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Stop #2 on the #BeingBrainHealthy #VirtualBookTour: Conversations in Care

20 Aug

You are more likely to know someone walking through the fog of brain injury than you are to know someone with cancer.

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Really, you are.  Think about this:

  • 1.8 million people each year are diagnosed in the Emergency Room each and every year with brain injury from some kind of blow to the head
  • 700,000 people have strokes that have some thinking deficits as part of the package, each and every year

Add to that the fact that no one really keep stats on those brain injuries related to chemo-therapy, anesthesia, medications, and neurological diseases that pop up each and every year. Now consider unknown number of combat-related brain injuries and all those brain injuries that are still significant but not diagnosed in the ER (like mine).

Trust me. You know someone who has had a brain injury.

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In today’s featured broadcast on the Being Brain Healthy Virtual Book Tour I speak with an amazing woman, Tami Neuman from the Care Radio Network and host of Conversations in Care. Tami has  years of experience caring for dementia patients and she really gets it that “reality” (yes those are air quotes) is not the same for everyone and that support for those with brain challenges is best given with a healthy dose of compassion and joy.

In addition to everyday brain health and turning up the noise on life, Tami and I spoke about promoting dignity, self-respect, and understanding for those we are supporting by treating each as intelligent, vibrant adults. We talked about how I realized one day that we all (yes all of us) speak to people who are struggling to think or understand as if they were children – we speak slowly and clearly using simple, tiny words – and that is just not OK.

Listen in our conversation HERE.  Warning: Listening to Conversations in Care may be habit forming!

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What have you noticed about how people change when they care for others?

Here’s to remembering to put dignity, self-respect, and quality of life at the core of caring for others.

What Ifs, If I’d Known Then, & Other Bits of Hindsight About the Brain

1 Jun

This piece is a re-write of one previously published on Cranium Crunches’ blog. Yep, all it still applies. And yep, I had to throw in a few puzzles to make you think a bit harder and dig a bit deeper.

I hate to play the “If only game” because I am not sure I would change my path – that path made me better, stronger, and helped me find my purpose.  There are a few “brainy” things, had I known, that just might have been helpful both to me and to those whose lives intertwined with mine.

SEE PEOPLE AS PEOPLE, NOT AGES

I am better than I was at in my 30s or 40s — even in those moments when I can’t find my keys or the exact right word.  My peers and contemporaries amaze me daily, even though we all joke about not remembering why we came in this room or finding our cars in the parking lot.  I have learned to see people and not just their age.

Here is the part I wish I would have understood long ago.  We don’t need to “overcome” what comes with age.  We need to put all those pieces in perspective and incorporate them in our current life’s mosaic.  Each adds color and variety so why not embrace, celebrate, and use them to maximize the quality of our lives?

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Which one of these photos is not exactly like the others?

In all reality, most of the time we don’t need more help just because we are a year older.   Often that extra year provides more of a need to give than a need to take.  Respect, dignity, and quality of life should rule how we treat each other, not age.

MISSING A FEW BEATS IS OK

I wish I had known that treating brilliant adults who are temporarily missing a beat, for whatever reason, as if they were children robs them of their dignity.  Struggling to see, hear, or speak, does not make a person less intelligent so it is not OK to dumb it down for someone with a physical or cognitive challenge.  I wish I had known to keep it smart and understood that I needed to be more patient.  I learned that lesson the heart-wrenching way.  I watched my brilliant mother struggle with cognitive issues and suffer the indignity of how the world treats people who are temporarily missing a cognitive beat.  She had so many rounds of wicked chemo therapy treatments that she sometimes felt the cognitive fog that comes with chemical interventions intended to make us better.  We worked, together, to vanquish the fog and some days that worked.   On the days when she was not quite as sharp, the world did not see the amazing woman who earned a Master’s Degree in the 1950s and stood toe to toe with statesmen, policy makers, and publishers as she fought hard battles against censorship.  Respect, dignity, and quality of life should rule how we treat each, without regard to conditions beyond our control.

ONGOING QUEST FOR UNDERSTANDING

And then there are the things I continue to learn.

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Finding the exact right word does not matter.  Not being able to pull out the right word every time does not make me any less accomplished or capable or sharp – it just means that my brain may have other ideas about what is important.  I am learning to listen to my brain and find those things that truly are more important.

Thanks to the internet (and my smart phone), I don’t need to remember everything – I just need to remember how to look things up.  That is not lazy or weak – it is just practical.

Humor is both one of the most complicated cognitive tasks and one of the most feel-good processes in the daily human experience.  Filling my life with good jokes, funny thoughts, and laughter only serves me well.

How many differences can you find in these two photos?

How many differences can you find in these two photos?

Engage in life – play games, talk to people, read, create, sing, dance, learn new things – do what makes you feel good and keeps you active.

Respect, dignity, and quality of life should rule how we treat each other, without regard to, well…anything.

 

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