Laughter Through Caregiving

for Alzheimer's & other Dementias

with Melissa Smith-Wilkinson &
David Davis
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Executive Director Memory Care Alliance, Our Mission: To provide pro-active comprehensive on-going support, education, and resources for those families living with Alzheimer’s and all other dementia-related illnesses. To educate and raise community awareness concerning the level of need. To remove the stigmas associated with dementia-related illnesses and replace them with compassionate understanding.

Melissa Smith

Hi. Today, we are talking with David Davis of the Memory Care Alliance in Santa Fe, New Mexico. What I love about this conversation is so authentic and true to who we are. We throw out the script and we really just talk and keep it real and laugh. So I hope you will settle in just for a moment and enjoy listening to this particular episode, which I am really excited to highlight his work, his effort and his fight against Alzheimer's.

 

Melissa Smith

So welcome. Today, we are with David Davis of the Memory Care Alliance here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He's been a tremendous resource for me, and I know pretty much everyone that he has met who has a person with dementia or Alzheimer's that he has made connection with has been a valuable resource to you as well. And someone who has been a great supporter and as it turns out, is also really good at trivia or creating trivia questions.

 

David Davis

Would you like one now?

 

Melissa Smith

Do you want Andy?

 

David Davis

Oh, I'll have to think. No, let me let me look at that.

 

Melissa Smith

I threw you under the bus on that one.

 

David Davis

I have a few that are just not appropriate.

 

Melissa Smith

Okay. No problem. So this is actually an excellent way to start, because one thing I noticed that when I'm around you, when I'm around, you know, you're the support group and the support you have around there is always laughter. Yes. Yes. It's a key component. It is a key component to keeping it together. And a lot of times that's not by accident.

 

David Davis

We all know what this is like. We all know what this does. And they'll say, you know, you can cry alone, you can laugh together, and we choose to laugh together, not just the people we care for, but the people we work with. You, you included. We all have to step out of that sometimes. And you're I think your keyword is exhale. Which you have helped me to, and I think my may be laughing. They both work.

 

Melissa Smith

They do both work. Very similar nervous system response for sure. And I'm going to throw you a little one here, too, that I didn't prepare you for, OK? I would love for you to share in a couple of sentences how you would describe yourself, not your, like, job description. How would you describe yourself? Oh, come on.

 

David Davis

I'm a trivia question because nobody likes to describe themselves. I'll send you my resume. Oh, all right. I'm a hard worker, I'm highly creative. The creativity has come in handy with covid I. I had always had a very unique and different way of looking at things than most people do, talk about the box, think outside the box. I don't know anything about the box. Nobody told me about the box. I've never seen the box ever been in the box. I've been there near the box that I look at. I look at what's needed and come up with a solution. And if that ends up duplicating something else that's being done, that's great. But generally, it's not. So, yeah, I'd say, I don't know, creative pain in the ass. I could be. I can be very demanding. You just told me before we got online that you appreciate the fact that I'm very direct. And I am caregivers don't have time to hear crap, I believe. Everybody, for the most part, wants to hear the ugly truth if necessary, and not a pretty lie. So and that, again, is part of our success, sugarcoating and giving people the Disneyland version of what this is doesn't help.

 

Melissa Smith

No. And I think this is a great Segway. We're going to take our questions out of the water. But let me double check and make sure I'm not here. I'm hearing a just a little bit of feedback, so. OK, well, I wish I was on earlier. I was like, technology is like the great equalizer. It does not discriminate.

 

David Davis

Yeah, it hates everybody, so. Exactly. All right. So they're good now.

 

Melissa Smith

OK, so I think that that's a really great Segway. We're going to go a little bit of an order, you know, because, you know, I've shaken it up already.

 

David Davis

Yeah. Yeah. I'm having to stand on my head here because nothing to me completely. I try not to try to keep it. Oh, it's real. It's deliberate. OK, go ahead. Question number one.

 

Melissa Smith

So, you know, I really appreciate about that. Question is, I hope that you heard the words that you said creative out of the box, you know, just just direct and honest and and I hope that that if anything today and out of everyone that here is is is is to take that reflection of, you know, being able to describe yourself and take it in because you are all of those things. And I think it's important for us to to again, like the laughter, to be able to to focus on the great and the grit, the good that we have and are available available to us.

 

David Davis

Yeah. Oh, you know, I suck at a lot of things, so I don't think, you know, everybody does. Everybody has talents or or gifts or abilities. Some are better than others, some not so much. And one of the things that we make a point of is, is for caregivers to assess those. What are you good at? What are you bad at? Where do you need help? That's part of the education program that we present. And if you can if you can look at yourself and a lot of people don't want to a lot of people don't want to look at their flaws, but I think. Caregiver or not, you need to, but as a caregiver, if if you can do that objectively and ask for help, where? You're not doing so good makes a big difference. Yeah, it really does, and I think that's a good Segway into.

 

Melissa Smith

Your work and what you created with Memory Care Alliance, you fill the gap and a need and a hole that was really needed for the city of Santa Fe and really a large part of New Mexico in terms of dementia and Alzheimer's resources. And being that go to I would love for you to share what you think is really the greatest resource that caregivers utilize. Well, that wasn't your question. I mean, I've got I've got your question of your question was. Go, go, go back to the script. It's fine. Why don't you go eat lunch and I'll do this myself.

 

David Davis

What's the greatest resource that's easily available that you see caregivers rarely utilize?

 

Melissa Smith

Oh, that's a better question.

 

David Davis

Is it better if you wrote it? Oh, so take credit. You know, it's a good question. There's a lot of resources. But I have to say, in all honesty, the one most caregivers rarely utilize and it's what our organization is based on is each other. You know, the Memory Care Alliance has meetings every week, but they're not just they're not support groups. They're different are our program is based on community, a collective community, a collective community of people living with this disease, people who are caring for them, professionals who are sincere in helping them and volunteers and people like you who want to help as well. So, yeah, it's each other, caregivers tend to think I can do it all myself, I don't need any help. I don't need to be educated. There's no one to talk to. Nobody understands. And that's not true. Being a part of a community, again, whether you're a caregiver or not, is part of being human. And when you are stressed and you need help, you need to have that in place. I just spoke with a caregiver a few days ago. And she's been caring for her husband. I've known her for almost four years and she told me, she said, you know, I made a mistake. I did not engage myself in the memory Caroline's program early on enough to establish what I need now. That kind of says it all. Yes, so much. I was chatting with someone about what I felt like 20 was, you know, it started out as the year of clear vision, you know, and then now it's like the year of hindsight. Yeah, but hindsight is 20/20, didn't it?

 

It is. It is. And I think that's if only more caregivers would embrace that now rather than having to let it be hindsight.

 

David Davis

Yeah, I agree. I'll tell you, this is kind of a difficult story. This is probably the worst thing I ever heard in the time I've been doing this. I was up in a little town in northern New Mexico called Coyote for a little fair, very nice people. I really enjoyed being there. And I've heard this more than once. But this is the best, the best example. And a little lady came up to me very sweet after I'd done my little spiel. And she said, I want to thank you for being here. I wish I had known about you. And. That was a past tense. Comment on. And it means the information came too late and I hate hearing that and whether that's the fault of somebody refusing help or refusing to admit there's a problem or the. The fault of our culture and society and our lack of ability to provide help where it's needed. Yeah, and that can come in a lot of areas, but I never I don't want to hear that again. I mean, I will, but. But you don't want to hear. I wish I had known or I wish I wish you had been here. That's a little tough. And it shouldn't be that way. Yeah, and that's I think that's the case, you know, I get that all the time to gosh, I wish I had known about the retreat's, I wish I had, you know, so and how, you know, I see you doing a lot in terms of online.

 

Melissa Smith

I mean, you got a program later today. Your resources have really pivoted like most of us online. What I really appreciate and what I've observed and being a part of some of the online things that you've had is that it does have a strong I mean, everybody knows each other and there is a strong community there.

 

David Davis

Oh, yeah. I did an interview with our friend Ken Hendrix a couple of months ago, and he was it we started talking about this. I said. Yeah, to some degree, these people don't need me anymore. They get together every Sunday, haven't invited me yet. That's OK. That's OK. That's what I want. I don't want people depending on me. I want them depending on each other. They call each other every day and check on them themselves and the people that they celebrate each other's birthdays. When somebody passes away, they have all come together to show support and the people who have. Already lost somebody, caregivers who have lost somebody are still involved, and that's. That's the way I want it to work, that this was a. More carefully planned, and that is what somebody asked me. I don't understand how this works. I'm seventy-eight. I don't make friends at seventy-eight, she says. She said she says and we've all talked about this behind her back. We don't know how any of this works. And I said, I know exactly how it works. And she asked me what she said will tell me. And I said, no, you have to figure that out for yourself. Yeah, for sure. And I'm curious about more of the services that you provided, and we've kind of danced around the idea and what and then we didn't ask the sorry it was on the list.

 

Melissa Smith

But I'm curious what you say. I know you know now, but also what the future is going to hold. Are people tired of listening to this? You think it's going to still be how valid and how much will it be utilized?

 

David Davis

You mean you mean Alzheimer's or dementia or.

 

Melissa Smith

I'm talking about how we gather and how we connect.

 

David Davis

And so covered covid will go away. Oh, we have a while. I think things are going to get worse and I think we're going to have to really. Continue to be vigilant and our protocol of staying safe, and I think we need to stay optimistic. Life will go on. We just need to be patient. I have seen a lot of. See, a lot of good come out of it. People have embraced technology, people are more aware of what's important. People are aware of what they have lost temporarily. For a lot of caregivers, a lot of people with this disease, things haven't changed a bit. You know, if we're talking about somebody that is already, you know,  through the earlier part of this journey, they're already isolated to some degree and things are just fine. People who are Annamarie Care units or facilities, not just here, but around the country, who, who? Have lost awareness to some degree, they're just fine, their life hasn't changed at all. The change for the families, it's changed for the staff and the people who care for them. But, yeah, to two things of stay vigilant with food being safe and be optimistic. Not necessarily easy things to do, I think the first one's probably easier than the second, but yeah, covid will go away. Well, we'll go back to singing there and hugging and. I'm even more obnoxious in person, so I don't know, maybe that's not good. Maybe I'll just stay here. I love it.

Melissa Smith

Well, since you have the list, I'm going to ask you to pick one of the ones that I got from you as we closeout. And what's clear to me is that I think I'm really excited about your presentation of the caregiver wellness retreat because you'll have some uninterrupted time for me to share. But also your message is so valuable and just really heartfelt and honest. I think the reality of what everyone is facing is exactly what you said. Nothing is different. In fact, if anything, what a caregiver is facing has allowed us the rest of the world to take a peek in what isolation is, what it really is. Yeah.

 

David Davis

And  I've written an op-ed piece submitted to the paper to see how many people. But it's titled Not My First Time at the Rodeo. I mean, I cared for my mother for 11 years. Last for those going to the grocery store was about it. I've done this before, I know how to do it. I love people, I like being around people. I'm. Much happier talking to people in person than on here. This works, too, but I'm OK on my own. I know how to stay busy and I know how to manage that. A lot of people don't. A lot of people really, really need that community and their lives and I get it, I understand that we're not all built the same. But yeah, the rest of the world's gotten a good taste of what this is like. Maybe once this epidemic is over, we can talk about the real one that kills two hundred and fifty-six thousand people in this country every year, every year. And all the money is out of pocket and the government does nothing. That's probably another Facebook conversation, maybe down the line. You know, I, I absolutely agree. And I think there's a lot of organizations that are working really, really, really hard to create awareness around this disease and people and individuals. But it's also an interesting reflection to look at how quickly we're getting a vaccine or. Right. Yeah. Whether it affects everybody. And I think I said two hundred fifty-six million two hundred fifty-six thousand. That's still I think we just I think with covid we just passed two hundred thousand deaths. I am not belittling that or or or minimizing the damage. It's catastrophic. But you have to keep things in perspective. Two hundred fifty to two hundred fifty-six thousand every year and that's probably going to be tripling in the next 20 years. Yeah, that's what we'll move on. That's, that's, that's not fun to talk about, but it does need to be talked about at some point and.

 

Melissa Smith

Well, and I think that that's a really great point when one thing that has been interesting in conversations that I've had about, you know, you've shifted and pivoted online like all of us have. And people have asked me, well, what exactly do you do? And I said, well, I point the direction to organizations like Memory Care Alliance, the Alzheimer's Association, you know, other organizations that are doing so much more in terms of the full picture of Alzheimer's and are doing more.

 

David Davis

I think what you do is quite, quite important, but different. It's very different. Yeah. Look, I realized again when I was processing all of this over time, one person. Cannot take care of everybody, one organization, not mine, not yours, not the Alzheimer's Association, not the government lawyers, or is it going to do it? They can't take care of everybody. But caregivers, they can all take care of each other. It works, that's the only way I see it working. You've got to understand that. You've got to understand what real resources really are available. You know, we do education and support and help people find other resources like you do of. But ultimately, I don't want to take care of everybody, I don't want people, like I said earlier, I know it's true. I don't want people to be dependent on me or me as the sole means of support. You don't either. You've got to build that into your plan and you've got to find out for yourself whether it's through us, which is so much better than anything else available because I'm a shameless marketer. But whatever you need to do to find your community to help you with this is part of the critical component. You need to take care of yourself. We'll talk more about that this weekend. You need education. That's part of taking care of yourself. You need an understanding and a compassion of this disease and your caring for and you need to be empowered. And that's really where you find or what you find in others.

 

Melissa Smith

I think the really the overarching theme of our conversation to me has really been about that connection, communication and building and building your building your team, your network of support. And even if you don't think you need that person to, you know, are they on the list? Yeah.

 

David Davis

And I'll make another very important point. You know, when people say when people hear the word support group or I want to I want to find a support group, but if I support what help? That's usually what they're looking for, they're looking to get help, and the other critical part in the success of what we do is I point out that it's not about just getting help, it's about giving it. You have even if you're in the early stages of cancer, you have information, you have resources, you have a heart and compassion that will help somebody else. And that is. Priceless. And you should ask yourself as a character, what can I give somebody else, what can I do to help somebody else through this? I'm working with a lady. She lost her partner last year. And we're doing a program Monday on end of life options for people with Alzheimer's and dementia and their caregivers. She wanted to help with that. Her partner chose to end her life early and not go through the process of this disease. It's perfectly legal and if you want to know more, you got to excuse me, tune in Monday with me and Beric. That was tough for her to do. But she sent me an email two days ago. She says, I, I just want to help somebody else. What price do you put? And this is the only way it's going to work. This is the only way people are going to get through this collectively, so. All right. Any other questions you want me to make one up or laughter? Well, the end that I figured we answered our first question because I was going to ask you what you do for your own self-care for stress relief. Oh, other than calling you in the middle of the night and screaming or laughing. You know, if I'm stressed, I'm screaming. I take a walk, I step out of it, even if it's for five minutes. Let's go around the block and that I would say maybe the walk isn't what you always have to do. You just have to step out of it. Step out of the room of. Exhale, laugh. Scream, kick, put your fist to the wall. Look, you're going to do that at some point and they're going to feel guilty. It's OK. It's OK to get mad, it's OK to screw up, you know, that's one of the first things you need to understand. Nobody's perfect and. We both certainly get that. So, yeah, if you lose your temper and you go. Outside and start screaming, that's OK, I've done it, what I was careful. I almost certainly did it. But yeah, you step out of it, vent, exhale, laugh.

Melissa Smith

I love just visualizing that to just step out and step away, you know?

 

David Davis

And if you do it, if you can do it physically, I mean, you step out of the room. Three minutes, you know, I'm not saying abandon your loved one to take care of yourself. That's not what it's about. You know, this is all this is a lot of management. But you just step out of the room and just. Do you know and get that out and then reset and go back and try again?

 

Melissa Smith

Yeah. Yeah, I call it the when move away from the electronics.

 

David Davis

Yeah, I’ve had to learn that I have to turn everything on.

 

Melissa Smith

I know you do. You have a great discipline of that. You sometimes you'll say I'm off Saturday, Sunday, you won't even get me. And I think it's fantastic. Yeah.

 

David Davis

And I'm lucky, you know, a lot of people that we work within this community are on call and they deal with emergencies and, you know, they sleep with an ear and an eye open, if at all, for the most part of. You know, I really have ever had an issue or a question or email or phone call that couldn't wait until morning, and I surely don't get folks in crisis mode, not always on it. There are times. But, yeah, that's a luxury that a lot of people we work with don't have. And I am grateful for that, that I am able to turn off. I'm the one that doesn't turn it off. If, you know, I hear it.

 

Melissa Smith

It makes it sound like I got to finish this because you should really talk to your secretary about rescheduling. Well, I'm the secretary.

 

David Davis

Yeah, right. Yeah. Helen, Helen, come in here and take a letter. She left for lunch six years ago. She had been back. Yes, exactly. I know.

 

Melissa Smith

Yes, we could go down the rabbit trail in that way. But, yeah, I'm in charge of how hard it is for sure. I would love if you could give just a really, really short 30 second dirty. Maybe we could have started with this memory people to watch actual Memory Care Alliance and what is the elevator version of what your services are.

 

David Davis

Oh, OK. I should have it all memorized, but I don't. We provide education. Ongoing support resources, we do community awareness, education, when I say education, I'm not just talking about caregivers, but people who live with the disease, caregivers, their families and the community. We try to educate, get some understanding of. It's really the support, and I don't like that word because everybody says I support group hated not going. So I'll say it's really the community that we create and cultivate and yeah, we're talking about it. It's been a little hard because we really wanted to expand the Memory Care Alliance here in Santa Fe has. It's a prototype. It's a prototype if it works in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with no money, it can work anywhere. It can work in Orito, it can work in Dallas, it can work in. Houston, California. So it works its unlike anything else, I'll say that your program in your program included very unique, but they work. Yeah, very much so. So I will give a little plug for you here.

 

Melissa Smith

We'll have a link in the show notes and also on Facebook to The Memory Caroline's website and where you can donate it is a registered non-profit. So you'll be able to make a tax-deductible donation for David's organization, who truly has impacted and affected all of the community here in the Santa Fe area and beyond. So I and a lot of the programs, a few of the programs he mentioned also add those links, which I'm sure you'll have the recordings living somewhere. And I know.

 

David Davis

Yeah, it's really I don't post recordings of presentations. I want people to log in live. And part of it is I don't have a 14-year-old elder I was.

 

Melissa Smith

I will hear here, Andrea, when you're listening and I'm editing this later, if anyone would like to hire my 14-year-old son to edit and produce their podcast, I'm sure he's available for a price.

 

David Davis

Yes. So donate some money to the memory, Carolin, so I can hear Melissa's son talk about that. You know, if you're going to donate, I encourage people to donate. Covid has been very hard on us. We haven't had any fundraisers this year. Donate to us. We can continue what we do, donate to Melissa so she can continue to do what she can do and all. In a rare moment, I'll ask you to donate to the Alzheimer's Association, who's having their walk this Saturday. Virtually. It's been tough on them to give them some money so they can find a cure blood. Melissa and I are very talented. We can go find other work. And how about we leave it at that first grade.

 

Melissa Smith

David, I'm so grateful for you and those are listening, can catch you this Saturday at three o'clock Mountain Time for our Caregiver Wellness Retreat that is live and online and of course, on replays. If you're listening to this down the road, we will have a recording of it and the live at our Website at CaregiverWellnessRetreat.com. So, David, we're so thankful for you. And as always, I look forward to more conversations with you and more trivia. So there you are.

 

David Davis

Very good. I'll have a trivia question for Saturday, so I'll make it an easy one.

 

Melissa Smith

All right.

 

David Davis

Thanks, David. All right. Thank you, Melissa.

 

Melissa Smith

We're so glad that you joined us today for the Caregiver Wellness podcast, and if you'd like to stay in touch with David, it's the MemoryCareAlliance.org. And if you'd like to hear him on October 3rd, you'll join us by logging on to CaregiverWellnessRetreat.com. And if this is way after October 3rd, then you can still go to the Web site and you can find instant access, virtual retreat and click on that and you will get access to all of the sessions. There's 12 sessions and you can just pick and choose instantly. And what you'd like to listen to if you really enjoyed today, then please bioscope coffee. There should be a link there at the bottom of the page on INCR. How you can do that. You can also donate on our website. We really do this all for the love and it's pretty. I use the word scrapie, but definitely grassroots effort and we really appreciate and enjoy the fact that we can utilize these services. No charge to caregivers. So thanks again for joining us today. You can find us a caregiver wellness retreat, dotcom, and we hope that you have a day full of laughter and all that you need.