Meet Poet Tracey Shorthouse, author of “I Am Still Me”

By Tracey Shorthouse

I am still me bookWhen I was first diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and Posterior Cortical Atrophy in 2015, I wanted something to focus on. All my life I have helped others through being a nurse, and I still wanted to do that.

The brain needs stimulation to keep going, so after the initial shock at being diagnosed and the relief that it wasn’t MS as what I first thought and feared, I took stock of what I could still do, and if I couldn’t do something I persevered until I relearned old skills. I had an occupational therapist who used to come and see me, and she got me in touch with groups that promote positivity in dementia. So I joined The SUNshiners, a network for people with a diagnosis of dementia living in Dover Deal and Shepway, Kent, UK.  I also attend meetings for the Dementia Action Alliance when I can, and get involved with other things, like talks.

I talk to post diagnostic groups – people who have recently been diagnosed with dementia – and the public to bring awareness that dementia can affect all ages, not just the elderly. Last May, I gave a talk to the local police. I also go to a creative, inspired writing group weekly. I started writing a blog on Facebook,  as a way to keep a journal and to help others in the process.

I started writing short stories at first to keep my brain active, but I found them too complex to carry on. So instead I started to write poetry. At first it was cathartic to write about my dementia and get it out of my system, but I didn’t want to focus on it as dementia is only a part of who I am. It doesn’t define me. So I wrote about nature, life, and then  stories that came into my head as poems.

I didn’t know I was going to write a book until I showed a friend one of my poems and she suggested getting it published. Then she saw how many poems I had and it stemmed from there. I found a self-publishing company who took an interest and read my poems.

Tracey ShorthouseI was excited when the book was finished. I chose the cover because I love nature, especially trees and the different seasons. The leaves disappearing gradually are an indication that my brain cells are disappearing slowly, and at the end the leaves are on the ground. With nature, nothing goes to waste, and there is always a chance for things to regrow, or in my case relearn. The photographs inside are my own, taken from the area where I live. Nearly everyone who has read the book has given me such positive feedback. It’s a blessing.

I wanted the book to show anyone with a medical condition that they don’t have to give up. As a nurse, I saw too many people give up when they got their diagnosis. Life is for living to the best of our abilities. For me, it’s precious, so I am hoping that people will take what they need from the book in their own way.

A Poem from  I Am Me

Dementia and Me

Sometimes I think there is a race

Between my dementia and me

Although it is going at a slow pace

I still wish I was free

My memory used to be hot

Especially with knowledge and spelling

Now I am really not

My brain is its new dwelling

It is like having an alien residing in my brain

At times it takes control

And I feel a lot of strain

As my memories unroll

What did happen yesterday or last week

I really don’t remember

I sigh as everything looks bleak

Since I was diagnosed in December

I want to yell and scream

And tell it to go away

Maybe it is all a dream

But then again I know it will be okay

Because I am a fighter

And in control

And have become a writer

Even though I am not on a pay role

I retired as a nurse in May

Even now that is becoming a distant memory

But at least I can be gay

But the dementia still takes my energy

I hate feeling tired all the time

Having to pace myself

But I am still in my prime

Even though the books remain on the shelf

I miss reading and listening to music

Remembering and concentrating is really hard

But at least I am still lucid

And still write the odd card

My perception of things is often off

I stumble and my speech is sometimes slurred

I worry that people might then scoff

But at least my vision doesn’t get blurred

Damn you dementia! I want to yell

I want to get cross and stamp my feet

But it is only a short spell

Then I feel a bit of a cheat

As the dementia has no voice

It can neither see or hear

And I know I have a choice

But sometimes I wish I was a seer

To see how long I have before the dementia takes over

But I think I wish to live my life to the best of my ability

 I could never be a rover

And at least I prefer some tranquillity

So although my life is a fight

Between the dementia and me

I will win just out of spite

And kick the dementia with glee

©Tracey Shorthouse 2016

Follow Tracey Shorthouse on Facebook

Purchase Tracey’s Book on Amazon

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3-D Book Cover

Meet Celia Koudele, author of “The Little Book for Alzheimer’s Caregivers”

the-little-book-for-alzheimers-caregivers_coverBy Celia Koudele

The Little Book for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

This book was my legacy for the next generation, putting in writing as much as I could about my experience helping caregivers of dementia patients.

My mother, grandmother and aunt all died from a type of Dementia, mostly Alzheimer’s. Continue reading

Karen Kaplan is Back with a Sci-Fi Dementia Novel

By Karen B. Kaplan

Curiosity Seekers coverPerhaps it is not often that you come across science fiction that is (1) gentle and not full of weapons and nasty robots, and (2) includes a character who is one of the first with dementia to get cured of the disease. There are so many other aspects of reality to ponder, such as how robots might help or hinder grievers, it is a wonder that science fiction writers have not provided more material on such things. (Have you ever noticed that the Star Trek crew does not include a spiritual counselor?) As a healthcare chaplain, I have been curious about what it might be like to be cured of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Virginia Boyden, financial planner of the Continue reading

Welcome, Rebecca Thesman, author of “Sometimes They Forget”

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How a Long-Distance Caregiver Learns to Cope

When the memory thief first visited our family, we didn’t think much about it. Mom was, after all, fully capable of caring for herself and she was in good health.

But gradually, ever so subtly, the memory thief began to take from her the basics of life: where she stored her pots and pans, how to read a recipe and produce the finished product, how to find her way home from the grocery store. Continue reading

Meet Cynthia Hamilton, author of “Finding Ruth”

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It took a life-altering crisis to make me realize that despite having known my mom for 50+ years, I didn’t know who she was as a person in her own right. I had firsthand knowledge of many of her trials and heartaches, but that only gave me a one-sided view of what her life had been like, with many gaps. Continue reading

Meet Elaine Pereira, author of “I Will Never Forget”

IWNF Cover Original 300By Elaine Pereira, MA OTR/L CDC DP

My mother’s was a story that needed to be told.  She was a kind, brilliant and talented woman all of my life until dementia took hold distorting her persona and leaving an agitated, bewildered and compromised person in its wake.

In what would be her final months, as my mother continued her rapid descent into Alzheimer’s clutches, her once strong voice faded away. Continue reading

Meet Pippa Kelly, author of “Invisible Ink”

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Before signing off the final proofs of my debut novel I read the manuscript for the first time in over a year and realised that it was not just laced, but saturated, with guilt.

Invisible Ink tells the story of Max Rivers, a young London lawyer who seems to have it all: a beautiful girlfriend, a burgeoning career, an enviable address – but he harbours a secret. Continue reading

Meet Rachael Wonderlin, author of “When Someone You Know Is Living in a Dementia Care Community”

book-screenshotBy Rachael Wonderlin

I started my blog, Dementia By Day, three years ago. I had no idea, then, that it would become such a huge part of my life. At the time, I was working for Brookdale Senior Living in North Carolina. I had just finished my Master’s degree in Gerontology at UNC Greensboro, and I was thrilled about my first full-time job in dementia care. Continue reading

Jack Fussell, Fighting Alzheimer’s One Step at a Time

By Jack Fussell

On Janujack-fussellary 12th, 2013 I left Skidaway Island State Park near Savannah Georgia.  I traveled westward to Monterey, California. 2,594 miles were on foot pushing a jogging stroller.  458 miles were in a car. The reason I did this was to raise awareness concerning Alzheimer’s disease and raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

My dad passed away on June 30th of 2000. I was holding his hand. He died with Alzheimer’s disease. Prior to that, prostate cancer had taken a huge toll on both his physical and his mental health. He was a Continue reading

Meet Harriet Hodgson author of “The Family Caregiver’s Guide”

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If you told me I would write a series for family caregivers, I would reply, “Thanks, but I think you’re delusional.” I would say this gently and go on my way. Although I’ve written about my caregiving experiences, I never thought of writing a series. This is odd because I’ve cared for three generations of family members.

My mother had a series of mini strokes and, according to her doctor, they added up to Alzheimer’s. I was her family Continue reading