Meet blogger and author, Heidi Hess Saxton

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Heidi Hess Saxton

When the Unthinkable Becomes Inevitable: The Awful Dawn of Dementia

Up to this point in my life, most of my blogging has been for parents of adopted, foster, or special needs children. Back in 2002, when my husband and I first became foster parents (and later adoptive parents), we really had no idea what we were in for. Which was probably a good thing, because I’m not sure we would have had the courage to move forward with it, had we known.

Now, as I’m entering the sixth month of caring for my mother, a dementia patient, I’m realizing that this is a lot like that. Lots of dirty laundry and temper tantrums, interspersed with moments of sweetness and delight. The tumultuous relationship we had during my teen years is gone. These past six months have been the sweetest, yet in many ways also the hardest – for both of us. But even the hard times are not without their rewards. For instance, when my daughter is being her snarky teenage self, she will do for her “Mammy” what she would never do in a million years for “Mean Old Mom.”

Best of all, I don’t have to make those bi-monthly trips to Georgia to visit her in that godforsaken place (Grace House, my Aunt Fanny), where the residents sat slumped in the half-light like so much castaway furniture. She spent most of her time on her bed, exhausted from writing notebooks full of gibberish, trying to work out why she had been deprived of her freedom, her marriage, and most of her life. My sisters and I would take her out as often as we could from our respective homes in Indiana, Washington State, and New Hampshire (plus the youngest who lived nearby but was trying to balance the demands of caring for her family, a full-time job, and both my parents), but it grew harder and harder to bring her back to the facility. More than once I begged God to take her in her sleep. I was sure I knew where she was going, and it was an infinitely better place than this.

Finally, one day when I realized that there really wasn’t any reason for her to stay where she was, I broached the subject with my father, who readily agreed that Mom would be happier with me. Just before Thanksgiving, we decided – so she could go back by the end of Christmas if it didn’t work out.

But in my heart, I knew there was no going back. “How’d you like to come home with me, Mom?” Her dull expression brightened for just a moment. “They won’t let you take me,” she said. “The judge won’t let me go.”

Somewhere in her clouded mind sat a cantankerous old geezer who called the shots. “It’s okay, Mom. Dad said I could take you – and the Judge has no jurisdiction in Indiana.” And so, her friends all gathered to celebrate her 77th birthday on that last day before we left. “I’m so happy for your mom,” each of them said to me. “She’s going to be so much better off with you.” They gave her warm track suits to insulate her from the Indiana winters, and posted pictures and letters regularly both in the mail and on the private Facebook page where I keep everyone informed of her comings and goings.

Then we got on a plane and … she was free. It wasn’t like her old life, with the man she’d loved for more than fifty years. Instead of a spacious, well-kept home she had a room in the basement with a little half-bath near my office, and she struggled to climb a flight of stairs a couple of times each day.

But how she smiled. In photograph after photograph, her eyes alight as she once more made cookies, beat us at Scrabble, sang at birthday parties, and sported a pretty Easter dress. She had been given a second chance at life. And I was going to make the most of it, for as long as I could.

There’s still so much to learn, so much I’m still figuring out. But I decided I want to keep track of the steps along the journey, in case there was someone else out there who, like me, just needed someone who could say, convincingly, “Me, Too.” So, if that’s you, welcome. Pour yourself a cup of… well, whatever strikes your fancy. I won’t judge. And let’s take the time to encourage each other, in good days and bad. Because when the unthinkable becomes the inevitable, the steadying hand of friendship can make all the difference in the world.

About the Author

Heidi Hess Saxton and her mom, Sandy, live with Heidi’s husband Craig, their teenage children, and two energetic dogs in northern Indiana. In her spare time, Heidi is a writer and editor, and blogs as often as she can at “Life on the Road Less Traveled” (for adult caregivers), “Extraordinary Moms Network” (for parents of adopted and special needs children), and “Ask the Catholic Editor” (for non-fiction writers). Her latest book is Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta(Franciscan Media).

Facebook: Heidi Hess Saxton (https://www.facebook.com/heidi.hess.saxton)

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Meet Catherine Hodder, Esq., author of “Estate Planning for the Sandwich Generation: How to Help Your Parents and Protect Your Kids”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Catherine Hodder, Esq.

I was a corporate and banking attorney when my father began experiencing mini-strokes and having difficulty with his memory. We didn’t know at the time he was embarking on a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. And what a battle it was.

Even though I was well versed in law and finance, it wasn’t until I faced my father’s illness that I understood the importance of having proper estate planning documents. The more I learned, the more I realized there is a great deal of information most people (even attorneys) don’t know.

Before my father’s decline, he would mention from time to time about how to handle his affairs when he died. He also made it clear on many occasions that he did not want any artificial means to keep him alive. Knowing full well my mother would not be happy with his decision, I asked him to meet with a lawyer and put his wishes in writing.

As a result, he consulted with a seasoned estate planning attorney who drafted a last will and testament, revocable trust, health care power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and living will.

It is hard enough to care for someone with Alzheimer’s. It would have been impossible if we didn’t already have these documents in place. Because of my father’s planning, the financial, healthcare, and probate matters were handled seamlessly. It allowed us to focus on our father’s care.

Seeing first-hand how proper estate planning helped our family, I wanted to help others in a similar situation. After my father’s death, I changed my focus from finance to estate planning. I wanted to use what I learned from the front lines to benefit others.

I went into private law practice in Florida with a partner, whose father, incidentally, had terminal cancer. We lived the issues that many caregivers face. It was our mission to help caregivers understand how estate planning could help them. We especially reached out to those families in the “Sandwich Generation” who had young children they wanted to protect and who had real concerns about their aging parents.

Due to my husband’s career, we moved to California. I thought about starting another practice, but soon realized what I really wanted to do was educate others about estate planning.

I wrote Estate Planning for the Sandwich Generation: How to Help Your Parents and Protect Your Kids to be a resource for caregivers. There are ten steps for creating your own estate plan and five talks you should have with your parents. It is my mission to guide others through challenges of aging parents and caregiving.

Robert H. Schuller said, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” It is my hope that this book with help people during those tough times.

About the Author

Catherine Hodder, Esq. is an estate planning attorney turned author. She enjoys working with families who would rather be doing anything other than estate planning. Her Florida law practice, featured in the Palm Beach Post, made “house calls” to help families with their estate planning needs. She now resides in California, writing helpful articles for members of the “Sandwich Generation.” She is also co-author of Law Office on a Laptop: How to Set Up Your Own Successful Mobile Law Practice, an #1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in law office education.

Connect with Catherine

Amazon

www.HodderInk.com

Facebook:sandgenlife

Twitter: sandgenlife

Instagram:sandgenlife

Pinterest: sandgenlife

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Meet Lisa Wingate, author of “Tending Roses”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

The Gap

By Lisa Wingate

In every story I write, there are bits of real life, nibblets of sheer invention and  sprinkles of serendipity. Readers often ask me which parts are which. Sometimes, it’s hard to dissect. Our way of looking at the world comes from our experiences in it. Our passions, the things we care about enough to examine, do as well. Continue reading

Meet Miki Klocke, Photographer and Author of “Alzheimer’s: Beyond Caregiving”

by Miki Klocke

My Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 56 years old and still working two jobs. I was 33 and became her full-time caregiver. A few years into our journey, when Mom still occasionally had coherent moments, we talked about how difficult this path is and what limited resources there were to help us. There wasn’t anyone for us to talk to. During Continue reading

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. 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

Welcome Sisters Susan Kiser Scarff & Ann Kiser Zultner, Authors of Dementia: The Journey Ahead

51meTGNSoXLBy Susan Kiser Scarff

Within a year of my husband receiving his dementia diagnosis, I had a classic case of caregiver burnout. I couldn’t concentrate at work and most of my time was taken up with worrying about my husband’s uncharacteristic and impulsive behavior. I was petrified and intimidated about the future…overwhelmed with basic day-to-day activities. Further, I was apprehensive about making the transition from wife to protector, nurse, and mother. Continue reading

Finding My Tribe

Aren’t you curious to know more? Why do you find this boring? If you could peer into my brain, you might observe these questions bouncing around.

DetailsI remember being admonished as a child for acting “too inquisitive” or alternately, “too sensitive.” As an adult I’m sometimes told that, in conversations, I either give too many details or ask for too many details, depending on whether I’m telling the story or listening to one. Or worse, I confess to interrupting someone else’s story (my husband) to add more details when I don’t feel he’s imparting enough information. Okay, so I like details! Watching movies, it’s not uncommon for me to be so engrossed in the details of the room decor or the characters’ clothing in period piece dramas, that I forget to listen to the dialog. My husband might call a movie a “yawner,” while I found it completely captivating in its minutia. And yes, I can be a bit on the obsessive side when it comes to journaling, particularly when traveling. I’m driven to record the details of our travel days, which actually sometimes comes in handy when we’re trying to remember the name of a particular place or where we stayed in any given city. While other people seek entertainment on their iPad, I’m busily recording the day’s events.

MI FarmI’ve long collected family memorabilia, particularly photographs. Some of these photos date back to the mid-1800s. I thoroughly enjoy studying the details in these old photos, imagining myself in that time period. My current work in progress is a fictional biography of my great-grandmother Maggie. For Continue reading

Turn Around, Red Robin

Last week I was reminded that answers or solutions aren’t necessarily what or even where they initially appear…

UnknownI opened the pedestrian door from our garage onto our patio to sounds of frantic fluttering and flapping, coming from our next-door neighbor’s yard. My first thought was “Oh, no, an injured bird.” As I walked closer to the fence dividing our yards, that’s indeed what it appeared. I saw a robin hopping about and frantically flapping his wings. However, when I looked more closely, I realized that wasn’t it at all. The robin was “imprisoned” inside a loop of chicken wire mesh.

In an attempt to keep his dog away from a section of our shared fence, my neighbor had installed a few feet of chicken wire. The wire had detached from one end and was partially curled over, forming an empty cylinder. Somehow the robin had skittered into this unintentional birdcage, and was now trying his utmost to batter the chicken wire into releasing him to freedom. It was easy to see the effort was causing the bird a great deal of stress and would ultimately exhaust him.

If only we could only redirect the bird to reverse direction and look behind him toward our shared fence, he’d see there was a wide opening in the chicken wire where he could easily hop out and escape his self-made prison. My husband retrieved a broom from the garage Continue reading