"Just because dementia has come into your life, doesn't mean that joy has to go out."
Meet Katie Brandt
I am a speaker, advocate, and educator in the areas of caregiving, research engagement and the impact of chronic and serious health conditions on families. I have spoken at hospitals, conferences, colleges, community centers, state legislative sessions and on Capitol Hill. Each talk and presentation integrates professional expertise and evidence-informed curricula with the lived experience, empowering the authentic voice of caregivers and persons living with Alzheimer’s, young-onset dementias and rare disease.
My professional background began with leadership in the non-profit sector. A master’s degree from the Heller School for Social Policy led me to advocacy and program management in the child welfare industry. I was confident that my professional trajectory was set, unaware that my personal life was about to navigate for a new course.
My husband, Mike, and I were just 29 years old when he was diagnosed with behavioral variant Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), a progressive neurological disorder with no known treatment or cure. Our son, Noah, was about to celebrate his first birthday. At a time of growth, our family would learn to live with loss. Four days after my husband received this terminal diagnosis, my mother died unexpectedly from a heart attack in her sleep. She was 58. Seventeen days after her passing, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 59.
In the span of 21 days, my entire universe shifted. My identity of wife and daughter was now one of caregiver. I was experiencing grief over the loss of my mother while learning how to be a new mother myself. I was mourning the loss of the future I planned for with my husband. I left my career to meet the intense caregiving needs of my family. I lost my home to foreclosure, spent every dime of our retirement savings and benefitted from public assistance to make ends meet.
Dementia had an emotional, physical, financial, and professional impact on my life. It redefined my identity. Yet, the origin story of my evolution is not exclusively one of loss. In 2012, when my husband passed away, I realized that I would not be able to move on. I could only move forward. The grief that I experienced created an incredible energy. I had to push that energy outward – into something positive – to make meaning out of our family’s journey. A new career trajectory emerged.
To Empower Others
Today, I offer packaged and unique experiences for companies, organizations and patient advocacy groups to empower others with the knowledge and experience I have aquired along my journey. Whether it is training for professional staff, guidance for family caregivers, insight for clinicians or awareness for policy makers, my talks and trainings offer opportunities for healing and hope.