Sunday, August 17, 2008

Life is Worth Living

I’m still on a bit of a high three days after the Alzheimer's Association OK/Ark Chapter’s educational symposium at Fort Smith. I was thrilled to finally meet Cheryl, Bob, and Jordan after months of emails setting up my two presentations.

Ft. Smith is a town that welcomes visitors with open hearts. Mayor Baker proclaimed August 14 “Linda Fisher Day” and presented me with the “Key to the Frontier.” The town motto is “Life is worth living in Ft. Smith!”

The day’s program began with “Writing as Therapy: Rocks and Pebbles” at the first general session. After a few opening remarks, I managed to knock over my glass of water and watch as my notes blurred into a soggy mess. It didn’t make any difference because I’m such a believer in the therapeutic benefits of writing that the notes are primarily to keep me on schedule.

I gave the keynote, “Alzheimer’s Can Happen at Any Age,” following the awards presentations. It may have not been an accident that all the breakables had been removed from the podium area prior to my presentation.

The Alzheimer’s Association offered a variety of programs to give family and professional caregivers skills and encouragement to continue with their important missions. Dr. Ed McMahon’s session on “Non-Pharmacologic Interventions” gave examples of how thinking outside the box can benefit people with dementia. Sandy Warmack and Jean Cosgrove facilitated a work shop called “It’s all the Rage.” Earplugs and rolled up construction paper helped us understand the limitations of a person with Alzheimer’s. Several other concurrent sessions were offered, but these were the ones I attended.

The educational symposium energized the participants and motivated them to be the best caregivers they can be. The positive feedback I received made me realize how important it is to share my years of caregiving experience with others who are beginning this journey.

No matter how much it may seem that way, life is never all bad. Moments of joy penetrate our saddest moments. It may be a smile, a touch, or a look that says “I remember” too. Sometimes I am amazed that I walked into the long dark tunnel through the land of dementia and emerged on the other side alive, happy, and optimistic. Most important, life is still worth living in Ft. Smith and in your hometown.
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