Jennifer Fink: Podcaster and Alzheimer’s Advocate
This week’s Alzheimer’s Community member is Jennifer Fink. Jen is from Northern California, and her popular podcast “Fading Memories” has listeners across the United States and around the world. She was inspired to start a podcast to give advice and support to those affected by Alzheimer's after her mother was diagnosed with the disease.
Before she became a podcaster, Jen ran a portrait photography studio with her mom and dad. In the early 2000s, Jen and her father noticed that her mother was forgetting to write down basic instructions from clients and schedule appointments. This was the first of a growing number of signs that something was wrong. After retiring from being their portrait photography, her mother's condition declined further, and her father became her mother's primary caregiver. After many years of displaying symptomatic behavior, she was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. After her diagnosis, Jen’s father cared for her until his passing in 2016.
After her father's death, Jen made the difficult decision to move her mother into a memory care center in 2017. Jen frequently visited her, and enjoyed taking her to the local park and to play with the community's dog, Misty.
Her mother passed away peacefully on March 31st, 2020. Jen's mother wasn’t the only person in her family who had a form of Dementia. On her maternal side, Jen’s grandmother and great grandmother both suffered from Dementia, a trend that is unfortunately common in families who have loved ones with the disease.
Inspired by the people in her life who had Alzheimer's and recognizing the need for a resource to provide help and advice to caregivers, Jen created her podcast, Fading Memories. Debuting in 2018, Jen has now created over 100+ episodes and has covered topics from estate planning, things to do with your loved one, how to cope with the stresses of caregiving, and more. In addition to her podcast, Jen also volunteers as a legislative advocate for California’s Alzheimer’s Association. As a legislative advocate, Jen works to pass Alzheimer’s and memory care bills through the state’s legislature and recently helped get $5 million in funding for a public awareness and education campaign on Alzheimer’s and early diagnosis.
(Jens's podcast Fading Memories)
Jen's advice to caregivers and families with a recent Alzheimer's diagnosis is to let go of the notion that you need to care for your loved one on your own. Caring for a loved one is hard on you and them. It’s best to form a team of family members, friends, and neighbors to help care for them as early as you can. When you have the support of a team you can get a much-needed break and focus on the other important areas of your life. She also stresses that it is more than okay, to move your loved one into a memory care ward. In a care center, your loved one will be looked after by professionals and you will be able to keep your independence as an individual. She notes that 70% of people will need caregiving before they pass away and that 65% of primary caregivers are hospitalized or pass away before the loved one they care for passes away. She also advises that as a family member, you should take copious notes and even video your loved one to document their condition. That way you can provide their doctor with a comprehensive look at their condition. No one knows your loved one like you do, so you are the doctor’s best source of information and your loved one's strongest advocate.
If you are a caregiver or a family member of a loved one with Alzheimer's, Jen encourages you to reach out to your local Alzheimer’s chapter to find a support group. She also invites you to reach out to her for advice and support. You can contact Jen through her Twitter @Jennifer_Fink or through her website.