While I Still Can… One Man’s Journey Through Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
by Rick Phelps and Gary Joseph LeBlanc
Rare is the opportunity to experience the nightmare of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease from the perspective of a patient. In his book, While I Still Can, Rick Phelps, the founder of “Memory People”, an online Alzheimer’s and memory impairment support and awareness group, changes that. Diagnosed at the age of 57 with this fatal disease, Phelps has decided it was time the veil was lifted. Throughout this book the reader is given a firsthand account of the early signs that Phelps experienced before being diagnosed with EOAD, the loneliness he felt during the denial period of family and friends and the terror that gripped his heart upon receiving the undeniable diagnosis. Phelps then describes how he and his loved ones have learned to cope since his diagnosis, finding the will to continue to live and love everyday, while he still can.
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“While I Still Can” by Rick Phelps and Gary Joseph LeBlanc provides a rare view of what it’s like to have Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD) from Rick Phelps, who suffers from EOAD himself. Diagnosed in his late 50′s, Phelps describes the frightening effects of the disease prior to diagnosis upon his job as a paramedic. His co-author, Gary Joseph LeBlanc, cared for his own father during his dad’s 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s. Together, they give caregivers and others both a glimpse of what it’s like to have the disease, and what it’s like to care for a person with the disease. Between the two of them, they give the reader a level of insight and understanding few books can match. I have read books from the caregiver’s point of view and from the point of view of the person with Alzheimer’s, but never one from both. The unique insight this book provides make it a “must read” for caregivers, families and professionals. I highly recommend it.” ~ Ellen Potts, author
“I met Rick Phelps on “Memory People” when I thought I had beginning signs of Alzheimer’s disease: brain fog, memory loss, nervousness and fatigue. Being a caregiver for fourteen years, I knew something about the disease. I didn’t think Rick had it, because he was able to put words together sensibly in a sentence. He was nice when I wrote and told him of my own concern. “Call me,” he wrote. (As it turned out, I had Thyroid disease, causing brain fog, along with other symptoms.) `While I Still Can’ is a story for anyone who is concerned about memory and confusion, especially if not a senior, as Rick, who was diagnosed with EOAD (Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease). I highly recommend the book for anyone in the beginning throws of Dementia. His story is a must read, to get ones `ducks in a row’, so to speak. Rick touches on everything that deals with this horrific disease, especially denial.
While he was aware something was awry in his brain/body, everyone else said, “You’re fine.” He knew something was wrong–he had lost control of his mind, but no one listened. In the second half of the book Mr. LeBlanc writes of his adventure as caregiver to his father who had dementia. Here we find two people can become victims to this horrific disease–the person with Alzheimer’s, and the person who cares for them. An excellent book from both points of view: it gets the `word’ Alzheimer’s out, along with everything you want to know about it. It’s reader friendly, easy to understand, no large medical terms that the ordinary layman wouldn’t understand.
`While I Still Can…’ should be a must read, also, for anyone going to school to care for the ill: Nursing Home, Adult Day Care, Assisted Living, all Elder Care. Thank you Rick Phelps for “Memory People”, an informative Alzheimer’s/Dementia site on Facebook. Thank you Mr. LeBlanc, for passing on your Caregiving knowledge. Thank you both for opening our eyes.” ~ Rose Lamatt, caregiver
“As a professional in the long term care industry I was excited to read this book. I was not prepared for how much insight into all aspects of living with a diagnosis of dementia and living with someone who has dementia I would receive from one book. You get it all in a book that I would say should be mandatory reading for all healthcare professionals, family members and anyone who knows anyone with a diagnosis of dementia. I laughed a lot, cried a lot, but finished the book knowing that I not only was privileged to read such a moving story about an incredible man, but that I was given many insights and ideas on ways to be a successful caregiver. I literally could not put it down, but you will find that the book itself is set up with very short chapters so a busy caregiver can read it in the very little spare time that they have. If you only read one book on how to be successful caregiver… this phenomenal book is the one you should choose.” ~ Kathy Sly, healthcare professional
“Once I picked this book up and started reading, I could not put it down! I found it easy reading, full of information, and giving special insight into what goes on in the minds of people starting out on the journey of Alzheimer’s Disease. I love that it gives information from the perspective of both the person with AD and the caregiver. It is hands down, the best book I’ve read about AD; very educational and REAL. I truly think it should be required reading for everyone walking this awful journey, both patients and caregivers alike. Thanks to the Phelps family for sharing so openly. And thanks to Gary LeBlanc, for sharing the insight he found in his journey as caregiver for his father. Their joining in the endeavor is a true touch of genius! Awesome book!” ~ Charlotte Bamsch, caregiver
“I just finished reading While I Still Can. It took me through Rick’s journey as a Memory Impaired person as well as Mr. LeBlanc’s as a caregiver. It’s an easy read but very heart felt. I was my mom’s care giver for 6 years and she is now in a nursing home. I sometimes laughed but mostly cried. I only wish i had this book 13 years ago. It is filled with invaluable information. Thank you Rick for your courage to share as i now have a better understanding of what my mom was feeling, something i was missing. I also know i still have more to learn and do. This is a must read for those who are memory impaired and their care givers. Rick may God Bless you as you have Blessed us. I read on my Kindle and now i look forward to my hard copy. I will cherish it always.” ~ Michele DeSocio, caregiver
“Once I ordered my book, I could not put it down. I read it in two days. I am the caregiver for my Mom and I often have wondered why she did some of the things she did. Rick’s book helped me to understand more about the disease and the behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s. Rick takes us on his very personal journey of being diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. It helps to explain that patients really can’t make themselves recall certain events or stop certain behaviors. Even though this is a fatal brain disease, the book has some quite funny moments in it to keep things light. I would recommend this book for caregivers, patients, educators, healthcare providers, counselors, support groups, libraries and just for anyone who is curious about the disease. This was an extremely informative and easy to read book! Go buy it today and you will not be sorry!” ~ Robin Skeen, caregiver
“This book captures both the point of view of the Early Onset Alzheimer’s patient,Rick Phelps, and the caregiver, Gary Leblanc, who took care of his father for years with Alzheimer’s. It is a unique look at what it is like to have the disease as well as how to care for someone who does. This is a true gift to the world for those who must travel this path. It will make you laugh in places and cry in places, but it will always touch you with its humanity. There were places in it that made me as a caregiver better understand how my husband, who has Lewy Body Dementia, may be thinking and processing things. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Rick tries to surprise his wife, thinking he is doing something really good that she will love, yet creating some chaos in their lives unintentionally. Those kinds of things give us caregivers perspective to be able to laugh instead of cry–to see the world through our loved one’s eyes. I stand in awe of Rick’s courage and determination to keep helping people and to keep making a difference in the world as long as he possibly can. We need more people like these two men in the world. This story reveals who they are.” ~ Pat137, caregiver
“I am a caregiver of a dementia patient and I am always looking for information and ideas how to cope with this disease. Rick Phelps is an Early On Demenita patient and he and Gary LeBlanc wrote “While I Still Can.” I ordered the book thinking that the information I would receive from a patient would help. And, Gary took care of his father for 10 years, so he has a lot of experience in caregiving. I highly recommend this book for a patient and caregiver, it is a walk thru a patient’s life and a caregiver. I received tremendous awareness and knowledge. The journey will have you crying and laughing. I read the book and came away with much more that I could have realized. This book is a keeper.” ~ Laura Arnold, caregiver
Rick Phelps was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in June of 2010 at the age of 57. Rick was forced to retire early from over 24 years in EMS and Law Enforcement. Since that time he has become an Advocate for Alzheimer’s Awareness and has started an online Facebook support group, Memory People™, which is now over 1,000 members strong. Rick is also currently writing the story of his journey with this disease, due to be released Spring of 2012. Rick lives in Ohio with his wife Phyllis June, and their family.
While I Still Can Video Series
Rick began a video journal of his daily struggles with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease shortly after being diagnosed. These videos chronicle how this disease has affected he and his family, and changed their lives. In these videos you see the good days as well as the bad, which will give new employees or those who have worked with Alzheimer’s patients for years a better understanding of it’s effects on both patients and their family members. From this new knowledge, the needs of the patient will be met more effectively. You won’t be disappointed with this series. For your yearly subscription you will receive 12 monthly videos that can be downloaded and then streamed to computers and televisions throughout any care facility. Each video from Rick is real, educational, and covers the issues that patients and caregivers of those who are suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease face on a daily basis. Please take a moment and view this Introductory Video, then get started today!
- “If you are looking for the best way to teach your staff strategies for working with your residents, ways for your family members to understand what their loved one is going through and ultimately ensure happier residents you must invest in these videos to train your staff in a way previously not possible.” ~ Kathy Sly, Healthcare Provider
- “Rick Phelps’ “While I Still Can” videos have been life changing for me and to those I speak, train and consult; regarding Alzheimer’s disease and care giving. As a personal caregiver for my Mother who has had memory problems for 30 years and is now in her end stages of Alzheimer’s disease, I thought I had a pretty good handle on things. Rick’s heartfelt insight of the real life ups and downs of living with the disease falls into a category of teaching techniques I call “Emotional Based Training™.” Through this method of raw honesty he provides a new light and speaks in an everyday language, which is simple for caregivers to understand.” ~ Lori La Bey, Founder, Alzheimer’s Speaks
- “I highly recommend Ricks videos to everyone, so people can understand what it is like to have AD, not from the perspective of a doctor or researcher, but from someone who has the disease and faces it every day of their life. Rick’s videos offer a unique opportunity for awareness of what this disease is, how it affects the lives of people, even the very young, from someone who suffers the devastating effects of this disease on a daily basis. These videos touch the heart, as well as the mind.” ~ Dick Pellegrino, Elder Law Attorney
- “Rick describes the effect that Alzheimer’s Disease has on him and on his life on a day-to-day basis. And this, for me as a caregiver, gives me insight and knowledge about this disease that I have never found anywhere else. I have learned so much from Rick’s videos… I finally came to know Dementia as it is, not in theory, but in reality.” ~ Bernadette Brady, Caregiver