Brain & Alzheimer’s Awareness Month 

On Sunday, June 11, My church home, The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York hosted its 2nd Annual Brain & Alzheimer’s Awareness Sunday. As an advocate for Alzheimer’s Awareness, I’m grateful for a church that helps raise awareness to a disease that is so rarely talked about. 

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. When I was a caregiver for my mom, information wasn’t easily accessible. Through dedicated research, and a commitment to find the best support for my mother, I was a ale to find the resources necessary to care for her at the best of my ability. However, it was a process, and I am determined to help shed light on how caregivers can effectively care for their loved ones. 

Fighting to Remember

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness month. This month is particularly special to me because my mother was a victim of Alzheimer’s. With respect to all other illnesses, Alzheimer’s is one of the most traumatic and life-altering illnesses out there. I often hear people say, memories last a lifetime, I will never forget you, I may forgive but I’ll never forget. While these cliches sound cute and profound, I dare to say no… not all memories last forever, and yes, one day you may forget.

Alzheimer’s Disease robs people of the very thing we treasure most – our memories. Imagine forgetting every single achievement, degree earned, skills, children and other loved ones. This is a reality for millions. Latest statistics show that 5.4 Million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Family caregivers spend more than $5,000 a year. As a former caregiver, I can attest that annual caregiving costs far exceed $5,000 a year.

im_going_purple-1024x538Although Alzheimer’s drastically alters the lives of those we love, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease can be the most rewarding experience. To love someone with all of your heart is the most beautiful gift that God has blessed us with. Caring for your loved one allows you the opportunity to get to know them all over again. If your loved one is suffering with Alzheimer’s, it is important to understand that the person is not changing, the disease is progressing, which impacts their state of mind. Be patient and love them unconditionally. Below are a few things caregivers can do to help their loved ones:

  • Sit with them.
  • Have regular conversations with your loved one.
  • Listen and learn from them. The needs of someone living with Alzheimer’s are quite different than what they were prior to the disease.
  • Show them pictures of family and loved ones.
  • Watch TV with them and explain what’s happening on television.
  • Laugh and smile.
  • Hold their hands and share affection.

People with Alzheimer’s often feed off the energy you project. Although it may be difficult, appear calm, and in control.

The entire Alzheimer’s journey cannot be summarized in one blog post, or several posts. Each experience is unique, and the truth is, we are all Fighting to Remember. I invite you to post your experience with Alzheimer’s in the comment section.

How will you bring awareness to Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month?

 

Dr. Maya Angelou: Phenomenal Woman

Rest in Peace
Rest in Peace

Maya Angelou is one of the most phenomenal women of our time. A tremendously inspiring author, Dr. Angelou has written seven autobiographies, three books of essays and a plethora of poetry books. Some of her most popular written works include: I Know Why The Caged Bird SingsLetter to My Daughter,Phenomenal WomanStill I Rise and Heart of a Woman just to name a few.  In 1993, Angelou was asked by Bill Clinton to recite her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” during his inauguration.

Dr. Angelou’s body of work transcends what she writes on paper. She is an artist that is recognized for her work as a playwright, actress, producer and director and has appeared in numerous movies and television shows. Throughout the years, Dr. Angelou has written and appeared in films and plays that continue to captivate the hearts of many, especially African Americans such as Porgy and Bess, Roots and Brewster Place. In 1998, Angelou was the first African American woman to direct a major film: Down in the Delta.

On any given day, social media enthusiasts are likely to come across Maya Angelou quotes in their social network streams. Her words of wisdom are inspirational and empower women to pursue goals and strive for greatness. Some of my favorite quotes by Dr. Maya Angelou:

“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

“All great achievements require time.”

“Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure – so that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.”

“Our stories come from our lives and from the playwright’s pen, the mind of the actor, the roles we create, the artistry of life itself and the quest for peace.”

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

Dr. Maya Angelou’s poetry has received accolades from scholars and has earned her numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000, three Grammy Awards and, in 2013, the Literarian Award, given by the National Book Foundation. Her contributions have been recognized by scholars worldwide, and she has received more than 50 honorary degrees.

It is virtually impossible to articulate all of the Dr. Angelou’s accomplishments in a few hundred words. However, what I can simply state is that she is one of the greatest and notable African American women that ever lived. Her love for humanity, equality and women has not only touched the lives of her community but it has also touched a nation. At the age of 85, Dr. Maya Angelou is still gifted with the ability to create and inspire. And she continues to leave a lasting impression through innovative poetry and uplifting words of wisdom. Dr. May Angelou, phenomenal woman.

“No sun outlasts its sunset but will rise again and bring the dawn.”

This post originally appeared on the New York Women In Communications blog, Aloud.

Digital Overload: Unplug, Relax and Rejuvenate

In the July/August 2013 issue of Fast Company, social media influencer and author Baratunde Thurston wrote about his twenty-five day digital hiatus from email and social media. As a matter of fact, Twitter activity around the hashtag #Unplug is often a trending topic and many users are actually declaring that they too will #unplug from social media.

ImageThere is no doubt that the use of technology has increased over the past several years. I must admit, Twitter and Gmail monopolize most of my time on the Internet; therefore, it was no surprise when I stumbled upon one article that shared some of the detailed statistics for how people use the “Top Social Media, Apps & Services.” And while I had a pretty good idea of how popular social media had become over the years, the use of some of the following social media sites surprised me – especially My Space.

  • Evernote: 60 million users
  • Facebook: 1.15 billion users
  • Foursquare: 33 million users
  • Gmail: 425 million users
  • Instagram: 130 million users
  • LinkedIn: 238 milion users
  • MySpace: 32.6 million users
  • Pinterest: 70 million users
  • Twitter: 500 million users (200 million active)

With statistics such as these, it is safe to say that people spend a large part of their day on the Internet. There is a popular saying; “moderation in all things,” which simply implies that people should not do or have too much of anything. I ask the question – can people have too much of social media? It’s easy to get caught up in social media, as well as useful apps and services that seem to make our lives easier? Sites such as Skype and MeetUp allow us to connect with others; iTunes, Pandora and Spotify bring us all of the latest music. And then of course there are the social networks such as Twitter and Facebook that keep us up-to-date on all that is going on around the world almost every minute of the day. As much as I consider myself a “geekess,” I believe it is important that we “unplug” from social media a few hours a day including weekends.

Sometimes people justify the excessive use of social media with the argument that it keeps them connected with family and friends and also allows us the opportunity to meet new people. While that may be true, we can actually do this offline. It is good to take a break from technology to rejuvenate, refresh and relax our mind.  Can you recall the feeling you have when you get home from a long work-day and finally get the chance to sit and unwind?  We can actually experience that same feeling of relaxation when we “unplug” from the Internet and detox from all of the techology we encountered throughout the day. Below are some suggestions on how to “unplug.”

  • In the morning before work or school, use that time to reflect on the day’s tasks
  • During lunch break, instead of grabbing our cell phone to check Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, use that hour to rejuvenate and relax our mind. This will help us feel refreshed and recharged
  • During morning or evening commute to and from work, leave our mobile device in the bag. Enjoy the surroundings and do some sightseeing as we walk to our destination
  • Don’t check mail or text messages while having dinner with family and friends. Give them all of our attention; the texts and email will be there when we’re done.
  • Unplug on the weekends (at least one day). Schedule time for yourself to do an activity that brings you joy.
  • Encourage your kids to do the same.

Fast Company’s Unplug edition gives a nine-point digital detox checklist that you also might find useful. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves staring at our computer screens and mobile devices morning, noon and night with no separation from work or play.  Well, it’s time for me to unplug for a few hours.

This post originally appeared on the New York Women In Communications blog, Aloud.

 

Social Media Resolutions for The New Year!

Are you making a list of New Year Resolutions? It might be a great idea to take a look at your social networks and add a few resolutions that will make time spent on social media more effective.

Here are a few social media resolutions to consider:

1. Re-evaluate your social media goals.
Have a long-term and short-term goal. With social media constantly evolving, it might be a good idea to evaluate your goals every three months.

2. Take advantage of the latest features on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
Twitter now allows you to view and download every single tweet you’ve ever sent. According to Twitter, everyone will have access to this feature in the coming weeks.

3. Spice up your e-Newsletter.
Add video messages and eye-catching graphics in your e-newsletters.

4. Use photo-sharing websites such as Pinterest and Instagram to highlight products, customers & special events.
Pinterest is a great way to promote products and share your interests with others.

SMResolutions5. Take advantage of content curation tools such as Storify, Pinterest, Delicious and Google Reader.
Content curation is the process by which you can sort through all of the vast content on the web and organize the content around a specific theme or topic. Use content curation tools to brand your message effectively to your target audience.

6. Join or start a Google+ community or Twitter chat.
Connect with others that share similar interests. Set a networking goal and meet at least 3 new people a week via social networks.

7. Use Slideshare for PowerPoint presentations.
Slideshare allows users to keep PowerPoint presentations in one location. Users are provided with a custom url link for their slideshare page.

8. Schedule social media into your day.
The worst thing you can do you is set up a social media account and not use it. Schedule time to post quality content, meet people and participate in online discussions.

9. Go Mobile.
Mobile web usage is increasing. A recent study shows that mobile sales have become bigger than PC sales. Optimize your website for mobile phone users.

10. Focus on social media platforms that work best for you.
Choose quality over quantity. Identify the social media platforms that give the best results and focus your attention on building brand awareness on that particular network.

Don’t be afraid to start small. If you’re new to social media, it’s ok to focus on one social network at a time. If you prefer Facebook, then devote your time to building your audience on that platform. If Twitter is your network of choice, then commit to building and strengthening relationships in the Twitterverse.

This post was originally published on the New York Women in Communications blog Aloud.

Safety Tips While Interacting Online

Did you know that online interactive conversations such as instant messaging can be archived and stored just like emails? With millions of users on social networks, the Internet is a great place to make new friends. However, sharing too much personal information can be detrimental and make you vulnerable to hack attacks.

With so much focus on Internet safety for children and teens, it might be easy to overlook the risks that exist for adults as they go online. Personal information shared on digital résumé, blogs and social networks can be compromised by predators who are seeking to steal your identify and use your personal data to their advantage. Online engagement has become a way of life for many Internet users, which can cause us to overlook the dangers of sharing too much personal about our lives online.

According to Privacy Rights Clearing House (PRC), the following Internet activities reveal your personal information:

  • Signing up for Internet serviceCompus
  • Email and list-serves
  • Browsing the Internet
  • Managing your financial accounts and online banking and more.

Essentially, everything we do online can, to some degree, be tracked or stored by an Internet service providers, government agencies, marketers and more. Navigating the Internet via search engines can also compromise online safety. Search engines have the ability to:

  • track and store your information
  • record your IP address
  • Sstore the search terms you use
  • document the time of your search

The PRC suggests that users avoid downloading search engine toolbars. According to the PRC, toolbars may permit permission of collection of information regarding your web surfing routine. Another piece of advice particularly Google users: Disable automatic sign ins. To disable this feature, visit Google’s automatic disable feature page.

It is important to understand that not all web browsers are secure. Many of the default web browsers installed on computers do not have a secure configuration. The most widely used web browsers include Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer. According to a recent study, Google Chrome ranks as the most secure web browser. However, even using secure browsers to surf the Internet, we should take every necessary precaution to secure our online browsing and be mindful of how we share our information online.

Users may control disclosure of personal information by taking precautions while interacting online:

  • Always log off and shut down your computer when not in use
  • Install anti-virus/anti-spyware programs
  • Use complex passwords that include a variety of special characters and numbers and are fairly lengthy
  • Do not share personal information or conduct online banking on public computers
  • Clear cookies and browsing data after each use
  • Don’t share personal information in chat rooms
  • Avoid clicking emails that aren’t verified
  • Do not install free software without checking its validity

There are many facets to Internet security, some of which are not included in this post. The Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon has prepared an extensive paper on how to configure your web browser for safer surfing. The paper addresses the importance of securing your web browser and web browser’s features and risks. It’s long, but it’s definitely worth the read.

The Federal Trade Commission also advises consumers to put passwords on all accounts; including but not limited to credit card, bank and phone accounts.

While there will always be a level of risk when engaging online, you can minimize your risk by taking a few extra precautions to secure your personal data.

This post was originally published on the New York Women in Communications blog Aloud.

Give the Gift of Thanks: Fifteen Creative Ways to Thank Your Customers This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a great way to show gratitude to your customers. As thousands continue to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there is still so much to be thankful for – especially our customers.

Here are 15 creative ways to thank your customers this holiday season.

1. Say thank you. 
A simple thank you can go a long way. There is something rewarding about hearing the words “thank you.”

2. Record a thank-you video and upload to You Tube. 
It’s easy to record a video directly from your mobile device or laptop. Why not record a customized video that expresses how much you appreciate your customer and upload it your company You Tube channel for others to see.

3. Write a thank-you note
When I was a child my mother made sure that I sent thank-you notes every time I was given a gift. In this 21st century age of technology, I must admit my thank-you notes are sent via the World Wide Web. Why not send a thank-you note to your customers? It is sure to grab their attention and leave a lasting impression.

4. Give a memorable customer service experience 
Customer service is key to maintaining customers. Take the time to know the wants and needs of your customers and create a memorable customer service experience that will keep them coming back.

5. Express gratitude on your company website
A simple and affordable way to show gratitude to customers is by posting a thank-you on your company website. Create a customer appreciation page on your website and highlight customers each moth.

6. Publicly thank customers on social networks
With the growth of social media it is very likely that your customers are active on social media. A great way to show gratitude is to use your company Facebook cover photo to highlight a customer or several customers. Put together a nice photo collage of your customers and upload it as your cover photo or post on Instagram.

7. Write a letter of recommendation
Don’t forget your younger customers. If you have a college-age customer, show your appreciation by offering to write them a letter of recommendation to college professors or potential employers.

8. Post a thank-you on the NYWICI Gratitude Wall
Another great way to publicly thank your customers is to post a thank-you on the New York Women In CommunicationsGratitude Wall. Your customer will receive an email notification alerting them of the acknowledgment.

9. Endorse a customer on LinkedIn.
Take full advantage of LinkedIn’s endorsement feature. Endorse your customers in their specific area of expertise. This will show customers that you care enough about them as a customer and respect them as a professional.

10. Reward your customers by offering discount codes or gift cards
Starbucks is great with offering customer discounts and free iTunes song downloads via their mobile APP. Take an assessment of your company and offer useful discount codes or gift cards that will keep customers coming back.

11. Fund a start-up business
Are any of your customers about to launch a start-up? Show your appreciation by offering in-kind donation or a small grant to get them started. Offer to design their logo, flyer or website at no cost. You might want to limit this option to exclusive clients.

12. Host a customer appreciation event
Invite customers to an after-hours reception. You might want to focus on loyal customers for this event. This would be a great time to introduce a new product or share exclusive content. If budget permits, give a small gift as an additional token of appreciation.

13. Create a loyalty customer program 
Everyone loves a discount. I’ve personally signed up for several daily deal sites such as Living Social, Goldstar and Groupon. I love GoldStar for its Red Velvet feature, which gives customers the option to select Red Velvet Membership. With this membership I can easily cancel an event without penalty, I receive emails and newsletters before the rest of GoldStar’s members and I get the top-of-the-list seating. Implement a similar discount or membership for your customers. Such a deal is likely to keep customers loyal.

14. Donate to their favorite charity
Identify a few of your most valued customers and offer to make a donation to their favorite charity in their honor.

15. Acknowledge customers in your e-newsletter 
Thank your customers in your next company e-newsletter. Include a link that highlights all of the wonderful things about you customer. Does your customer have a website? Link to their website or blog so that others can see what makes your customer so special.

How will you give the gift of thanks this holiday season?

This post was originally published on the New York Women in Communications blog Aloud.