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

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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

Meet S. R. Karfelt, author of “Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia”

By S. R. Karfelt

Writing about memory loss wasn’t something I’d planned to do. I’m a fiction writer. But when my mother-in-law could no longer live on her own she moved in with me and my husband, her son.

That same husband and son had to go work in Asia soon after she arrived, leaving me alone with Gummy for a short but difficult while. His parting words were, “Do whatever it takes to survive it.”

What do writers do to survive? They write. Continue reading

Meet Peter Maeck, author of “Remembrance of Things Present”

0By Peter Maeck

The experience of writing a poem, play, or story, or creating a photograph, is like riding a train through wonderful, unexpected scenery. When I wake up in the morning I hurry to get to work because I never want to miss that train. My train derailed the morning of my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Dad hadn’t chosen a trip into dementia but here he was on track to forget his friends, his family, and even his own name. Dad told me to Continue reading

Meet Marita Golden, author of “The Wide Circumference of Love”

Golden, Marita CoverSilent Storm: What We Remember, What We Forget, What We Discover

A Novelist Meditates on Writing about Alzheimer’s

By Marita Golden

I didn’t choose. I was called. That’s how inspiration, art, and creativity work sometimes. I am often asked why I wrote a novel about Alzheimer’s disease.

I am not caring for anyone afflicted with it and no one in my family, from what I know, has ever been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. So there was nothing in my life, my past or my then-present to explain the fictional expedition I launched. This is what happened: I was trapped inside the wrong story. I had written 100 pages of a novel that was going nowhere very fast. So I stopped, took a breath and gave the process over quite literally to a higher power. I was willing to “let it be.” Two weeks later I was writing the story of a wife who finds herself and the nature and meaning of love transformed as she cares for her husband who has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes as a writer you get called, summoned to dive in, to plunge into the terrifying beauty of a completely unknown narrative landscape. When you report for duty, that is when you know you are writer.

Four years later, after hearing the stories of those with Alzheimer’s, their caretakers, the professionals who care for them, the families who are burdened and sometimes buoyed by the demands of the disease, the researchers trying to find a cure, the was novel finished. I realized that I had started out as a novelist and ended up as not only a novelist, but an activist/advocate for greater awareness about the epidemic of Alzheimer’s in Black America.

I met adult children who found themselves stunned and incompetent in the face of a parent’s diminished capacity, and others who unflinchingly faced the disease and embraced their parent with the kind of transcendent love and loyalty of which they never knew themselves capable. I gave a 20-minute talk and reading about my life as writer before a group of residents of a memory care unit. They taught me to be here now, the value of the present moment and that they are indeed present, sensitive, intuitive. They remember the most important things–the meaning of human touch, an honest look in someone’s eyes, that a whole story can be told in a fleeting fragment of an iridescent memory of joy, and that words are often overrated.

But it was the statistics that turned me into an activist/advocate, that convinced me that maybe I was the right vessel to capture, contain and pour this story into the hearts and minds of readers. Statistics reveal a “silent storm” raging in the Black community. If Alzheimer’s is a crisis for America, it is an epidemic for Black America. African Americans are twice as likely as whites to develop the disease, are only three percent of those enrolled in trial to find a cure, and could be 40% of all those with Alzheimer’s by 2050.

Sometimes a story asks to be written and then asks to be used as a platform. My novel, The Wide Circumference of Love, about the Tate family, Gregory, Diane, Lauren and Sean is a story for everyone who has been alive long enough to hurt and heal, to feel coursing through their blood the strange strength borne of all we are sure we cannot bear.

All art is political, and social, and at its best engages in a frenzied dance with everything being thought and lived and denied and discovered swirling around it.

A story is never “just a story”. A book is never “just a book.”  A story, a book, can set the world on fire or give a writer, or a reader, something to believe in or fight for.

About the Author:

Golden, MaritaCo-founder and President Emeritus of the Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Foundation, Marita Golden is a veteran teacher of writing and an acclaimed award-winning author of over a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction. As a teacher of writing she has served as a member of the faculties of the MFA Graduate Creative Writing Programs at George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University and in the MA Creative Writing Program at John Hopkins University. She has taught writing workshops nationally and internationally to a variety of constituencies.

Her new novel is The Wide Circumference of Love.  Her other books include the novels, After and The Edge of Heaven and the memoirs Migrations of the Heart, Saving Our Sons and Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Writers for Writers Award presented by Barnes & Noble and Poets and Writers and the Fiction Award for her novel After awarded by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Her cover story for the Washington Post Sunday Magazine on African Americans and Alzheimer’s diease can be found here:

African Americans are more likely than whites to develop Alzheimer’s. Why?

Connect with Marita:

www.facebook.com/marita.golden

www.maritagolden.com

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Meet Philip D. Sloane, MD, author of “Alzheimer’s Medical Advisor: A Caregiver’s Guide”

The Alz Medical AdvisorBy Philip D. Sloane, MD

I was six years into my medical training – a second year resident in family medicine – when I saw the first patient who I now know had Alzheimer’s disease.  A middle-aged man brought her in, explaining that she was his mother and that the family was at wits end.  His mother didn’t seem sick, he explained, but she couldn’t remember “anything,” made poor decisions, and would wander off and get lost if left alone.  In the examining room, she wouldn’t sit down.  From my limited Continue reading

Meet Niki Kapsambelis author of “The Inheritance”

The Inheritance book cover FINALBy Niki Kapsambelis

On a drizzly April day in 2009, I walked into a hotel suite in downtown Pittsburgh to meet members of a North Dakota family stricken with a rare genetic mutation that guarantees early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

My life changed profoundly that day. Up to that point, I knew precious little about Alzheimer’s. I was a journalist on assignment for the University of Pittsburgh, whose Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center had been studying the
DeMoe family for a few years. I was stunned by the magnitude Continue reading

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.” Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Meet Margo Rose, author of “Body Aware Grieving”

 

BAG cover FRONTThe Last Christmas Present

By Margo Rose

The first client with advanced Alzheimer’s who I worked with as a fitness trainer was named Gwen.

When I met her, she was 92 years old and had already lived for five years in the dementia section of an assisted care facility.

I never met Gwen’s adult daughter, who had seen on the internet that I work as a fitness trainer doing on-site senior wellness. My only point of Continue reading