Lessons Learned From Writing About Dementialand for Two Years

It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been writing this blog for almost two years now. This is my 125th post. Some good; some not as good; some fairly mediocre at best.

This adventure has been a far greater learning experience for me than for any of my readers.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. I can’t write a blog post before 9 pm. I just…can’t. I’ve tried and nothing happens. The only exception occurs if I am at a coffee shop.
  2. I am better writer with exactly one glass of wine. One glass makes me more productive, but two glasses makes me fall asleep. (And, for the record, red gives me acid reflux.)
  3. I’m a writer. When I was a kid, I said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I even had a pen name, Keisha Wrippen (inspired by the actor, Keisha Pulliam who played Rudy on The Cosby Show). I wrote a series of books about the Kit family. They either had 7 or 17 kids. As a child, I loved to write. As a grown up, I love to write. Writing may not be my full-time job, and I may not make a cent off of this blog, but I’m a writer. Maybe I have been since I started that series on the Kits.
  4. My mom doesn’t like it when I use the word “crap,” as in “what a bunch of crap,” in my blog. I do it anyway because I’m a rebel.
  5. People are nice. I cannot tell you how much those of you who have reached out to me with a compliment or an interesting anecdote mean to me. I appreciate when you let me know that you relate to something I wrote. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Connecting with all of you has been the highlight of writing this blog. (And a special shout out to those of you who subscribe via email. I am proud that you let me clog up your inbox along with those Nigerian princes.)
  6. People are not nice. I am not referring to most people, fortunately. Really, I think most people are nice, but I have had a few not-so-nice people write not-so-nice things in the comments of my blog. They are usually not directed at me. They are typically negative  and derogatory comments about people with dementia and/or older adults. I don’t “approve” these comments, so you can’t see them. For the record, I won’t “approve” them in the future, so don’t waste your time. If you are going to spread negativity, you’re going to have to do it elsewhere.
  7. Dementia is a tragedy, a comedy, and a love story all at once. The comments and emails I get from people range from sad, to funny, to heartwarming. To those who have started off a message to me with “I shouldn’t find this funny but….,” it is okay that you find it funny.
  8. On a related note, families impacted by dementia amaze me with their humor. They can find humor in the most challenging situations, and they need to stop apologizing for that. No, dementia isn’t funny, but the more moments of humor you can discover on this journey, the better off you will be.
  9. You can get Facebook messages from people you aren’t friends with on Facebook, but they seem to end up somewhere beyond the normal Facebook realm. I just discovered about 25 Facebook messages that readers have sent me over the past couple of years. I apologize for not responding. I wasn’t blowing you off. I still have a lot of learn about the intricacies of social media.
  10. Writing makes me look at the world differently. Instead of thinking a situation has gone poorly or feeling that something is futile, I ask myself what I have learned that I can share with my readers. Realizing that there is a lesson to be learned or even a conversation to be started has made me look at the world with a bit less negativity and more of an eye toward progress.
  11. People with dementia are pretty amazing. Many of you write insightful responses to my blog in the comments, and some of you have your own writing outlets where you express your experiences and ideas. I want you to know that I appreciate this. It’s not easy to put yourself out there when you have a dementia. You are brave, and I cannot thank you enough for teaching me. Your voice will always be stronger than mine when it comes to educating people about dementia. Special thank you to Melanie and Lisa, who have courageously put a face on younger-onset dementia. When I think of the reasons we need to continue to do research on dementia, you and your families are at the top of my list.
  12. I need to stop making assumptions. There are so many times when I size up a situation and think someone is going to be struggling, and they’re okay. Sometimes I think a certain situation is going to be difficult for a caregiver, and they tell me it really wasn’t that bad. On the other hand, I sometimes don’t think much about a situation and realize later how difficult it was for a family. I don’t know unless I ask. We are diverse human beings. We interpret the world differently. Sometimes I try to empathize with a person, but what I’m really doing its projecting how I think I would feel onto them–but they are not me. That’s not really empathizing. It’s assuming.
  13. Reality isn’t as important as connection. If there’s a lesson I’ve tried to convey repeatedly, it can be summed up by that phrase. As I write about Dementialand, visit Dementialand, and talk about Dementialand, I am pleasantly surprised at how people can connect in a positive way despite not sharing a perception of their relationship and the world around them. I could write pages of transcripts of conversations that would make no sense to outsiders. The sense comes from those of us who choose to connect with people with dementia rather than correct them. I’ve noticed that ironically sometimes those with dementia are choosing to do their same in their interactions with us. Sometimes reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We can see the world differently and still connect…I think there’s a lesson there in this age of America.

So that’s it. Or maybe that’s not it–because this is only a small portion of what I’ve learned.

See you in 2017!

7 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From Writing About Dementialand for Two Years

  1. Hi Elaine. This blog makes since in the dementialand we live in. Thanks for the link. I wanted to be a writer too and/or teacher. I write now in my journals, been writing them for a few years. I have about 9 of them and I guess I need to back and read them again. I know that this is about taking care of dementia patients, but know really knows I wanted to write as a kid. I seem to lose myself when I write all since of time goes away, but sometimes that’s not a good thing either. I don’t write everyday, have to wait for quite time and where I live at the moment, not much of that. In dementialand as you so gracefully put it is sometimes called fantasy land listening to the stories, and just have to agree. Anyways thanks for sharing. I pray for the group that you posted this link in, pray for all the caregiver’s and the patients.

    Like

  2. Elaine, I love your blog. I look forward to seeing it pop up in my inbox. I absolutely agree that you are a writer. You capture the dementia experience with insight, eloquence, and humor. Thanks for putting your words out into the world where I can learn from them. I feel less alone because you write.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this! Especially related to: ”

    Reality isn’t as important as connection.”

    “…choose to connect with people with dementia rather than correct them.”

    Like

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