Meet Vicki Tapia, AlzAuthors Admin and Author of “Somebody Stole My Iron”

3-D Book CoverReprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Vicki Tapia

In 2004, both my parents were diagnosed with dementia, Dad with Parkinson’s-related dementia and Mom with moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Even though symptoms had become increasingly obvious by the time of diagnosis, hearing the words dementia and Alzheimer’s disease really knocked the wind out of my sails. We now faced the stark reality of terminal diagnoses.

Trained as a teacher and looking for answers, I sought information to describe what to expect and how to best navigate what lay ahead. I searched for books written from the family caregiver’s perspective, but found few, and none that actually proved very helpful. I could cry on my husband’s shoulder or unload my anxiety on a close friend only so often. In a deviation from my usual handwritten journals, I began tapping away at my computer keyboard on a near daily basis.

When I began writing about dementia, it was merely a vehicle to help me cope with family caregiving. My diary became the place I sought solace at the end of a long day. It didn’t talk back or demand anything of me. However, after a year or so of writing, an awareness slowly took shape inside my brain and I realized I was in the midst of writing a book. I began to recall memories of Mom’s dementia-like behavior from years previous and it amazed me how many recollections remained vivid in my mind. Scene after scene from both the past and present came alive on the computer screen.

I continued to write and refine my memoir over the next several years. All told, nine years passed from the time I started to write and publication of Somebody Stole My Iron. This includes ignoring the manuscript for nearly three years during a fierce internal battle that raged within me between sharing the story or protecting our family’s privacy.

During that time, parents of three different friends received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, so I offered each of these friends my manuscript. All gave positive feedback and encouraged me to seek publication. I finally realized that despite my trepidation, someone needed to speak up and be the written voice I couldn’t find during my parent’s journey.

Publication has brought me bountiful blessings far beyond sharing our family’s story with others. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak about dementia awareness in many different venues in my city and the surrounding area. I have encountered readers from around the world who have offered feedback that my shared lessons have also been helpful for them. Through social media, I have become friends with authors of other books about dementia. In 2015, Jean Lee from Ohio and Marianne Sciucco from New York joined together with me to cross-promote our books. And from this collaboration sprung AlzAuthors. There is no way I could have predicted that writing a diary about my struggles to cope with my parents’ dementia would blossom into friendships across the globe and lead me on a mission to educate and provide resources for others affected in some way by dementia. I truly believe all the AlzAuthors are part of a wave that will help to end the stigma associated with this devastating disease.

About the Author:

After teaching somewhere around 10,000 mother/baby pairs the art of breastfeeding, Vicki found her energies redirected to the other end of life, after both parents were diagnosed with dementia. A diary written to help her cope with caregiving morphed into Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia. This memoir was a finalist in the 2015 High Plains Book Awards.

Vicki’s second book, Maggie: A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival, is a tribute to the intrepid life of her great-grandmother, written in remembrance and recognition of a time when women had few rights. In a different time, Maggie might have been part of the #MeToo movement.

A co-founder of AlzAuthors, Vicki wishes every dementia caregiver had access to the AlzAuthors Bookstoreand looks forward to the day when Alzheimer’s is no more. When not busy writing, you are apt this native Montanan out walking her dog or off on an adventure with her husband on their tandem bicycle.

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Meet Marianne Sciucco, AlzAuthors Admin and Author of “Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s Love Story”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Marianne Sciucco

Writing a book about Alzheimer’s was not something I planned to do when I sat down to write my first novel. It was a lifelong dream to one day write a book, but I had something else in mind when I started typing. That story was going nowhere when I met the captivating couple that inspired me to write Blue Hydrangeas,an Alzheimer’s love story.

She was a beautiful 86-year old who was very confused when I, her case manager, met with her regarding her discharge plan from the hospital. “I’m so mixed up,” she said multiple times, while her frail but dedicated husband sat beside her with a bemused smile. How had these two driven from Florida to New York on their own without any mishap?I wondered, as I reviewed her plan, which was to go to a nursing home for rehabilitation of a pelvic fracture. Seems she had a fall once they arrived at their New York home.

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Their son was present and asked me to make sure his parents not leave the hospital without him the following day, as he planned to accompany them to the nursing home to take care of paperwork and business. I assured him that would not happen and left, spending the next few hours pondering what wouldhappen if they left the hospital without their son. Where would they go? What would they do? These questions became the foundation of my novel. I ditched the story I was working on and started writing Blue Hydrangeasright away. Eighteen months later, I had a complete manuscript.

When a writer falls in love with her story and characters magic happens. I easily stepped into the shoes of Jack and Sara, inspired by the hundreds of couples I helped navigate through their dementia journeys in my role as nurse and case manager. I chose Cape Cod as the setting because it’s my home in my heart, and built them a beautiful bed and breakfast called Blue Hydrangeas because of the gorgeous, fluffy blue flowers all over the Cape. I wrote and rewrote the moving scenes where Sara is at the worst of her Alzheimer’s, and the best. At all times, I infused the story with the deep love and dedication Jack had for his wife, even though nine years of relentless caregiving was affecting his own health.

I put my heart into this story because it was the story of many others living with dementia, and it was important, imperative, that their stories be told in a way that readers could relate to. It was not meant to be a how-to guide filled with advice from a clinical professional. It’s heartfelt and warm. Grab the tissues because you’ll most likely shed a few tears. Readers have written to me personally and posted reviews on Amazon that the story has touched and inspired them, validated their own experiences, and in some cases provided relief. “This story is my story too,” one wrote. Another said, “It was what I needed to let the grief release.”

My personal background with the disease when I wrote the book included my patients and their families, as well as three beloved aunts who succumbed to the disease. I was an observer in these interactions, not responsible for any of these people or the important and heart-wrenching decisions that needed to be made on their behalf. But two and a half years after publication, I started living my own story when I became the legal, medical, and financial representative of my stepfather who was diagnosed with three types of dementia: frontotemporal lobe, vascular, and Alzheimer’s. Although I had written a book about Alzheimer’s, worked as a nurse and case manager, and knew more about the dementias than most people, I soon learned I didn’t know much at all. It was a steep learning curve fraught with frustration and feelings of inadequacy. Without the help of my friends at AlzAuthors I’m not sure I would have come through the experience intact.

I now work in college health where Alzheimer’s and dementia are not the most pressing of my concerns, but my dedication to help educate others about these diseases and chip away at the stigma that surrounds them is stronger than ever. I am coordinating a fundraiser for my local Alzheimer’s Association and an education program for the entire campus in June, and organizing a team for the Alzheimer’s Walk in October. And I will continue to work with AlzAuthors, spotlighting books and blogs that are a source of wisdom, comfort, and support for the caregivers and others who need them.

Purchase Blue Hydrangeas

About the Author

Marianne Sciucco wearing Authors Supporting Our Troops T-shirt at Assateague Island
On Assateague Island

Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. Her debut novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story,is a Kindle bestseller, IndieReader Approved, a BookWorks featured book, a Library Journal Self-e Selection, and a 5-star Readers Favorite. Marianne has also published a Young Adult novel, Swim Season, based on 11 years’ experience as a Swim Mom, and three short stories: Ino’s Love, Collection, Daisy Hunter Story No. 1, and Birthday Party, Daisy Hunter Story No. 2. A native Bostonian, Marianne lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her patient and reliable husband and beautiful, brainy daughter. They are ruled by Mr. Chance, a cat they rescued who thinks he rescued them. When not writing, Marianne works as a campus nurse at a community college, and teaches classes in independent publishing. She enjoys books, the beach, and craft beer, preferably all at the same time.

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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.

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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.

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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 

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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

Meet Rick Lauber, author of “The Successful Caregiver’s Guide” and “The Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians”

Front Cover Shot - The Successful Caregiver's GuideBy Rick Lauber
What motivates a writer to write a book? It could be to share a story, educate/help the reader, or to entertain. I wrote both my books to support readers, raise awareness for a growing issue, increase understanding, and also to personally cope.
Before becoming a twice-published book author, I was a former co-caregiver (working with my two sisters) for my own aging parents (Mom had Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia while Dad had Alzheimer’s disease). This was not a job I was 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 Lauren Dykovitz, author of “Learning to Weather the Storm: A Story of Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s”

By Lauren Dykovitz

Learning to Weather the stormWhen I was just 25 years old, my whole world was turned upside down. My mom, who was 62 at the time, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. I remember that phone call like it was yesterday, although it has been over seven years now. I immediately felt completely alone and utterly lost. I didn’t know anyone my age who had a parent with Alzheimer’s. I had heard a few people talk about a grandparent who had died of the disease, but never a parent. I felt like I had nowhere to turn and no one to confide in, so I Continue reading

Harriet Hodgson writes a new book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief”

Layout 1Anticipatory Grief: Powerful Feelings for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

By Harriet Hodgson

After my father died, my mother moved to Florida to be near her older sister. Two years later her sister died, and Mom felt lost without her. To fill her days, Mom went on a variety of trips, often with a friend. One day she called to tell me she was “out West.”

“What state are you in?” I asked. Continue reading