On Alzheimer’s Disease, Jet Lag and Empathy

After flying more than 14 hours to come back to San Francisco a trip to Europe with an additional 6 hours of delay in the Frankfurt airport, I knew that the jet lag once I arrived home would catch up to haunt me with a vengeance. It was only a matter of time.

Gardening for Alzheimer's.

According to The Telegraph, gardening may help Alzheimer’s sufferers by providing mental stimulation.

I managed to sleep 4 hours on the plane, and then a terrible 6 hour stint the night I landed. The next morning, when my alarm went off, I felt bright and refreshed… but I still knew that the wave of jet lag would hit me like a crowbar – sudden, unsuspected, forceful – later that afternoon.

What do you do in your workday when you only have a matter of hours to be highly productive? All of the most difficult things should be done in the morning, when you still have energy. And so that is what I did: the difficult conversations, projects and problems were for the morning.

The wave of jet lag finally did come. Around 4 pm, I started to feel my mind shift. It was as if a part of my being were slipping away. I felt light – still completely aware that this is just the effects of jet lag – and was able to embrace the feeling since I knew that a long night’s sleep would be the cure.

Imagine being aware that you were at the beginning of a journey that would take away your cognitive abilities – similar to being struck with jet lag – but worse. In the beginning, it would only be the ability to write or speak. Perhaps you are trying to think of that name — what was that name, of your high school best friend? Why can’t you remember details of your life, like where you got married, or the name of the neighbor’s husband, or… And then it gets worse: you can’t read or write. You fall frequently because you can’t coordinate complex movements. You can’t recognize family or friends. You eventually forget how to walk, swallow and breathe.  

This is the typical progression of someone with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This disease affects an estimated 5.2 million Americans (5 millions being adults over 65) in the United States in 2013, is 6th leading cause of death. Yet it’s a disease that we can relate to, and one that affects many of our parents or grandparents.   

Dr. David Hilfiker, a retired physician, is 68 years old and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Instead of sitting back and letting the disease take over, Hilfiker blogs about the progression of the disease from the point of view of a patient, with a perspective he didn’t have the majority of his career as a doctor. He’s assisted by a computer and friend who serves as the editor of the blog.

The exciting thing is that Hilfiker is not alone, and that other patients are putting out their stories into the world.

What could blogging do for the support of other stigmatized diseases and lesser known maladies? To start, increased awareness, support and empathy for the individuals suffering these diseases. Being able to go into the mind of someone who is afflicted by a debilitating illness that is not visible from the outside seems like a true gift. I hope that blogging becomes more regularly prescribed in Alzheimer’s Disease treatment, as well as within other areas of healthcare.

A few other resources where self expression, art or literature is used as part of the healing process:  

4 Top Take-aways From “Leveraging Social Networking to Advance Your Career”

On Thursday, I attended an event hosted by SV Forum (an organization in the Bay Area which fosters innovation through events), focusing on women in technology, on the topic of “Leveraging Social Networking to Advance Your Career.”


The event featured a panel of successful women who are social media savvy and included:


The moderator was Janet Fouts, a social media strategist, and provided a great conversation about using social media to advance one’s personal brand, juggling different social media channels as well as the line between personal and work life.

There was a ton of great information shared at this event. Between the conversation and questions, I jotted a few notes. Here are the top 4 take-aways:

(4) Regular blogging really helps you to become an expert. LaSandra did this for about 2 years consistently – posting 3 times per week –  looking at B2C social media marketing case studies and how these could be used in the context of B2B. Blogging opened doors for her as well as allowed her to learn so much about the topic of social media (LaSandra Brill).

(3) Twitter is a great way to connect with customers when you don’t want to give them your phone number but still want to have a closer connection (Marilyn Lin).

(2) Social media like Twitter or Vine [the 6 second video social media networking site] is so great because putting a constraint [on a platform] allows people to be incredibly creative (Jana Messerschmidt).

(1) To make yourself successful on LinkedIn, start by filling out your profile completely. Connect with people who are in the places where you want to be [in your career]. Continuously ask for recommendations, so it becomes part of your regular career, and is not just used when you’re switching roles (Erica Lockheimer).

In addition to learning a lot, I was inspired to take action – largely related my own social media and blog presence. I created a list of action items (yes, that’s the project manager within me), some of which include:

– Create a Twitter handle for my fish, Tobias – @TobiasBlueth

– Start following Marc Benioff and Sheryl Sandberg on Twitter

– Ask for a LinkedIn recommendation


Great session, hosted by SV Forum and sponsored by Salesforce. Keep up the good work, people!

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