Staying strong and living with dementia

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No one ever asks to be diagnosed with dementia, but six years ago, Brian LeBlanc was.

“Sometimes you don’t get what you asked for, but what you do have you should make the most of it,” says LeBlanc.

His symptoms started in 2008 and he was officially diagnosed in 2014. He’s no stranger to this disease. In fact, dementia spreads through the roots of LeBlanc’s family tree.

“I’m fourth generation,” he says. “My great-grandmother who I didn’t know, my grandfather. After that my father was diagnosed with vascular dementia, then my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”

Now LeBlanc is living with early onset Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. It was discovered after the simple task of getting take-out became something beyond his control.

“Next thing you know, I was like 25 miles in the middle of nowhere and I really had no idea where I was,” says LeBlanc as he recounts one of the many times he became lost while driving.

Six years after his diagnosis, LeBlanc and his partner, Maureen are doing what they can to spread awareness about this disease through their initiative “We Are Dementia Strong”.

LeBlanc often takes the national stage speaking on the cause, but with this disease comes so many things that can’t be helped. Anxiety is one, and also what LeBlanc calls, Alzheimer’s anger. Both are common.

“Because I’m not able to do something, I get frustrated and then that frustration turns into anger,” he says.

That’s part of the reason he got a service dog. Bella is currently in training. She helps soothe his anxiety and keep him calm. There will come a time, though, where Bella will have to take on much more responsibility by learning how to track her owner.

“As I go further into this, I could wander and if I do, she could find me,” says LeBlanc.

While this is certainly not something he asked for, LeBlanc is finding every silver lining he can to help himself and anyone who may be on a similar journey.

“We are not our disease, we are people.”

More information about LeBlanc’s initiative, “We are Dementia Strong” is available on its website.

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