given me permission to share their story on this public platform. This blog is to serve as a discussion starter, and place to develop our shared story. If you have questions about anything I have posted, or find an inaccuracy, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. The opinions and stories are my own unless otherwise stated. Should something be referenced you will find the proper citation at the bottom of that particular post.

I don’t often have guest authors, however, if you would like to write a post for consideration I will gladly consider your submission. If you would like to share your story of dementia please consider writing a letter for the Dementia Letters Project. You may submit your letter by emailing dementialettersproject@gmail.com.

A New Adventure

The launched of something new is happening, expanding my work with Dementia Letters Project.

Over the last little while, I have worked on developing a virtual community that includes a Creative Engagement and Dementia training (and hopefully a conference in the spring.) I am heading into the unknown with great excitement for what could be.

It is here where we will have an opportunity to build a better understanding of dementia, and help everyone become relational with individuals with dementia via training workshops, videos, and podcast episodes. It is here that we become a virtual community of care partners both professional and personal.

During the virtual training, we will dedicate time to dig deeper into the topics of Understanding Dementia, A Creative Greeting: How to say Hello, Understanding Creative Engagement, and A Creative Program: Creating a Specialized Program for Your Community. 

If finances don’t allow for you to join as a conference attendee or during the training months, please, PLEASE email me at dementialettersproject@gmail.com so we can work something out. The more individuals we have at the Scholarship tier, the more we can help each other out financially. 

Please share with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. I invite you to join me as we grow in community, understanding, and creativity! All are welcome!