Saturday, September 6, 2014

Speaking Engagements

Many times when I do these speaking engagements people ask me "How is it you can remember what to say, being diagnosed with dementia?"
First and foremost my wife has to be within just a few feet of the stage, or as in this case on the stage with me. Many times I get "stuck" in mid thought, and all I need to do is to look at her, and she quietly tells me what I was talking about.
I don't use any kind of power point presentation, I don't use notes of any kind, and I don't read anything to the audience. I speak from the heart.
I speak of what this disease has done to us, before, at the time of, and since my diagnosis. I talk of Sam, and how he has afforded me the ability to go out in public more, how we received him, and how he was trained to help me.
Starting out I always tell a humorous story that has happened to get the audience to relax. Most don't know what to expect having a dementia patient speaking at their conference.
I wrap things up about an hour later, ending with a Q & A session, where I open it up for anyone to ask me anything they would like about my journey, how I felt about my diagnosis, or anything that is on their mind.
The flight there, the four days we will be gone, and being in strange surroundings, will no doubt take a toll on me. It takes me up to a week to get back into my routine.
But what we will accomplish, the awareness we will bring in them two days, will make it all worth while. I will speak of denial, and the stigma that goes along with being diagnosed.
We are always treated like rock stars at these conferences. Sam is loving life with all the attention he will get. And they go out of their way to meet our every need.
My speaking engagements are getting fewer as time goes on and this disease progresses. I pray this is not the last one I am able to do. Phyllis is in charge of that.
She knows when this has been enough, and won't allow me to push myself to do more of these if the effect of this one is too much on me.
We are so looking forward to being there. Presented by the Alzheimer's Association, Illinois Department of Aging, St. John's Hospital, and the SIU School of Medicine-Center for the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders.