By 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.
About the Author
Through 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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