The tree’s origin
The initial genesis for using the concept of a tree came from an observation that I had made when I first suspected that something other my Major Depression might be the primary cause of my memory impairment. This occurred in early 2018 when I noticed a small olive tree in the backyard at our family home, growing in a very precautious position, against a rock ledge and under a very large paper bark tree. For many years it seemed to remain in a dormant state. It wasn’t dead nor was it growing – it seemed to be content with just surviving. Then one day, something changed, and it suddenly started to grow at a fantastic rate to where it is today. The second influential event occurred earlier this year - when I read an article that described the new changes that were being introduced into Rugby League. It wasn’t the nature of the changes that were being made that grabbed my attention, it was more the message behind why these changes were made, that led me to the realisation that the leaves in my tree needed to represent the life changes that I was going to make in my life.
“Where there are accepted rules that define the game, don’t be afraid to break them for the good of the game”.
Finally, based on a deep religious experience that occurred in my life in February this year, (which I will refer to later) I decided to use the writings of St Augustine of Hippo - to name the 4 branches in my tree that represent the dimensions (elements) of my life that I needed to bring back into equilibrium. That is:-
Body – light green symbolises balance, harmony and growth
Heart – purple symbolises deep love
Mind – pink symbolises a calm mind
Soul – yellow symbolises an optimistic spirit
How the Tree Works
From my experience, each of the 4 dimensions are interconnected and exert a synergetic relationship with each other. I believe, it is only when the 4 dimensions are nourished by their own individual leaves (Leaves of Positivity), that you will be able to create a balanced harmonious environment (mindset of positivity) that will help you manage and fight this disease. Other than my Medical Team, the ‘Leaves of Positivity’ in my tree are representative of a range of Non-Pharmacological Interventions, organisations and practices that I have assigned to each of the four dimensions. I feel that it is important to re-iterate at this point, that at NO time am I suggesting that the ‘Tree of Awakening your Positivity’ will provide an effective treatment for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, I am saying the complete opposite. That is, where COVID -19 has shown us the practicality of ‘flattening out the curve’, I believe it might also be possible to change the expected trajectory of a disease such as Alzheimer’s by adopting a comprehensive multi-modal and holistic approach into your daily life. Until a cure is discovered for this disease, the endpoint of the disease will still be the same but at least you can have the possibility of extending your life expectancy and a better quality of life.
My Tree of Awakening your positivity, therefore represents a culmination of my own experiences, research and experimentation over the past 9 months, to develop a comprehensive multi-modal and holistic approach to the way that I manage my Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease on a daily basis. It is very much built around the notion of validation, whereby it is important that to understand and accept, that what you are already doing is helping you fight this disease. It is my hope that by adopting a number of changes in my own life (life changes), I will be able to retain my independence for a longer period of time and therefore improve my quality of life as this disease progresses. In doing so, I hope to remove some of the ‘doom and gloom’ that I experienced when I first received my diagnosis, by providing a pathway where you can start to exert a measure of control over your own life.
As such, my Tree of Awakening your Positivity, is only representative of my own personal journey. The ‘leaves of positivity’ that I have chosen are reflective of the needs, circumstances and the stage of Alzheimer’s Disease that I am experiencing at this particular moment in time. Therefore, I expect that my ‘leaves of positivity’ will change with time.
Creating your own Tree of Awakening Positivity
As the needs, circumstances, limitations and abilities are different for every person who has been diagnosed with Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, it is essential that
Each person takes ownership of what type of input they want stated on their Leaves of Positivity. To help in this process, I have compiled an extensive list of possibilities that you might like to consider.
Provision is also made for you to design your own Leaves of Positivity. However, a restriction has been placed on the number of characters that are available.
Given that changes have been occurring in our brains long before an official diagnosis was made, it will likewise will take a long time before any noticeable changes if any, become apparent.
Once designed and completed, your tree should be placed in a position where it is visible to you at all times.
A Word of Caution
– Every leaf that exists in my tree was only included after consultation with my primary carer (Nicole) and members of my Medical/Psychological Team. I would strongly advise, that if you decide to create your own Tree of Awakening your Positivity then it is ESSENTIAL that you first consult with your own primary carer and seek Medical advice so as to ensure that you constructing a tree that is not only achievable but is also reflective of your own circumstances, needs, requirements and stage of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease at this point in time.
Is twelve (12) leaves enough for each dimension?
At first, I thought having 12 different ‘leaves of positivity’ for each dimension would be excessive and place unnecessary demands on my time and overall well-being. However, I found that when I teased apart the different things that I do on a daily basis (making some minor changes) it was the complete opposite – I now need more leaves to fully capture everything that I’m doing to manage my Alzheimer’s disease. To illustrate this point, I have teased apart a number of activities that I undergo on a daily/weekly basis.
Example One – Taking my dogs for a walk
Each day, I used to take my two dogs on a walk around the local area where I live - 3 or 4 times around the block, covering a distance of 6,000 steps in about 50 minutes (as programmed in my Perx app). This occurred at different times throughout the week.
When I became aware of the benefits of ‘bright light therapy’ and ‘appreciating nature’, I decided to make the following changes.
During winter, I now get up at 6.30 am each day (earlier in summer), stretch for 10 – 15 mins, before leaving my home and taking one of my two dogs for a walk two to three times around the block. As a result, I spend around 25 minutes walking directly east into the ‘early morning light’ as it is rising above the horizon. The other 25 minutes is spent ‘mental foraging’ as I’m walking west, with the sun at the back of me.
During my morning walk, I often meet and say hello to at least 5 other people who are also walking their dogs. If we are walking towards each other, I always move onto the road, so there is no opportunity for our dogs to encounter each other in an aggressive manner.
After arriving home, I then drive down to South Curl Curl SLSC with my other dog and walk along the beach and over the headland to Freshwater Beach and then back to the car. Again, I’m encountering the early morning light from the sun as it rises over the ocean, meeting a large number of people, relaxing and listening to nature as I’m looking out to sea and walking along the man-made promenade. I usually arrive home just before 9 am to have breakfast.
I always eat around 7 pm each night. Besides drinking plenty of water through the night, my body has been fasting for over 12 hours. After I have breakfast, I then shower and get dressed for the day.
During this 3-hour activity, I have now accessed at least 15 different ‘leaves of positivity’.
Daily Routine, Exercising, Physical Activity, Mental Foraging, Early Morning Light, Reduce Stress, Physical Activity, Acts of Kindness, Pet Therapy, Socialise with People, Stimulating my Senses, Technology Assistance, Regular Fasting, Hydrating, Sauna/cold water bath, Self-care
Example Two – Working in the Restaurant
Due to the current impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality industry, our family restaurant is presently only open 3 nights a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5.30 pm to 10.00 pm).
I always follow the same route when travelling to and from the restaurant. My twin brother and I share the cleaning and purchasing of fruit and vegetables on alternative weeks. Otherwise, our start times are no later than 4.00 pm, as this gives us ample time to set-up and prepare the restaurant. Any last-minute shopping is allocated to me as this gives me more time for physical activity and intellectual stimulation. For example, I always walk the same route to Woolworths and carry a hand-written shopping list. I only try to look at the shopping list two times, once, just before I enter Woolworths and finally just before I’m ready to pay for the items I have selected. While selecting the items needed, I have to rely on my memory, otherwise I would have to waste time trying to locate them in the shop.
When customers enter the restaurant, I greet them and take them to their allocated table. When taking orders, I always allocate everyone at the table a number, starting from my left-hand side and moving in a clockwise direction. Where possible, I have to remember the details of each dishes and ask questions that are related to specific dishes. I also offer help with selections of foods and wines, and if special occasions are being celebrated, then I always go out of my way to do something extra (i.e, supply sparklers/candles for cakes, take group photos, allow bills to be split etc).
When placing the order in the computer, if I’m only serving up to 4 people, I always try to use my memory first. Then, I check all of my entries, making any corrections, before sending it to the kitchen. When I’m not taking any orders, I will engage in conversation with customers, attend to any of their requests and work as a team by helping anyone else on the floor.
During this 5-hour activity, I have accessed at least 14 different leaves that are inputting into 4 different dimensions.
Daily Routine, Keep Active, Intellectual Stimulation, Small Victories, Socialise with People, Laughter, Acts of Kindness, Workmates, Healthy Diet, It’s okay to Stumble, Reduce Stress, Self-care Program, Hydration, Technology Assistance
Example Three – Attending DAI Webinars
By being part of a weekly Dementia Alliance International webinar group, I find that it is extremely beneficial for me to listen to the thoughts and opinion of others, share my ideas and offer comment on a range of issues.
During this weekly 1-hour activity, I have accessed at least 10 different leaves that are inputting into 4 different dimensions.
Intellectual Stimulation, Socialise with People, Friends, It’s okay to Stumble, Reduce Stress, Laughter, Technology Assistance, Daily Routine, Self-reflection, Webinar Sessions, Advocate