… There I learned quite a bit about Alzheimer’s. I learned about plaques and tangles, the beta-amyloid protein, the possible causes, and all of the statistics. But neither my desire to help nor any class prepared me for the reality of working with actual patients. The first day I stepped onto the floor of a nursing home, when I transformed from a curious student to an actual caregiver, everything I thought about dementia, aging, friendship, and even the nature of death changed.
The Huffington Post
… But the truly agonizing thing about nursing homes is the facelessness of the system that all of these residents live in, locked into a bureaucratic structure where the bottom dollar matters more than human individuality, and where countless people spend the rest of their lives inside tiny shared rooms, hoping for a day where they can finally go back home. A day that, for too many, will never come.
You might walk into first grade as a bright-eyed youngster, but on Day One, you’re ruthlessly compared to the other kids. What, you thought your A+ dinosaur drawing was cool? Well, Timmy over there is already doing multiplication tables, so now you’re a loser from Loserville. Meanwhile, Caitlin is looking at your A+ drawing wondering why her stegosaurus only got a B. Elementary school competition isn’t fun and games: It’s brutal warfare, with good grades as the prize. The problem is that competition actually hinders learning. Oops. According to Stanford, the competitive system “enjoyed” (cough) by U.S. students leads to stress, anxiety, and cheating because many students are so focused on grades that they don’t have the mental energy for, you know, learning.
Despite being the coldest and most brutal environment on the planet, a surprisingly large number of human beings have managed to “live” in Antarctica. The increasing dangers of climate change have made studies in Antarctica increasingly important, so the majority of these “Antarcticans” are scientists, but not all of them. Though Antarctica has no native government, it does have schools, athletic competitions, and an annual rock concert.
I felt a fierce desire to speak out about the disease. Unless one either has Alzheimer’s, or has a family member with the disease, it seems to exist in a hidden world that most people don’t spend too much time thinking about. I wanted to take that hidden world and bring it into the light, hopefully doing my part to raise more awareness about a disease that doesn’t get even half the attention it deserves. I wanted to show people what it means to have Alzheimer’s in today’s world.
In the United States, healthcare has been one of the biggest political battles of the decade. As a healthcare worker myself, it’s an issue that strikes close to home. My years of experience caring for people with dementia, traumatic brain injuries, tetraplegia, cancer, and more has given me a firsthand look into what our healthcare system is like at the ground level, and it’s a different world from the vague concepts that politicians volley back and forth at each other.
When it comes to debilitating illnesses, there are few menaces more looming. Over 46 million people currently suffer from some form of dementia, a number that is predicted to only grow bigger as the baby boomers age. While researchers understand what Alzheimer’s does to the human brain, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding why it does it, and in the midst of theories, speculation and diagnosis, quite a bit of misinformation and confusion has popped up regarding what Alzheimer’s is, what Alzheimer’s does, how to understand it, and where it comes from.
There’s this strange idea that literary fiction and speculative fiction are in fierce opposition to each other, but in reality, both forms of literature are nothing but different techniques in which to tell a story. There’s this even stranger idea that speculative fiction—call it genre fiction, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, you get the gist—is somehow “lesser” than literary fiction, and thus that it must be looked down upon, and put on a lower shelf. This attitude leads to bizarre developments, such as how Kurt Vonnegut—who is clearly a science fiction author, considering all his writings about Tralfamadorians, timequakes, and more—is not generally regarded by the literary establishment as a writer of science fiction, mainly because the cultural importance of his work means that if they were to admit such a thing, they would also have to acknowledge that sci-fi can be just as significant as literary fiction.
In the contemporary era, the nursing home system is a corporate mess that packs too many people into a crowded hospital-like facility, with not enough staff to properly cover their needs. The problem is inherent in the design: “total institutions”, as Erving Goffman once wrote in his 1961 book Asylums, are systems that break down the individual in order to better serve the system. A total institution will force people to conform to its rituals instead of adapting to the people within the system.
Popular culture has finally accepted comic books as a legitimate form of storytelling. The superhero genre has become monumentally huge. But why, exactly? What is it about the idea of a “superhero” that appeals so much to people? What is it about this genre that’s taken the cinematic world by storm?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I can describe my own experience.
BigAl’s Books & Pals
Working second shift in a nursing home, the last half hour is when exhaustion finally sets in. After eight hours—or often in my case, sixteen hours—of working with all of the residents, racing from call bell to call bell, and getting everybody comfortably settled in bed, this is the point where the workers can finally sit down for a moment and finish documenting about the events of the day. It’s also the moment where the body’s aches and strains finally make themselves apparent. The lights are off, most of the residents are asleep, and everyone is getting ready for the overnight crew to come in with bags under their eyes, and tall cups of gas station coffee gripped in shaky hands.
Introversion and extraversion are terms that many people misuse, confuse and/or abuse, often with little understanding of what the words actually mean. The general perception seems to be that quiet, shy people are introverted, whereas loud, boisterous people are extraverted, but this simply isn’t the case. Quietness and loudness have nothing to do with the matter. It’s all about where a person gets their energy from, and what draws that energy away.