Meet Susan Cushman, author of “Tangles and Plaques”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Susan Cushman

“The upside of Alzheimer’s; new mother.” (Smith’s Six-Word Memoirs)

My mother, Effie Johnson, was second generation Alzheimer’s. Her mother, Emma Sue (for whom I was named) died from Alzheimer’s when she was 87 years old in 1986, in the same nursing home in Jackson, Mississippi where my mother would spend the final eight years of her life. I remember watching my mother care for “Mamaw” and wondering what our future might bring. Twenty years later, in 2006, I moved Mother into assisted living. My father had died of cancer in 1998, leaving Mother alone. After eight years of watching her gradual decline and taking on more of her day-to-day responsibilities, especially her finances, I offered first to move her in with us—which she declined—and second to move her to Memphis to an assisted living home. She begged me to let her stay in Jackson, which I did. This meant I would spend the next ten years making the 400-mile round trip to participate in her caregiving, although she did have help, first in assisted living, and finally in a nursing home. I never regretted leaving her in Jackson, where friends from her church would visit her, as well as friends of mine whose parents were in the same nursing home. In Memphis, she wouldn’t have known anyone but my husband and me.

Up to this point Mother’s story doesn’t sound very different than any story of a daughter dealing with an aging parent. But what’s different here is that the tangles and plaques that destroyed Mother’s brain weren’t only in her brain, but also in our relationship. Mother had been verbally and emotionally abusive to me for most of my life. Her abuse was the catalyst for many of my mental health issues, especially eating disorders, depression, and addiction. Thankfully I am healing from most of those disorders today, at age 67. And the silver lining behind Mother’s Alzheimer’s is that at some point the disease took away the part of her memory that was abusive. She forgot how to judge and criticize, and became very loving in the final stages of the disease. I had these words published in Smith’s Six Word Memoirs during that time: “The upside of Alzheimer’s; new mother.”

During the years that I was making those trips to Jackson to visit Mother—first weekly, then every other week, and in the final years, monthly—I was also starting a late-life career as a writer. I was publishing essays in various journals and anthologies, and working on a novel. In 2007 I started a blog. For a number of years the blog followed themes: “Mental Health Monday,” “Writing on Wednesday,” and “Faith on Friday.” I wrote about everything from sexual abuse and eating disorders to spirituality, art, and writing. And yes, about my mother’s Alzheimer’s and our relationship. In fact, I published 60 posts about mother between 2008 and 2016, the year she died. I received a lot of positive feedback on the blog, and one reader suggested that I publish the posts about my mother as a book.

Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s is ultimately a love letter to my mother. It’s about forgiveness—which I was able to give before she forgot who I was, thankfully. Of course it contains sad stories about difficult struggles, but it’s also full of humor and grace. Mother died in May of 2016. No more tangles and plaques. For her.

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Susan Cushman is not only an accomplished writer, but she tackles a brutal topic with candor and honesty. Madness awaits us all. I pray I can confront it with equal faith and vulnerability. —Neil White, author of In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

Cushman has written a new kind of love story, one that speaks to the very real concerns of a generation. In this true story of a daughter’s love for her aging mother within the daily trials of caregiving, we read ourselves, our families, and the ways that our losses shape who we become and how we choose to remember. —Jessica Handler, author of Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss

About the Author

In addition to Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s, Susan Cushman is author of a novel, Cherry Bomb(2017), and editor of two anthologies—A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be(2017) and Southern Writers on Writing(2018). Her essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a regular workshop leader and conference speaker. Susan has three grown children, four granddaughters, and fifteen Godchildren in the Orthodox Church of which she is a member. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, she has lived in Memphis since 1988.

Susan’s website: http://susancushman.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sjcushman

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sjcushman/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SusanCushman.

Susan’s blog: http://susancushman.com/author/susan/

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Meet Robin Gail, author of “Dementia or Alzheimer’s?”

Reprinted with permission of AlzAuthors.com

By Robin Gail

When my husband and I began the long journey taking care of my mother, we had no idea what to expect. We had no experience, knowledge, or help from anyone.  When we first suspected Mom was ill, I began research how to help her travel through the relentless disease of Alzheimer’s.  I found quite a number of books, but they were most often written from a medical point of view.

After my beloved mother died in ’09, I felt a strong urge and need to help others going through what we had gone through with caregiving.  I wanted to write a book from a personal point of view, a book full of tips and ideas from someone who had actually traveled this road with their ill loved one.  I felt very motivated to try to ease the burden that I know from firsthand experience others feel when being a caregiver.

I wanted to write the book shortly after Mom’s death, but it was too difficult to relive everything so soon after experiencing our caregiving journey.  So, as I recalled things we did, I would jot them down on Post-it notes and put the notes away for a later time when I knew I would be ready to write.

In my book, Dementia or Alzheimer’s? I outline many methods and techniques we used to attempt to give Mom’s life (and ours) some semblance of normalcy.  Much of it was trial and error, but for the most part, things were much easier for Mom, as well as us.

I have received many thanks for writing this type of book.  People have told me numerous times there really is not a good book from a hands-on caregiver that is so personal and chock-full of helpful information and resources.  The feedback from others is phenomenal.  The reviews on Amazon are excellent.  My book ranks quite high on Amazon, reaching an Amazon Best Seller status in the first week of publication.

There are so many desperate caregivers today with nowhere to turn, many with no one to provide assistance and respite for them.  My heart is heavy every time I hear of someone going through this dreadful disease with their loved one.  It is my hope and prayer that my book will help to make the journey a bit more tolerable, a bit less stressful and maybe less lonely.

About the Author

Robin Gail grew up in Texas and continues to live there with her husband and beautiful Cocker Spaniel. Robin is certified by the Supreme Court of Texas as a Certified Shorthand Reporter, aka, court reporter, and has owned her own court reporting business for thirty years.

With over thirty years’ experience working in the legal profession, she is now focused on writing and learning to blog.  Robin perseveres to accomplish her goals and realizes the importance of honesty and integrity in reaching those goals.

She is delighted to have her first book, Dementia or Alzheimer’s? published.  Robin has always been extremely dedicated to the task at hand and works hard to help others in need.

In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, playing the piano, cooking, photography, reading both fiction and non-fiction, and writing.

www.justperfectlyimperfect.com

www.robin-gail.com

robin@robin-gail.com

Facebook – Robin Clark Samrow

Twitter.com/RobinGailSamrow

Pinterest.com/robingailsamrow

Linkedin.com/in/robingailsamrow

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)

Twitter: hsaxton (https://twitter.com/hsaxton?lang=en)

Instagram: heidihesssaxton1999 (https://www.instagram.com/heidihesssaxton1999/)

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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 Mary Edwards-Olson author of “When the Sun Shines Through”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

cover_mary edwards_olsonBy Mary Edwards-Olson

I wrote, When the Sun Shines Through, because of my personal journey. I was a caregiver for my mother and watched first hand as Alzheimer’s slowly stole her from us.

My mother, Elizabeth Edwards, lost her fight with Alzheimer’s on October 23, 2017.

Caring for my mother was a roller coaster of emotions. You go from crying so hard that every inch of your body aches, to being so overwhelmed with joy when a piece of them peeks through the mask of Alzheimer’s. I was ignorant to this disease and its cruelty until I watched it slowly take my mother, piece by piece. It was hard as a caretaker to understand that Mom wasn’t Mom anymore in terms of behavior. There were days I thought she was being lazy or difficult on purpose and I would get so upset. It breaks my heart I ever thought that. It was the disease, in those moments. Please remember it’s the disease. Your loved one is in there, scared and confused. Show compassion and remember to take time for yourself. As a caregiver, we often take a back seat, but remember your loved one needs you to be happy, and emotionally and physically healthy. They may not express it but they understand.

This never-ending pain pushed me to write a book that leads you towards the light, towards the happiness that can often be overlooked because the sadness and darkness will consume you. This was what happened to me; I was so sad ~ the type of sadness that changes a person. Because of this sadness, I often missed those happy moments that seem to shine through. The moments when your loved one remembers you or a childhood event, or when they smile, or remember to tell you they love you. Hold on to that. Let that consume you. Do not focus on the horror of slowly losing your hero or best friend; that was Mom to me, she was my hero and my best friend. The strongest women I knew was fading.

I also witnessed the toll watching a loved one suffer from this disease had on my children. They weren’t just watching their Nana suffer, they were watching their mother break down begging God for a miracle. They were also watching their grandpa become more and more withdrawn, forcing smiles and happiness. I knew there needed to be a book that could help the often forgotten sufferers, the children, but also offer comfort to the adults. Thus, When the Sun Shines Through was born.

Everyone who has purchased the book from me has left with tears in their eyes or a smile on their face. Both children and adults have found peace and comfort in my book. Others have written me or left positive feedback saying my book tells such a painful story in such a sweet comforting way. The words along with the beautiful illustrations remind them to hold on to the good memories they steal from a disease that tries to do nothing but cause heartbreak. It currently has a 4-star rating on Amazon and was on their hot new release list and a top seller on Kindle.

Because of this book I have been able to partner with our local Barnes and Noble to turn the store purple and raise over $2,000 to help find a cure. The Elizabeth Edwards Grant For Hopewas created to help those in our community that can’t afford care or supplies needed to maintain a healthy happy life. We had our first event where we raised almost $5,000! The wonderful part was bringing those with the disease together with the community, those that are caregivers, and those that have lost someone they love under one roof. We gave Alzheimer’s a face!

About the Author
mary_mom_daughter

My name is Mary Edwards-Olson. I’m a writer, a mother, a daughter, a wife. I wake up every day wanting to give up and crawl into a hole, but my drive to find a cure overpowers this emotion. I fight and I refuse to stop! I talk constantly about my journey, the need for a cure, and the pain the hopeless carry. I am a voice and I refuse to be silenced! This is my first book. I have another being illustrated now along with a novel I’m working on as we speak. I have been a guest speaker at many local events and hope to spread my message far beyond my community. Thank you to all of you that fight to end this horrible disease!

Links:

Grant go fund me: https://www.gofundme.com/elizabeth-edwards-grand-for-hope

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Author-Mary-Edwards-Olson-112894719423653/

Take the #facealzchallange: http://alztnevents.org/campaignpage.asp?campaignid=207

Instagram: @Author.Mary.Edwards.Olson

Twitter: @authorMEOlson

Video of Journey: https://vimeo.com/243444581

Author web site: https://yram626.wixsite.com/authormeo

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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

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 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