The young Gerontologist.
“You look awfully young to have a job like this” one of my residents, who has a strong love for Elvis, says as she plays music on one of her many Elvis mementos. “I am young,” I tell her and she replies, “You must be very smart to have such an important job.” I am smart, and I do have an important job because I work with people with Dementia and their families every day. Now let’s be honest, she probably doesn’t understand that I am a dementia expert, but she can see the important job that I do everyday in this dementia neighborhood.
So who am I? I am 27 years young and I am Gerontologist and Dementia Expert. Being young is actually a benefit in this field. The most recent information about dementia has come out in the last 5-10 years, which means the articles I was reading while completing my Master’s Degree in Gerontology were the latest. This also means I have to continue to read and educate myself to maintain my “expert” status and not become “old school.” I have been working in this field officially for 6 years and I have logged well over 10,000 Hours (re: Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule).
And what makes me think I am an expert? You’d be surprised to hear it’s not my degree, which provided my foundation. To be honest, I like to throw around the “Gerontologist” title because it sounds important to others and gives me more credibility as a young expert. What makes me an expert is my personal experience with:
- thousands of caregivers
- dozens of support group facilitators
- hundreds of people living with dementia
- and handful of doctors I have worked with and learned from
Most importantly, it is my passion that makes me an expert. I can learn anything I want from a book (and so can you!) but without passion, it is nothing. I chose my college because it was near my grandparents (neither of whom had dementia). My grandmother passed away in 2009 and my grandfather in 2015. They helped raise me and were my reason for pursuing Gerontology. My passion for Dementia was ignited during my time at the Veterans Affairs Hospital and the rest is history!
The Elvis-Loving resident I referred to earlier is quite aware that she has dementia as she often tells me “If the doctor is going to tell me I have dementia then he should have something to cure it or he shouldn’t say that.” Every time I hear this it breaks my heart. I wish that there were a cure, but there isn’t (yet). I embarked on this “blogging journey” to help families. I did my research and saw that the most popular blogs about Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are written by caregivers who cared for one or two family members. Caregivers have the most difficult job (there will be a blog post on this) but when you have seen one person with dementia you have seen ONE way that dementia presents itself. Sure, you have the text book symptoms but you won’t read about the happy moments, the trying moments, or the real life version of the symptoms. I hope that my blog does that for you. I hope that you can relate and see that even the experts don’t get it right the first time.
My goal is to help you see that there are moments to celebrate during the course of this disease, and help you to learn how to make the most of those moments. I will also be sharing stories so you can learn tips, tricks, and be exposed to the reality of dementia care- that it isn’t always easy, even for the experts, but it is always interesting. You’re not alone in this journey. I hope that you can read and get to know the 50 Shades of Dementia.