Meet Candy Abbott, author of “I’ve Never Loved Him More”

9781938796081 COVER - Front RGBBy Candy Abbott

A Husband’s Alzheimer’s, A Wife’s Devotion

“Mom,” my daughter Kim said, “You know you’re going to have to write a book about how you’re dealing with Dad.”

I recoiled at the thought. It was all I could do to get through each day of unknowns and added responsibilities. “No, hon. I have to live this before I can write about it. I have no energy to think about ministering to others right now. Maybe after it’s all over—maybe then, I could think about writing—but not while I’m dealing with all this raw emotion. I’m still finding my way.”

A couple of weeks later, I shared my struggles as an Alzheimer’s caregiver with Delmarva Christian Writers’ Fellowship. During the coffee break, Claire Smith touched my arm and looked deep into my eyes. “Candy, you need to write a book about this, you know.”

I flinched and felt my face flush. “That’s what Kim said, but I don’t think so. Not for years, anyway. I have to get through this first.”

She tilted her head and said with a knowing look. “We’ll see.”

I wanted to smack her encouraging prophetic face. Instead, I smiled sweetly. But a seed had taken root. I felt it in the core of my soul.

And then came the phone conversation with my writing mentor, Nancy Rue.

“Everywhere I turn, people are telling me that I need to write about this, and I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination.”

“Well,” she said, “don’t think of it in terms of writing a book. Just try capturing some scenes now and then that seem significant. I think it could be therapeutic for you. No pressure, no goals, just get some of these things out of your head and heart and onto paper where you can look at them. It’ll give you a little bit of control, and it won’t be hard. Just capture some scenes.”

Nancy was on target. Right from the beginning, my manuscript began teaching me things about myself as I recorded my raw emotions and the mysterious changes taking place in Drew. I shared parts of the manuscript with Sara Lewis, and she said, “Candy, people need this NOW. You have to publish this as soon as possible.”

And so I did. Drew is still in the moderate phase of Alzheimer’s, and I have to hide all evidence of the book as he thinks he’s perfectly fine. But I have peace that I’m doing the right thing by releasing our story while he’s still living.

One woman said the first few pages brought healing of unresolved grief over her grandfather. Another said she overcame guilt over how she had cared for her husband until she recognized herself as a Proverbs 31 Woman. A seven-year-old granddaughter with severe anxiety reads the book with her grandmother every night. “She may not understand everything,” Sharon said, “but she feels the love.”

What pleases me most is that people see hope between the pages. I suspect my hardest days are yet ahead, and I’m still writing. But this I know: Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to break you. It can make you trust God more and teach you to appreciate living in the moment. It’s all about finding a depth of love you didn’t know you had in you.

About The Author:

Candy October 2013 teal - sm

facebook.com/candyabbott

Twitter @CandyAbbott

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www.fruitbearer.com

 

 

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Meet Christina Britton Conroy, author of “How to have Fun with your Aging Parents”

978-1934912-77-5 cvr 2By Christina Britton Conroy

When I was twenty-seven, my sixty-year-old mother died of cancer. I was left to care for my temperamental, over-controlling, eighty-year-old father. While grieving for my mother, I was also angry with her for dying young. Taking care of her elderly husband was supposed to have been her job, not mine.

Dad was bored, lonely, and wanted me to come over daily. I was a fulltime musical theatre performer struggling to build a career, find a husband, and a start a family of my own. An aging father did not fit into that equation.

We had never had fun together, and I didn’t know what to do with him. I finally figured out that the only thing he enjoyed was talking about himself. I didn’t know it, but reminiscing with him was the start of my work as a Creative Arts Therapist.

I bought Dad a small cassette tape recorder and he recorded his stories. Every time he held a finished tape in his hand, he felt happily fulfilled. He died peacefully at the age of 92.

The next Christmas, I was hired to sing carols at a nursing home. I took my small Irish harp and entertained a half-dozen residents at a time in several locations around the building.

Unlike singing on a stage with a faceless audience in the dark, these few, frail people stared vacantly. I started singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Suddenly, like wilted flowers given water, they seemed to bloom with new life. Shouting out the lyrics, they sat up singing with pure joy. For the first time, I realized that music could be much more than just entertainment.

That night changed my life. I applied, auditioned, and was accepted into NYU’s Music Therapy Master’s Degree program.

Years later, I was the director of a senior center for the well-elderly. One member was 67-year-old Bill, crippled from polio and waring leg-braces. He had never attended academic school, but only a trade school where he learned make costume jewelry. He was shy and bored, had little musical ability, but enjoyed singing in my chorus, and playing in musical improvisation sessions.

After about a year of improvising, Bill and a few other center members asked me to start a band. Shocked, but intrigued, I carefully explained that playing “real music,” meant they had to learn to play musical instruments. They were still adamant, so the band was formed.

Bill played the bass drum, loved it, and his self-esteem grew. He became so proud of himself; he volunteered to teach a jewelry-making class. Before long, his two-dozen elderly students opened a store and were selling jewelry. The sales made money for the center, and he was suddenly a very important guy. If Bill had never tried playing a drum, he might never have gained the personal confidence to teach a jewelry-making class, rediscover his old passion, and create a product that benefitted so many.

Learning a new skill can rekindle passion in an old one. Sharing a passion, can ignite passionate joy in others.

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“To all adult children, caregivers, professionals read this book! Conroy’s approach aligns with ‘Positive Psychology’ – focusing on one’s passions and strengths.

Gerald Solk, Ph.D., CUNY, Psychologist, Gracie square Hospital

“…an insightful, unique approach to helping people cope with the demands of dealing with the elderly.”                     

John J. Daly, M.D., NYC Police Surgeon, St. Vincent’s Hospital, NYC

“…social workers, nursing home and community center staffers, psychologists and family members… could all benefit from this information.”

Judy Foust, R.N., U.S. Army Hospital, retired, Low Vision Specialist, Lighthouse, NYC

About the Author

IMG_0813Christina Britton Conroy, M.A., L.C.A.T., C.M.T. is the founder and Executive Director of Music Gives Life, bringing musical performing into the lives of senior citizens. Many of her elderly showstoppers, ages 60- 101, never performed in public before joining Christina’s program. NY1 – TV NEWS named them NYers of the Week. A former senior center director, nursing home music therapist, and primary caregiver for two elderly family members, Christina has unique insights into the joys and frustrations shared by geriatric patients and their caregivers. Also a classically trained musician/actor, Christina toured the world performing musical theatre. She lives in Greenwich Village, NYC with her husband, actor/media-coach/cartoonist Larry Conroy.

www.ChristinaBrittonConroy.com
www.linkedin.com/in/ChristinaBrittonConroy
@ChrisBritConroy

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Meet Lori LaBey, founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks

A Gift in a Strange Package

LoriLaBey

By Lori La Bey, founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks

I have to admit caring for my Mother with dementia was not on my bucket list. In fact, the possibility never crossed my mind. Dementia crept into our lives slowly. Its visits were spontaneous and behavior changes subtle, giving me the perfect excuse to live in denial.

Mom’s dementia symptoms began our thirty-year journey down the yellow brick road. We were off to see the Wizard. Yet along the way, I found I had the answers I needed: acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and unconditional love. All were tools my Mother taught me growing up. I also needed to acknowledge and embrace our new lives. You see, dementia was not just my Mother’s disease. It was “our disease,” hers, mine and everyone she encountered. I found each of us has a choice on how we are going to live with dementia.

Will it Be a Gift or a Disaster in Your Life?

Through illness, I was taught life lessons I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. The beauty of each lesson can’t be put into words, but each is embedded in my heart and my soul. Each is a memory of magnificent proportion. Each was brought forth by a simple question I would ask myself.

“What’s the Lesson?”

Each lesson was wrapped in a love deeper than I previously knew. By asking this simple question when I felt pushed up against a wall, simple answers came.

Answers Changed My Career and My Life

I felt strongly that old ways of caring and serving those with dementia weren’t working, and for me, working in a broken system wasn’t an option. So, in 2009, Alzheimer’s Speaks was born. My goal was to raise all voices, share knowledge and empower all to shift our dementia care culture from crisis to comfort.

Today, we are an advocacy group and media outlet making an international impact. We provide education and support for those dealing with all forms of dementias. Two of our educational platforms are: Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio, believed to be the first program dedicated to dementia in the world, and a webinar series called “Dementia Chats™”, whose experts are those diagnosed with some form of dementia.

 

Loriand Maria

Maria Shriver honored La Bey as an “Architect of Change” for Humanity.

LoriandDr.Oz

Named the  “#1 Influencer Online for Alzheimer’s” by Sharecare and Dr. Oz

People kindly refer to me as the spark igniting the first Dementia Friendly Community in the United States and for helping expand the UK’s Memory Café concept in America.

There is nothing like finding your purpose and passion in life which allows you to help others. This fall we are setting sail with a Dementia Friendly Symposium and Cruise which will be an exceptional experience as we live gracefully together with dementia.

Makers of the Hollywood film, “His Neighbor Phil,” consulted with me to design a marketing plan. I was thrilled they were willing to try something new. The response has been remarkable as I have taken the film around the country doing talk backs. The film has proven its extraordinary ability to connect with audiences, remove stigmas and give hope.

As for the future, I will continue to keynote, speak, train, write, advocate, collaborate and push innovation forward developing new delivery systems and attitudes towards those living with and dealing with dementia.

For additional information, resources, or to be a featured guest or sponsor visit: www.AlzheimersSpeaks.com

 

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