Meet Vicki Kaufmann, Author of “Elegy for Mom, A Memoir of Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s, and Devotion”

Elegy-for-Mom_BookCvrBy Vicki Kaufmann, MA, MPSt

“Cobwebs in my mind!” was how my mother depicted the disease that ravaged her brain. Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia in May 2000, after episodes of TIA’s and early signs of dementia. She was 82 years of age. This was a major turning point in the life of our family. For me, it was the birth of a challenging new creative phase.

I was in my 50’s, at the top of my professional career as CEO of a large social service agency. Even with professional training and master’s degrees in family studies and family counseling, I was not prepared to take on the role of daughter caregiver, looking after my frail, elderly parents.

I began to write poetry and keep a journal, jotting down what worked for me as each new trial unfolded in dealing with an unsympathetic health care system and the bewildering assisted living scene. I made a promise to myself that, when I had the time, I would write a book for family caregivers, filled with tips and ideas that I found helpful during my seven years of caregiving. Nine years later, after the deaths of both parents and shortly after I retired, I fulfilled this promise, completing my book, Elegy for Mom, A Memoir of Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s, and Devotion, November 2015. On August 6, 2016, my book won gold and silver medals at the “President’s Awards” event of the prestigious Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Being retired, I can now give back to the community in other ways. In June 2015, I initiated a website, “CaregiverFamilies.com,” along with a free e-newsletter dedicated to providing tips and resources to family caregivers of loved ones with dementia. I blog twice a month on aspects of dementia caregiving, and I maintain a “Caregiver Families” Facebook Page, an Author Facebook Page, and a “Caregiver Families” Pinterest Page. I also volunteer with my local Alzheimer’s Association for their Speakers’ Bureau, and make myself available for other speaking engagements.

Two of the greatest compliments I could ever receive about my memoir came from the national Dementia Action Alliance’s Board Chair, and from Alzheimer’s advocate/author Maria Shriver. “It’s outstanding! It was so inspiring, so warm! I don’t have the words to describe your book,” claimed Jackie Pinkowicz of the Dementia Action Alliance, leaving this message on my cell phone in the spring of 2016. This past December, after Ms. Shriver read my book, her assistant made a request to post one of the book’s chapters on their website, “The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.” I invite you to read Chapter 11.

A decade ago when I was caring for my mother there were few resources to support my role. I am glad that caregivers and those living with the disease are coming forward to write and discuss their challenges, joys and heartaches, and advocate for a cure. I hope that my writings and contributions are making some impact for good in the lives of fellow caregivers.

Purchase Elegy for Mom, A Memoir of Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s, and Devotion

About the Author

Vicki-Kaufmann-1Through CaregiverFamilies.com and her award-winning book, Elegy for Mom: A Memoir of Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s, and Devotion, Vicki Kaufmann hopes to provide “tender loving care,” support for the caregiver, and practical tools and resources to educate family members about Alzheimer’s and related dementia. Her mission is to provide information on the stages of Alzheimer’s, better coping methods, and assurance, so you know you are not alone in this journey.

Vicki Kaufmann, MA, MPSt, is a retired certified family life educator and counselor. She discovered great joy and blessings in the seven- year period, from 1999–2006, when she was a caregiver for her elderly parents. Her mother suffered from vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. Read about Vicki’s journey.

Vicki knows the importance of a family support system, having counseled hundreds of couples and families during her twelve years as a certified family life educator, and marital and family counselor. In addition, she has over thirty years experience in nonprofit management, professional fundraising, community and public relations, and collaborating with numerous social service and ecumenical organizations.

Connect with Vicki Kaufmann

Caregiver Families Website

Caregiver Families on Facebook

https://www.pinterest.com/caregiverfami/?eq=Caregiver%20Families&etslf=4787

Facebook Author Page

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3-D Book Cover

Meet Linda Brendle, Author of “A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos”

CoverThe Accidental Author

by Linda Brendle

My goal in life was not to become a writer. I enjoyed writing when I was younger, and I toyed with the idea making a career of it until I received my first negative review from an English teacher. I don’t take criticism very well, and I took her comments very personally. Years later, though, after the sting of her rejection had faded, and especially when I became a caregiver, the need to express myself resurfaced.

Becoming a caregiver was not one of my ambitions either. When I was in the seventh grade and was asked to write an essay on “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up,” my choice of careers was not caring for my aging parents. However, when a loved one has a need, you step in to help. Then, whether by small increments as the need progresses, or all at once because of a catastrophic event, you realize that you have become a caregiver.

When I became a real hands-on caregiver, I often went to Aunt Fay for advice. She’s Mom’s younger sister, and she cared for both her mother and her husband for many years. One thing she told me was to keep a journal, because one day my experiences might be of help to someone else, and I took her advice. I didn’t write every day, but after a particularly trying episode, I’d write about it and post it on Facebook. It was a safe way to vent, people responded positively, and I was encouraged to continue to write.

Later, my husband David and I bought a motor home and fell in love with the RV life. We were both retired, so we decided to take an extended trip through the southeastern part of the United States. Mom and Dad were living with us by then, so they were included in the plans. I knew that sharing a tiny living space with two people with Alzheimer’s, even two people I loved dearly, would lead to many trying episodes, so I took along several of my favorite pens and a spiral notebook.

Initially, I had no larger purpose in mind than to keep a record of our travels and perhaps gather material for a few Facebook posts. But situations that can be overlooked in a 2,600 square foot home are in your face in a 40-foot RV, and I began to pay closer attention to what was going on. I discovered more than I wanted to know about how much Alzheimer’s had taken from Mom and Dad. I realized that the simple tasks of taking a shower or shaving had become overwhelming, and simple decisions like ordering from a menu were impossible. I also recognized my own denial of our new reality.

By the time our journey was nearing its end, I began to wonder if my journal might be more than just a practice exercise, and visions of a book danced in my head. Once we were home and settled, I transcribed the handwritten manuscript onto my computer and polished it a bit. I asked my son, who had already published several books, to take a look at it. His response went something like this:

“You tell a good story, but where is your story? Why are you in Florida; why are you caring for your parents; and who is David?”

I went back to the keyboard, and for the next several years I edited again and again. I worked hard to break through the protective barriers I had built around my own feelings and to share the harsh realities of this horrible disease and the good, the bad, and the ugly of how I dealt with being a caregiver. When I finally went public, my readers said my story made them feel less alone. By exposing my own fears and failures, I had given them permission to accept their own shortcomings and to tell their own stories.

I began to write because it was personally therapeutic, but I continue to write because my stories touch others. People who have little joy left in their lives laugh with me at the antics of my sweet family; those who have shed an ocean of tears are encouraged when they discover that someone else understands; and some who feel like caregiving is a dead-end are inspired to keep living in spite of their situations. My book isn’t a best-seller, but as it helps ease the burden of those who are dealing with Alzheimer’s, it somehow gives a sense of meaning to Mom and Dad’s struggle – and that is all the success I could hope for.

About the book:

A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos is the story of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a 400-square-foot box on wheels.

Linda Brendle takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotional and spiritual challenges that many families are facing right now. Co-dependency, mental breakdowns, and finding love after divorce are just a few of the issues weaved into this journey of caregiving.

About the Author

Head Shot - Leaning on Hand

I cared for my mother and father, both of whom had ementia, for fifteen years. After that season of my life passed, my husband David and I moved to the country where I work part-time at my church, garden when the notion strikes, tend to the whims of the feral cat who took over our home two years ago, and write about all of the above.

Connect with Linda Brendle

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3-D Book Cover

 

Meet Meg Foster, author of “7 Spiritual Steps for Caregivers: A Path to Meaning and Hope in Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregiving”

1st 7 Spiritual Steps for CaregiversBy Meg Foster

According to Alzheimer’s International, globally, there are nearly 44 million people that have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

In America alone, there are 5.3 million living with Alzheimer’s disease. 74% of caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias reported that they were “somewhat concerned” to “very concerned” about maintaining their own health since becoming a caregiver.

Certainly these caregivers and their loved ones are in a health care crisis

The immediate needs of these families in crisis are practical care coordination support and resources. But as those needs are sought by families, which is no easy task unto itself, there are also emotional and spiritual needs of the caregiver that cannot be overlooked, but are, in most instances.

I summarize that need as Spiritual Health — the emotional, physical, spiritual and social well-being that is critical for caregivers to sustain this caregiver journey.

I was the caregiver to my husband Dean, who was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD).  It was a tough, long path of seven years for Dean. But for me, as his caregiver, I was on a different but related path — the caregiver path.

Often Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers feel lost, alone, and overwhelmed. I wrote 7 Spiritual Steps for Caregivers: A Path to Meaning and Hope in Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregiving to alleviate those feelings with a self-awareness process and tools.  This is a straight-forward structured guidebook for family caregivers to discover and build upon their spiritual health foundation which will strengthen them for this arduous journey.

Through growth in self-awareness and the strengthening of a spiritual foundation, caregivers can then experience ease, meaning, and hope in the reality of their daily caregiving duties with their loved one, thus reducing stress, anxiety, and feelings of being lost, alone and overwhelmed.

The feedback on the book has been positive and I’m excited to share this information. A recent Amazon book reviewer said, “Good resource and worksheets for caregivers. It gets you through the process with more grace and forgiveness, so that you can be the calm in the storm.” I hope many others can have easy access to spiritual help and that gives me satisfaction that my experience can be useful for others. There’s an ebook, paperback and expanded journal paperback available on Amazon.

Wishing you Light on your Caregiver Path,
Meg Foster

Purchase 7 Spiritual Steps for Caregivers Journal: A Path to Meaning and Hope in Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregiving 

jrh_10370583r (1)

 

Connect with Meg Foster

Website

Twitter

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3-D Book Cover

Welcome back, Joy Johnston, author of “The Reluctant Caregiver”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00069]By Joy Johnston

Not everyone is born a natural caregiver.

Unlike some caregivers who can draw upon their experience as a parent or time spent taking care of siblings when they were younger, I had no such reservoir of caregiving knowledge when my parents fell ill. An only child who lived 1,300 miles away from my parents, my father began showing signs of dementia while I was in my mid-thirties. Assuming the role of long-distance caregiver, I helped my mother by paying bills, sending supplies, and researching care options.

It was not until six months after my father’s death, when my mother suddenly fell ill and was diagnosed with colon cancer, that I became a primary caregiver. I was woefully unprepared and frankly, reluctant to step into the role. My mother required emergency surgery and faced a lengthy recovery. I ended up quitting my job and temporarily moving to New Mexico to care for her. What followed was a crash course in caregiving, with all the ups and downs that comes with the territory, like the most terrifying roller coaster in the world. (I’ve always hated roller coasters.)

For the next several months, I served as my mother’s caregiver and patient advocate. My mother suffered complications and required rehab in a skilled nursing facility. I filled out copious amounts of paperwork, ensured my mother was getting proper care, and made modifications to her home for her eventual return. Caregiving is physically, mentally, and emotionally the most challenging job I’ve ever had, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for caregivers.

I began writing essays about caregiving when my father was in the memory care center during the last year of his life, and continued writing through my mother’s battle with cancer. The essay writing was both therapeutic and empowering. I submitted some of these essays to online outlets and found they generated a passionate response. Fellow caregivers seemed to appreciate my nontraditional perspective and opened up about their own difficult caregiving experiences. This encouraged me to release The Reluctant Caregiver, a collection of these personal essays. My brutally honest writing style contains language that some may find objectionable, but the essays also depict the love, humor, and heartbreak that accompanies the caregiving journey.

There are many wonderful books for dementia caregivers and about family caregiving in general, but I felt that there are few books that speak to the Generation X and younger crowd in a realistic manner. For those familiar with the book, Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us, I wanted to capture a similar tone, but for caregivers. I also wanted to be inclusive of those who may have reservations about caring for a family member and that it’s okay to have feelings of reluctance, fear, and resentment. If I survived and even became pretty darn good at caregiving, then you can too!

Note: The Reluctant Caregiver contains profanity and graphic descriptions of medical care.

The Reluctant Caregiver on Amazon

Joy-Johnston Updated PhotoAbout the Author:

Joy Johnston is an experienced digital journalist who is a National Content Editor for Cox Media Group, where she specializes in creating viral content that drives web traffic and social engagement.

Joy received the 2015 Rick Bragg Prize for Nonfiction from the Atlanta Writers Club. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies. Joy also works to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and caregiving through her blog, The Memories Project, and through essays that have appeared in digital and print formats. The Reluctant Caregiver is her first book.

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheReluctantCaregiver/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/reluctantcare

Website: http://www.joyjohnston.com/

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3-D Book Cover

Meet Linda Jenkins, Author of “To Helen With Love: A Memoir of a Daughter’s Caregiving Journey”

Cover To Helen With Love_By Linda Jenkins

After five years in the making, writing this memoir has been one of the most intense endeavors I’ve ever taken on, but well worth it.

While I was writing this memoir I discovered how much pain I still had deep inside of me. Pain from some of the experiences. Pain from not knowing what or how to deal with dementia. Pain of not understanding what caregiving entails. Pain from dealing with the healthcare field. Finally, pain when it’s all over. Continue reading

Mary Ann Drummond Shares Grandma and Me – A Kid’s Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

By Mary Ann Drummond

Nearly five years ago, after presenting at an Alzheimer’s caregiver conference, a seed was planted in my heart to write a children’s book about Alzheimer’s and dementia. When the conference was over one of the attendees came up to purchase one of my books. As she was leaving she asked if I could recommend a book to help her young child with the changes her family was experiencing since her mother was diagnosed with dementia. I was at a loss. I had been so focused on education for adults that I had not researched current literature for children. Continue reading

Meet Kathi Macias, author of “To The Moon and Back”

CoverFrontFinalSmallBy Kathi Macias

As a fulltime writer/editor, I was blessed to be able to work at home and take care of my mother during her last few years of life. I was also blessed that even up until her death at the age of ninety, she was clear-minded. Sadly, so many others are not, making their caregiver’s job so much more difficult.

Though I didn’t have to deal with the issue of Alzheimer’s with either of my parents, I have countless friends and acquaintances who have done so in the past and are doing so Continue reading

Meet Bobbi Carducci, author of “Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver”

Caregiver CoverPrintBy Bobbi Carducci

“What’s going to happen to Rodger?’ was the first thing most people asked upon hearing of my mother-in-law’s passing.  Extremely introverted, unable to drive, and not in good health, he’d been dependent on her to care for everything it took to run a home for many years. Fortunately my husband and I had talked about taking in one of our parents when and if the time came. We had both the room and the desire to do it. We knew it would be hard at times, but were convinced we would make it work. Continue reading

Meet blogger, Amie McGraham “Taking Care”

IMG_2283LIFE, REPURPOSED

By Amie McGraham

The year I turned fifty, I transitioned from a successful thirty-year sales and marketing career to the role of primary caregiver for my mother, returning to the island home of my childhood three thousand miles away. Mom has had Alzheimer’s for the past few years and, while she’s aware that she’s slowly slipping away, refuses to recognize this because of her religious beliefs. Disease of any type is a topic we never talk about. For her, to acknowledge dementia would be to admit that disease is real: that God’s plan has been altered. Continue reading

Brian Kursonis: Early Onset Alzheimer’s Patient and Advocate Has a Heart to Help

by Ann Campanella

Brian Kursonis, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and I met for the first time back in April. He showed up at the memory care facility where I was doing a reading from Motherhood: Lost and Found, a memoir about my mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s. He had reached out to me a few months earlier after seeing some posts on social media about my mother’s illness. Continue reading