I am a Dementia Therapy Specialist fascinated by and exploring the field of memory loss after recovering from my own brain infection thirty years ago. As a certified master hypnotherapist, Master Practitioner in NeuroLinguistic Processing and TimeLine® Therapy, and a Trauma and Dementia Therapy Specialist, I have worked over 20 years helping people find hope and meaning in their lives. As a knowledge junkie, I love learning how things work like internal combustion engines, magnetism and human beings. I bring that innate curiosity and passion for learning to my work with dementia clients and their care partners, blending alternative health practices with proven treatment methods to provide holistic services and techniques that reduce the overwhelming stress, fear and anxiety that often plagues their dementia journey, improving their confidence, memory and quality of life.
I grew up in the beautiful mountains of northern Idaho the oldest of three children. Our family went hunting or fishing nearly every weekend of the year. That direct and intimate contact with the earth could be responsible for my desire to work with and understand the physical world. At play time I loved to create dams and roads and shelters and making bows and arrows from the bushes.
No surprise then that early interest and aptitude tests indicated I should choose science or engineering as a career. (In the 1950s, however, engineering was not considered to be “women’s work.”)
Nevertheless, eventually and unintentionally, I found myself in a job where I had to learn drafting to create assembly drawings for a manufacturing facility.
During that assignment I realized I had a natural talent for design and decided to get a degree in mechanical engineering. In 1972 at a western university, I applied enter the engineering department, but the dean refused my admittance saying, “…women have no mechanical aptitude and can’t do math so I’m not wasting seats for women who are just looking for husbands.”
I am persistent (read stubborn?) and began taking college classes at that university’s extension in the city. Over the following years I progressed from being a draftsman (yes, we were ‘men’), then a designer, then an engineer - always taking college classes. Finally, as a successful and well-paid engineer I had a slew of credit hours, but no degree.
Working with engineering teams, I found that not only was I skilled at mechanical design and manufacturing concepts but had an ability to mediate between people and groups in the company helping them understand themselves and each other and how they could work together in a win-win environment Once when asked by management how I did that, I replied, “It’s not complicated - just treat people with respect and the belief that everyone’s behavior has a positive intention. The way I would want to be treated.”
In the late 1980’s, I developed a raging headache at work (I don’t get headaches) and nausea. A few days later, after seeing a neurologist and returning home, I fell into a coma.
Waking up in the hospital, lying on my back, wrists and ankles bound to the hospital bed railing, I remember opening my eyes and saw my family looking down at me. I smiled. I felt no fear then.
The fear came later in the hospital shower. I had a towel in my hand. Looking at it, I couldn’t remember how to use it to dry my hair! You know that thing where you bend over, let your hair fall forward, wrap the towel around your head, twist it into a turban and tuck the end under at the back of your neck. I couldn’t remember how do to this thing I had done for most of my life. As I stood there, I cried, not knowing what to do yet knowing at some level I should. And fear took over.
More losses were revealed that week. For instance, I’d know that I was lying in a bed, yet I couldn’t actually say the word “bed.” No matter how hard I tried, when I thought of the word then tried say it with my mouth, I couldn’t speak it. Where did my ability to speak go?
I was terrified - lost, confused, unable to sort it out. I couldn’t make sense of how and why these things were happening to me. Each moment of each day, I lived in fear that I would lose more and more of myself.
Fortunately, my story had a happy ending. My vocabulary eventually returned (think lots and lots of crossword puzzles); and, once my brain re-engaged with my muscle memory, drying my hair became automatic again, as did many functions. I was one of the lucky ones.
For people living with dementia, it’s a different story with a different ending. They too live in fear. They struggle to retain each memory, word and function knowing that they are losing more of themselves each day. Their caregivers also live in fear that their loved one will forget their name, their connection and even who they are.
While research continues all over the world to find a cure, none has yet been discovered. However, research does show us that there are ways to improve the lives of dementia patients and their caregivers who are on this journey.
My own experience with memory loss ignited a passion to help others who are affected by dementia. As a certified dementia therapy specialist, I work with patients and their caregivers to:
Decrease the fear and anxiety ruling their lives;
Reduce the daily stress that causes endless frustration;
Slow the decline of memory loss and cognitive functions;
Create more peaceful, calm and happy days;
Increase focus; and
Improve the quality of their lives.
I continue to research to find current work being done to help people have a better time on their dementia journey. I cruise the web, read books, attend workshops. There is hope - There are new discoveries every day.
I want to share them with you.