Volunteer community educator, Cloud Conrad remembers the first talk she gave for the Alzheimer’s Association in May of 2018. Right before she began presenting at a senior care center, a woman with dementia came up and handed her the picture she had been coloring. It was a girl on a bicycle with flowers.
“Since I used to be an endurance cyclist and love to garden, I was really touched by the gesture,” Conrad explains, “The person was inside and her emotions were still there.”
Like a breath of fresh air, the compassionate professional speaker has found a way to give back by sharing what she calls her “gift of gab,” a skill she began honing at summer camp in high school. Raised in Baltimore, Cloud was named after her Irish family’s name, “McCloud” and, more precisely, their Americanized ancestor, Mary Cloud, “That’s what my parents called me until I was three, when I pronounced I was just Cloud.” says Conrad.
Her heart set on a career in advertising, she attended the University of Georgia intending to graduate from the Grady School of Journalism, one of the best in the country. However, once there, she decided that a liberal arts curriculum would serve her best and so, she majored in Speech Communications. Graduating in 1983, she moved from Athens to Atlanta and permanently made the metro area her home.
Since then, she built a successful career as a marketing VP leading brand strategies, overseeing strategic planning and addressing large audiences during her persuasive, educational and humorous keynote speeches. She was at the peak of her career when her father fell, broke his wrist and eventually had to move into an assisted living. (Conrad later theorized he’d had Early Onset Alzheimer’s for years, but had kept it hidden from his family.) Challenged and feeling hopeless with balancing her role as a caregiver and that as a corporate leader, she vowed to do something to help other caregivers.
When her dad passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2017, she took a little time to consider her options, then resigned from her company in January of 2018 to open New Street Coaching as an executive coach. Conrad was working on her coaching certificate when one of her first clients turned out to be the daughter to a parent with dementia.
Sensing she’d found her calling and innately understanding the need to provide support for caregivers having been one herself, Conrad wondered how she could increase her knowledge base to help other caregivers. With no recognized certificate for caregiver training, she looked to the Alzheimer’s Association to further her education.
Today, with more than a year and half of volunteering at the organization under her belt, Cloud views every address she gives as a way to broaden her expertise in the dementia caregiver training she specializes in at New Street Coaching. “With every talk comes new questions, as individual as a person’s fingerprint,” Conrad says.
“Being a caregiver is stressful,” she adds. “It’s so rewarding when someone comes up to me and says, Oh gosh. Now I know why my mother does this.”
So what ideas does she have for providing more education and support to dementia caregivers?
“Anyone who has interest or executives with comfort at the podium should consider being a community educator with the Alzheimer’s Association. There’s such a dire need for understanding and empathy in this area. If I knew in 2014 what I know now, I would have been a better caregiver to my father and improved our quality of life.”
To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter visit alz.org/georgia.