Welcome back to Causepods everybody! Today’s episode is with Jennifer Fink, host of The Fading Memories Podcast. As a newcomer to the podcasting and audio realm, Jennifer and her show, which deals with Alzheimer’s, have quickly shown that they are a force to be reckoned with! Like many of our previous guests, Jen’s desire to create the show grew out of her own need. Having a mother who lives with Alzheimer’s led our guest to seek some more information and reassurance from podcasts and when she struggled to find what she needed she decided to scratch her own itch.
During our conversation we talk through the experiences leading up to the creation of Fading Memories, feedback Jennifer has received and the act of aiding others as a means to deal with our own difficulties. Jen is very generous with her own story, bringing us into her world and the struggles of having a loved one with almost no short term memory. We also get into the some of the lessons she has learned, her belief in podcasting and the important ideas of community and collaboration. For a great chat, listen in!
The impetus for Jennifer to start her podcast. (03:33)
The positive response that the podcast has elicited. (06:36)
Dealing with personal difficulty by helping others. (08:14)
Reaching out and connecting with an audience. (09:32)
Some of the support structures Jennifer has found in her research. (11:47)
Collaboration and partnership with similarly focussed groups. (14:19)
A few of the lessons Jennifer has learned producing a podcast. (17:20
Attracting listeners and the right audience to the podcast. (20:55)
Building a community and offering support for a cause. (23:45)
Cross discipline networking of podcasters with similar goals. (24:31)
How to get involved with Causepods (27:47)
Support Alzheimer's Association
Thanks for Listening!
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[0:00:02.6] MP: Hey everyone, just before we get to this episode, I want to thank you so much for all of the early support here on Causecasts. This is really just a passion project that I launched because I really wanted to highlight those folks who were using podcast in a positive way but I have been seeing some great feedback, some great rating sand reviews from everyone and so I am inspired to keep this project going to find more amazing cause casters so if you’re someone who has a podcast for a cause or you know someone that’s using this medium for a great cause. Please have them go to causecast.org, fill out the form, reach out and I’ll schedule them on the show.
In the meantime, I want to thank those folks who have taken just a few minutes to give the show a positive rating and to write a review. Especially going out to Angela Obara, I hope I am not butchering your name when I say that, thank you for the positive feedback. Meredith Messenger, Chad Grills, Teach Tiffany, thank you so much everybody for taking a few minutes. Anybody else listening, if you like what we’re trying to do here on the show, if you want more cause casters to be highlighted, please go to causecast.org. Pop on over to iTunes or google or any of the platform, throw a positive rating and review, subscribe.
Tell your friends about it and if you can, if you have the resources, love it if you would also throw a couple of dollars at the go fund me pages for any of the host cause that you believe in. None of that money goes to me, I have no interest in profiting off this venture. I really just want to highlight great podcasters that are using this medium to make the world a better place and help them in their causes, be able to do more. Anything we can do to support them, I would really appreciate it.
Thank you so much and enjoy today’s episode of Causecasts.
[0:01:45.6] MP: Hi and welcome to Causecasts. I’m your host, Mathew Passy. Here at Causecasts, we have one simple mission, to highlight the amazing folks who are using podcasts as a way to raise awareness for good causes. Whether that’s a non-profit they work with, a charity they support, a social justice campaign they are championing for, a medical condition they are battling or someone who is just looking to make a positive impact on their local community, state, country or the world. These are podcasters with a positive mission.
Along with raising awareness for our guest’s favorite causes, we’re also going to see if we can raise some money to support their efforts. So make sure you check out the show notes for each episode at causecasts.org to learn more about what they’re doing and how to help them achieve their goals.
[0:02:34.3] MP: This week on Causecasts, we have an extremely valuable guest that I’m really excited to talk about. This is one of those podcast that when I was thinking about putting Causecasts together, it was just the exact kind of show that I wanted to highlight and wanted to focus on. I’m very excited to have Jennifer Fink on Causecasts. She is the host of Fading Memories Podcast and you can learn more at fadingmemoriespodcast.com.
Jen, thank you so much for joining me on the show today.
[0:03:04.6] JF: Thank you for having me. This is fun.
[0:03:07.5] MP: Fading Memories is all about those who are handling Alzheimer's, whether that be somebody who might be getting an early diagnosis themselves or more importantly, those who are a caregiver for somebody else with Alzheimer's and you know, sort of creating a support community for everybody in the situation.
Tell me a little bit, how did you get involved, what was the impetus to want to start this particular podcast?
[0:03:33.1] JF: Thank you for asking. My mother is 75 and a half and she is in the later stages of Alzheimer's and until my father passed away last year, about 18 months ago, he was her primary caregiver. There were a lot of things that I suggested for him to help with her, the adult social programs that he just – he flat out refused and I never understood why and I still don’t’ understand why. After he passed, we moved her into a memory community which has been wonderful for her but I was looking for ways to connect with her. She asks the same question every two minutes, “What have you been up to today? What have you been up to?”
After about 20 minutes, you just want to like, run screaming into the parking lot and drive away and never go back because it’s just heartbreaking. I started doing deep internet research dives and it occurred to me that a caregiver, a family caregiver who had their family member in their home would not have the time or likely the patience to do these deep internet dives and then one day, driving to the gym, I realized, hey, I like listening to podcasts, I listen to them for education and for entertainment, let me find one on Alzheimer's to help me better connect with my mom before she gets to the point where I can’t connect with her.
The options for that were very meager, most of them are technical on the research side, there’s some that people like me do that are cathartic which is impossible to listen to if you’re going through that scenario because you know at some point, you’re going to be in their position. I really don’t need to listen to somebody else’s pain. This journey is difficult enough and there is one popular Alzheimer's podcast but it didn’t give me what I needed.
It was very difficult to listen to because the audio quality is not great and a few of t hem I’ve listened to are a little preachy so I thought, what the heck, you know? I listen to podcasts, I listened to one on – that it wasn’t difficult to start one so I thought, I’m going to start one for people like me. People who are looking for information, don’t have a lot of time and I focus on try to provide episodes for people in the earlier stages so they can avoid maybe some of the pitfalls that are family has gone through.
That’s my beginning. I started may 1st was when I launched and is going quite well.
[0:06:27.0] MP: That’s incredible, you’ve never really done any media production prior to this, you just saw this void and thought, well, somebody’s got to fill it, might as well be me.
[0:06:36.8] JF: Exactly. I am an entrepreneur, my own business, I’m a professional portrait photographer, that’s how I make money. I do have the creative side which is why I’m really fussy about my audio quality and I record in my home office which is definitely not as good as it could be and I figured out how to make it better. But you know, exciting thing is, it didn’t take – I think it was a little bit more than a month about five weeks when I got a message from somebody that says, “My gosh, this podcast is fantastic. I’m dealing with my dad who has got memory loss and my step mom over here has got these other issues,” and it was like, the best feeling and I’ve gotten a few of those already.
And it’s like, I’ve learned so much and I’ve helped some people so in what, six months, five months, I think I’ve done pretty good so far.
[0:07:33.9] MP: You know, if one person had reached out, that would have been enough, the fact that you’ve gotten one and then several others, I mean, you’re a beacon for so many people, I’d say you’re wildly successful of what you’re trying to do.
I love the fact that, you set out, most good projects, most good podcast even are born out of – not exactly selfish but are born out of somewhat selfish needs. You were looking for a way to get some answers for yourself and a way to share some of your experiences and a way to connect with other people. By doing that for yourself and by sharing it this way, you’re able to help so many other people which I imagine has just got to be extremely rewarding.
[0:08:14.5] JF: It is. You know, when you’ve learned like just cleaning out my parent’s house. I look back and I think, man, if I’d only known X, then I would have done things differently. You know, when you’re – it was two weeks after my father passed away, my sister and I who are not super close, we react to things almost in opposite ways so I had to respect what she was going through and handle things the way I thought needed to be handled and it was just chaos and confusion which I don’t relish at all.
I’m a very organized, methodical person which is kind of unusual for somebody who is creative. It’s like, just the things that I know now. I’m like, you know, I’m not going to have to do this again, mom lives in the care community, I’m not going to have to have an estate sale there. All of this knowledge is like, kind of a one off thing and I’m like, well, I need to share that.
I hope to help other people worldwide, avoid some of the pitfalls that our family has gone through with this journey with my mom.
[0:09:19.2] MP: That’s amazing. I’m curious when you got started and you start to reach out to outside experts or to other people in the community. Was there any fear or trepidation as far as you know, whether you were getting responses, how did you approach that, how did you handle that?
[0:09:32.8] JF: I had started going to an Alzheimer's, caregiver’s support group. I started last November and I’ve met people and my husband and I are both rotarians so we know a lot of people and I just sucked it up and said, you know what? If somebody tells me no, the heck with them.
I talked to a trainer in my home town about the benefits of exercise on preventing cognitive impairment and then I reached out on LinkedIn for a nutritionist and just worked every last contact I could possibly think of. I’ve done a lot of stuff, met people through social media and I was surprised, you know, there was times when I just had to thankfully, it was either email or phone call and they couldn’t see my knees knocking together because nobody likes to be rejected and when you’re trying to do a good thing and somebody telling you no is also not terribly fun.
But I really haven’t gotten too many nos.
[0:10:38.4] MP: Well, I imagine, because you’re doing something that is so positive, because you’re doing something that’s so helpful to the community that it’s tough for someone who would be associated with something like this to be like, “No, why would I want to help them?” I can’t imagine that being the response anywhere.
I imagine maybe talking to other members in the community, maybe being shy or uncomfortable opening up but I have to imagine the pros are more than willing to help out.
[0:11:02.4] JF: Yeah, I can’t off the top of my head, the only real rejection, there’s a gal on Instagram, I followed her account and it’s funny and I reached out to her and said you know, “I like interviewing families that are going through this because obviously, my voice is just one and I’d love to talk to you and your family about your dad.”
And she basically said she didn’t think she could do that. Fine, that was about the only no I’ve really gotten.
[0:11:30.8] MP: Okay, all right. What are some of the things, you know, obviously, you’re sharing what you’ve learned, what you’ve experienced, you know, the pitfalls that you’ve had but what are some of the things that you learned along the way that you probably never would have discovered had you not been doing this project?
[0:11:47.3] JF: There are so many resources, just through the Alzheimer's Association, it is amazing and I really wish I had known about these, you know, five, 10 years ago because there’s like, for people in the early stages, there’s actually a peer to peer support groups so if you’ve been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's or some other cognitive impairment, through the Alzheimer's association, you can be paired up with somebody like you and basically, have one on one phone call support in each other.
I’m like, “Wow, that might have helped my mom not hide what was going on.” And for the people listening to your podcast, my mom is the third generation on my maternal side of the family with cognitive failure at the end of their life. I understood why she pretended it wasn’t happening but that doesn’t help and maybe if she had talked to somebody else in the early stages, it might have helped her, there’s another program they have called, Alzheimer's Direct that physicians are supposed to help funnel you in to when you’re diagnosed so that you are aware of these services.
I mean, there’s just a vast amount of people out there and they’re not getting contacted until it’s later on or if somebody like me contacts them and that’s what I really wish I had known early on. I don’t even know why I didn’t think about googling the word Alzheimer's and finding the Alzheimer's Association, you know, you google certain things and you either do or do not get the answer you need.
Now I have this vast network of people I can talk to and it’s just – there’s such a benefit, I’m always promoting the Alzheimer's association’s website, it’s super easy to remember, it’s alz.org. Like I said, I really wish I had known about them 10, 12 years ago, my mom’s been on this journey for about 18 years. The sooner I’d known about some of this stuff, the better.
[0:14:01.3] MP: Now, with what you’re learning from alz.org, with the resource that you get from them, have you thought about reaching out with them in any way and partnering to help spread the word through this podcast or, I don’t want to say, get a sponsorship but just get some support so that you could get the message even further out there?
[0:14:19.9] JF: I have and I’ve talked to some of them and running into that – they’re not like corporations so to speak but I’m running up against the – they have a specific message and they don’t want to endorse somebody else kind of thing, even told their - the local chapters digital marketing person, you know, I refer to my mom with a patient with Alzheimer's. Well, their theory is people in hospitals are patients, people technically, my mom is living with Alzheimer's.
Okay, well, you want to get technical on how I refer to her, fine, I’ll change it. I didn’t like the word patient, I’m pretty easy to change, you know I haven’t had any success with that yet but I am going to chip away at that. My plan is to do more volunteering and advocacy with them starting in 2019. Right now my husband and I are – he is running for city counsel of our local city and I have zero free time.
So I have done a little bit with a local - she is the legislative ambassador for one of our local representatives and I have done a little bit of stuff with her. I also interviewed her on the importance of advocating and telling your stories so that our legislators understand what a health and economic crisis this is now and it is only getting worst. So that is my goal, I thought, “Okay, well if I can’t knock on the front door, I’ll just go in through the back.”
[0:15:52.3] MP: Got it, well that makes a lot of sense. So I am curious also by the way, have you played the podcast for your mom?
[0:15:59.3] JF: I haven’t thought about it. I don’t know which episode I’ve play for her. Maybe the next time we’re in the car I’ll put it on and see if it sparks anything. That is an interesting idea.
[0:16:09.7] MP: I assume she knows you are doing it though. I assume you’ve told her that you tell her whether or not from time to time she’ll remember that understandably but I assume you’ve discussed that you are sharing your feelings about all of this, right?
[0:16:22.9] JF: A little bit but like I said, she doesn’t remember. Her short term memory is at best two minutes and her long term memory is more go than come, you know people say it comes and goes. Her’s is more go.
[0:16:36.5] MP: Understood. So what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned about doing a Causecast, you know? Obviously you did not create podcast prior to this. You learned how to do this from the start but doing this, creating this product, creating some of this resource for others in the community, what have you learned about producing podcast for a cause that would be beneficial to other folks out there that are thinking about having this sort of same media out there for their cause?
[0:17:07.0] JF: So what have I learned about producing a podcast?
[0:17:10.2] MP: And it doesn’t have to be about the actual art of producing a podcast like you know what mic or things like that but what have you learned about creating and just having this product out there?
[0:17:20.0] JF: What I’ve learned about producing a podcast, one, they’re a lot of fun. You’d think I work from home as the photographer. My studio is attached to my house and I have a whole outside area. So I am home alone with the dogs a lot and I thought, “Yeah this might be lonely,” but it’s fun and when you get people talking about something they’re passionate about, they are enjoying it. I’m quite surprised how much fun it actually is.
My husband and I, my husband is a realtor, we did a three episode series on what to do with the family home starting with de-cluttering and doing safety type changes and the second episode was more on actual physical structural type changes because as we know, most of our loved ones would like to stay home as long as possible and when you start looking around that is not always an easy thing to do because homes are not built for people with physical disabilities or cognitive problems and so knowing what I know, we did that.
That was two episodes and the third one was he was with me. We talked about what to do with the family home either after your loved one has to move into assisted living or if they pass away because when my father died and we were debating on what to do with my mom, we’d just assume we’d sell her house and he does property management. So the fact that that was his default thought is kind of interesting. And a CPA friend of ours said, “Well tell me about your in law’s house.”
It’s been paid for, let’s say they’ve had it for a little over 48 years. It’s been paid for, for most of the time she’s had this disease and he said, “You guys need to rent it out because you don’t know how long she’ll live,” like I said, she’s 75. Her mom lived until 91. I have a paternal grandmother that’s a 100 and a half today so we have a little longevity in our family.
So preserving her money was definitely a motif and we’ve rented out the house and that’s gone fine and it’s just he has so much fun. It’s like everybody says how much fun they have. So I am hopefully producing and sharing really useful and helpful information and people are having fun. So I hope that makes that enjoyable to listen to. I try to keep the episodes positive which sometimes can be a challenge since I am on this journey with my mom.
And there are a lot of times when there’s not a lot of positive. I try to keep it uplifting because I know I wouldn’t want to listen to somebody grump about, “Well mom asked me the same question 20 times in 10 minutes”.
[0:20:14.6] MP: Right, you know it’s clearly a very difficult and stressful situation to be a caregiver for someone who is going through Alzheimer's. I wonder too, you also mentioned that because this was in your family history and you think your mom might have had it earlier and didn’t want to say anything and it seems like part of your cause is not just to help those who know that someone in their family has Alzheimer's but potentially to help those who might not recognize the early signs of Alzheimer's.
And see if maybe they can get to it a little bit earlier, start taking certain steps a little bit earlier, how do you attract people to listen to the show if they don’t know that they need to listen?
[0:20:55.4] JF: Well, all of my social media accounts I post the infographics, the photograph with the text on top of the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's and I generally try to make it a little bit funny. Like one of them, the third warning sign is inability to complete familiar tasks and the picture behind it is one of my golden retriever’s laying on his back with his paw over his face and he just looks frustrated. He was actually asleep and the latest round of running through those is I’d make a funny question and I can’t off the top of my head, I can’t remember what I’ve said but it would be like, “I just can’t do this today. Could it be Alzheimer's?”
And then I described what is actually something you should worry about and I’ve done a couple of episodes on – it is basically I did one on the exercise and how that helps your brain and one on nutrition which unfortunately, there is no cure but there are lifestyle changes that people think help a lot. I actually just recorded a second one on the exercise. There has been so much research on that that it’s overwhelming. So I had a gentleman that reached out to me and wanted to do another episode on exercise so I said heck, yeah. So I try to make it, like I said, try to keep it positive and light and humorous because it’s a really dark and painful subject and journey to be on and my whole attitude is if I make it funny and get their attention then maybe they’ll listen.
[0:22:42.0] MP: Well I listened to a little bit few episodes before we got on our call today and I think you accomplish that very well. I didn’t feel that the tone was depressing or sad. I felt that you were very positive about it and encouraging and I think that creating a great environment of support for those who are a caregiver for somebody with Alzheimer's or someone who might be going through some of those early stages. So I think what you are trying to do is fantastic.
I think the fact that you basically saw a need that was out there that you wanted to fill and just went ahead and filled it yourself is just admirable and I am very impressed with the work you are doing so far and I think it’s a fantastic show and I hope more people who need something like this, who need not just the information, not just the education but who need that feeling of support like there is someone out there with me. There is somebody who is part of my community will find it and will become a not just a subscriber but a member of your community.
[0:23:45.7] JF: That’s been part of my goal. I’d like to build a community. I’m just not quite sure where and how I want to do that yet. So that might be something to worry about as I approach the one year anniversary of the show.
[0:23:57.7] MP: And you know that is one of the other things that I hope we can do here with Causecasts is not just showcase and highlight shows like yours but hopefully, we can build a community of folks like you, content producers like you and there are other Causecasters who are doing exactly what you are doing and we can get you the Causecasters themselves to help each other out.
So whereas you might have a strength doing one thing, this person might have a strength building a community and we can share resources and information and help each other with our projects and with our different goals and raising awareness for things that everybody finds important.
[0:24:31.2] JF: Yeah, that would be great. I actually had someone suggest to me that I broaden the scope a little bit to caregivers dealing with somebody with Alzheimer's is slightly similar to dealing with someone with autism. I mean they are not the same and I am not suggesting they’re the same but you still have somebody whose brain is different, doesn’t work like, the quote, average person and so I am in the back of my mind thinking about episodes that might translate a little bit broader.
But right now, I am mostly focused on Alzheimer's because that’s my passion and that’s my knowledge. I don’t have any other caregiving experience other than dealing with my mom and raising my own kids so.
[0:25:19.4] MP: Well you know what? I think it’s important to one, focus on what you know and to not try to be everything for everybody. You know it’s okay to be in a specific niche so that when people are looking for – when somebody is looking for this kind of help like yourself, like if somebody is looking for a support community for Alzheimer's they should find you and I think we can absolutely keep the focus on just what you are doing.
You’d be very successful and I am sure there’s either others that you are doing it for the autism community or somebody else hearing you who is going to be inspired to take that leap for them but I always say, you do you and stay focused on the place that you are most passionate about because if you are not generally passionate and interested and have a steak in it then it probably won’t be as successful if you are just trying to do it for everybody so.
[0:26:13.7] JF: That is probably true.
[0:26:15.1] MP: I respectfully disagree with your friend.
[0:26:18.8] JF: Well I was like, I got their point. They thought it might be a way of growing the audience faster and wider but if it’s not the right tone, like you said if I am not knowledgeable enough about it or it is too broad then people who need me who want the Alzheimer's help might be turned off and so they just threw that.
It was a suggestion and I do keep suggestions in the back of my brain in case we ran across something where hey, this might appeal to a little bit broader audience but I haven’t ran across that yet.
[0:26:51.1] MP: Well I think again, what you’re doing is fantastic. I think the show is great. I am in awe that you’ve put together such a great quality project having never produced a podcast before and basically taking this all on your own to do it.
The show is called Fading Memories. You can find out more about it fadingmemoriespodcast.com and as part of our campaign here in Causecasts to not only raise awareness but to support a cause that is so important to our guest here, Jennifer Fink, we are going to set up a donation page to benefit the Alzheimer's Association.
So you will be able to find a link to that as well as the link to the podcast and to connect with Jennifer. So you can if you need to be a part of her community or you want to be a part of her community or if you want to help her build that community, you can connect with her and do just that. We have had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Fink, host of Fading Memories Podcast. Jennifer thank you so much for joining us here on Causecasts today.
[0:27:45.2] JF: Thank you so much for having me.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:27:47.7] MP: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Causecasts. Again, if you’ve been inspired by the work of our guest, please check out the show notes in your podcast app or head to Causecasts.org. There you will find links to the work of our guest and a special donation link set up to support their favorite cause. All the proceeds are going directly to that cause minus any administration fee on the platform that they set up. None of the money is coming here to the Causecasts production.
Also while you’re at causecasts.org, make sure you follow and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you enjoy your podcast show and follow us on social media as we’ll try to provide updates on what is going on with our guests and some other folks who we’ll be featuring on the show and any other efforts that we have to support the community of Causecasters that are out there.
Now there is also going to be a special Facebook group dedicated to Causecasters. So if you already have a podcast for a cause or you’re thinking about launching one, join the group. It will be dedicated to providing resources and answering questions specifically for Causecasters. Hopefully we can do things like arrange some special non-profit pricing of various podcast services to help you with your venture and keep you under budget because we know a lot of people doing Causecasts are not going to be reaping in the money. So we want to see what we can do to help you produce a high quality product, get your story out there, get people inspired and not break the bank.
Lastly, if you are a Causecaster and you want to join me here on the show for an interview, please head to causecasts.org and fill out the interview request form. We’ll take a quick look at it and if approved, we’ll schedule you for chat and show the amazing work that you are doing with Causecasts, raise some awareness for what you’re doing and ideally, raise some money as well.
Thank you so much again for staying with me and we will see you next time on Causecasts.