Living Fully Show: Dementia Support for You & Your Loved Ones
Do you know what a sherpa is? In case you do not, they are the skilled mountaineers who guide and support people in climbing mountains such as Mount Everest. They are guides. They provide instruction and leave resources, such as oxygen bottles, for those who are climbing the mountain behind them, as they lead the way.
Caring for loved ones with dementia is like climbing a mountain that you’ve never climbed before. You are not prepared. You don’t know what you will need or how you will get through it. Having a sherpa in dementia care will be your lifeline to living life fully, while going through one of the greatest challenges of your life.
Julie Fleming is the founder of the non-profit organization The Purple Sherpa. The mission of this organization is to be the sherpas leading, guiding and supporting those who are dealing with dementia care of their loved ones. The Purple Sherpa Facebook page provides resources, inspirational messages, and public support for care partners and caregivers. The Purple Sherpa private Facebook group is a safe, non-judgemental, caring and supportive online community where real stories are shared and real support is provided – in real time.
In this interview, Julie shares her personal story and journey caring for her father with Alzheimer’s, and the realization that more needed to be done for those who were now in the throes of stepping up to care for loved ones, with or without support. She also shares the three most important things you need to have in place as you care for your loved ones, including:
- Ensure you have these legal documents in order: Will, Power of Attorney and Advanced Care Directives for your loved one.
- Get a diagnosis. Dementia is an umbrella and each type of dementia has its own set of treatment and care resources to support your loved one.
- Have a doctor and perhaps a neurologist on your medical team: as the disease progresses, you will need additional medications and treatment options that a general practitioner may not have access to or able to recommend.
- Education: Look up Teepa Snow – she has many online videos and in-person trainings. Plus read the book “The 36 Hour Day”.
- Do something every day to reclaim you at the centre of your life – something that brings you joy. For Julie, it is wearing red nail polish.
A wealth of experience and a caring woman leading the charge – thank you Julie for being you and for helping so many find the guidance and support they need during a very challenging part of their lives. Living fully can happen as a caregiver and care partner of a loved one with dementia.
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
LISTEN / DOWNLOAD THE INTERVIEW
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE INTERVIEW
Teepa Snow: Dementia education rock star!
Book: The 36 Hour Day
ABOUT JULIE FLEMING
Julie Fleming practiced law before founding her legal business development consultancy Fleming Strategic in 2006. In 2011, she planned to move to Wyoming following a divorce, but she was traveling so much for her business that she didn’t have time to find a new home. She dropped her bags at her father’s house and lived with him for a few days at a time between trips.
As she spent time with her dad, she began to notice some cognitive issues. After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011, Julie decided to stay in Atlanta with him. Julie is an only child, and her father’s increasing needs fell entirely on her. She struggled to care for him, to maintain her business, and to have some kind of personal life. It wasn’t until 2014 when her dad had a fall that caused substantial injuries that Julie finally realized what everyone around her had been saying: she couldn’t do it all by herself. She began to look for help.
Over the years, Julie has discovered the void in support for the family caregiver confronting Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. She did a ton of reading to learn how to help her dad most effectively, and she began to learn how to care for herself at the same time… Though she would be the first to say that she’s still learning every single day.
In 2015, Julie began floating trial balloons on the Internet, building the community and gathering the resources she wished she’d had access to. Last year, she launched The Purple Sherpa, a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting dementia family caregivers with real-world, been-there, done-that, one-step-at-a-time insight, advice and solace. Her goal is to help caregivers and their loved ones to live, REALLY live, as well as possible despite dementia.
The Purple Sherpa now serves thousands of people worldwide through a Facebook page, a closed Facebook group, and virtual support groups, and Julie is hard at work to find ways to help caregivers even more.