Meet the Experts on Aging Well: Lori La Bey
Our Meet the Experts on Aging Well series celebrates the life’s work of our nation’s leading experts on aging.
You can hear it in her voice, the way a personal memory of her mom catches her heart and momentarily retrieves a memory that is dear to her. Then, just as quickly, all of her attention returns to highlighting the work of her current guest on her top rated radio program “Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio”.
Lori La Bey created and continues to host Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio, which she launched in 2011, along with the popular free educational webinar series “Dementia Chats”™ where her experts have dementia (since 2012). She is a global Purple Angel ambassador for dementia awareness, a frequent keynote speaker, a member of the National Dementia Action Alliance and work group co-chair. Her tireless dementia advocacy ignited the first dementia-friendly city in the nation: Watertown, WI. Lori is the person recognized by Sharecare and Dr. Oz. as the #1 Influencer online for Alzheimer’s for a reason. But, maybe not for the reasons you think.
Lori’s interest in shifting dementia culture from crisis to comfort started in the 1980’s when her own mother Dorothy started showing signs of dementia. Lori’s sincere desire to help families like her own carved an outlet for all of the wonderful people and organizations she was learning about through her own research. For over 30 years, Lori learned firsthand by caring for her mother how to help Dorothy live well with dementia in spite of the disease.
That journey with her mom is something that profoundly impacted her outlook on life and love. Lori reflects that “I truly believe my mother’s dementia is one of the biggest gifts I will ever receive in my life. Although I would never wish this disease on anyone, learning to accept it and live with it gracefully is life changing. It allowed me to love unconditionally on many levels I did not even know existed before.”
With the curiosity of a family caregiver and the perspective of a global dementia advocate, Lori expertly brings worldwide dementia care innovators into our homes every week through her program “Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio” for “kitchen table” style conversations that makes new information and ideas easy to digest for anyone dealing with the impact of dementia and are available on demand whenever we have a few minutes in our hectic schedules to take a listen.
What struck me about working with and learning from Lori, is the ego-less way she seeks to unite and give voice to every person impacted by dementia. Whether you are a professional provider, informal family caregiver, person living with dementia or someone who hadn’t heard of Alzheimer’s until you watched the Oscar-nominated film, “Still Alice”, Lori has a way of inviting you into the conversation with the warmth of a friend and then challenging you to be a part of the solution with the familiarity of an elder sibling. Her “Oprah-esque” style at once re-affirms the value of your voice and your personal experience and then encourages a greater sense of personal responsibility in using that power collectively to positively impact the greater good.
The reason I know this is because Lori was one of my very first encouragers. As the first non-relative I ever sent my book “When Caring Takes Courage” to after it came out, I felt like I was holding my breath each hour as the book made its way from my heart and home in Florida all the way to Lori La Bey, my larger than life role model whose voice I had only heard on the radio. Filled with self-doubt, I knew when I put that first book, in that first envelope off to its first official reviewer (Lori), that there would be no going back. My life’s work was condensed to just a little over 200 pages that another would now evaluate.
Would she like it? Would she think I had said or done enough to help others? I feel like I checked my email every 2-3 hours in case she had written me.
And then, just a few short days later… she took the time to read my book and reach out to me.
From the moment she gave me my very first official book review, she has lovingly honored the work I’ve already done while challenging me to continue to find new connections and possibilities to aid in the global effort to raise awareness and improve quality of life around dementia.
And it’s not just me, there are legions of us. Lori’s enthusiasm is contagious and her unfailing belief that one individual can make a difference, but the collective efforts of many can change the world, meaning that when you do hear her speak, you’ll immediately start thinking about how you can get involved.
It is a testament to Dorothy’s enduring influence that even after her passing in 2014, Lori’s work for other’s impacted by dementia (including Alzheimer’s) continues. I believe when we look back on Lori’s own legacy of service, she will be thought of not only in terms of the number of listeners that gleaned needed information from listening to her 217+ episodes of “Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio” or watching her free Dementia Chats™ webinars, but maybe more importantly, her legacy will also be measured in the countless number of new advocates she inspired to find more ways to get involved in the fight against dementia (including Alzheimer’s).
To learn more about Lori or how to get involved in shifting dementia care culture with her, visit her website at www.AlzheimersSpeaks.com.