When Worlds Collide, Welcome Them to the Neighborhood

I made a new friend the other day, we'll call her A. She and I had both started new jobs and found each other on a newbie training session. Luckily, we live in close proximity to each other, so we made a plan to have some lunch!

As A was introducing herself to me, she offered up that her mom has early-onset Alzheimer's.

Sitting at this bar-high table in the middle of one of my worlds - I smiled. My other world came crashing into this one. When it was my turn to offer up some information about me, I said, "Well, I'm the chair of the Philadelphia Walk to End Alzheimer's, and I'd love to invite you to join me on walk day."

Compartmentalizing

In my opinion, compartmentalizing saves the day. There's no other way that I'd be able to be as productive as I am - that I would be able to feel the span of emotions that humans have without such a tool. There simply would be no boundaries among advocacy work and work work and the rest of adulting!

My advocacy work is my passion project. When given the option to work on it or to do something else, it will win every time, that is, without my ability to compartmentalize.

This is a skill that many caregivers develop. It's out of necessity in order to be able to take care of your loved one, while also feeling your own feelings about their battle with Alzheimer's. Dealing with the various forces that can alter your life on any given day for which you have no control.

But, just because it's tucked away for a moment of self-care or social life, doesn't mean that our Alzheimer's hat can't be whipped out at a moment's notice.

Building an Alzheimer's community

While I work toward a world without Alzheimer's, the other mission of my advocacy work is to build community. Alzheimer's is such an isolating disease - for the patient and the caregiver.

As 6 million Americans live with the disease, we're not alone. We are, in fact, in great company and if we can work together we will all provide comfort to one another and find a cure, I truly believe that.

One of the ways that I build community is by talking about the Walk to End Alzheimer's at an opportune moment.

That such a moment was offered upon a perfect silver platter accounts for part of my smile, that I could actually say something, do something more comforting than saying "I'm sorry," to someone whose loved one is battling Alzheimer's, accounts for the rest of it.

What happened next

As you know, we are all much more than an Alzheimer's diagnosis or caregiver status.

So we had much more to talk about at this lunch. But as soon as I got back to my desk I emailed her a link to join my team and a link to my currently running fundraiser, a weekly NFL football pool, putting all of the information she could need at her fingertips.

It's not easy making friends as an adult. So, am I happy I made a new friend? Absolutely! But I'm most happy that I was able to provide resources for support to someone new.

Welcome to the community, A.

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