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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Welcome back, Wendy Mitchell, author of “Somebody I Used To Know”

By Wendy Mitchell

My name is Wendy Mitchell and I was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia on the 31st July 2014. Who would have thought, on that day of diagnosis, over 3 years ago, that I would now be publishing a book, Somebody I Used to Know? But, on the other hand, why not?

When people hear the word dementia, they often think of the end stages. Well, it has to have a beginning and a middle and Continue reading

Meet author and blogger, Wendy Mitchell

By Wendy Mitchell

Wendy Mitchell at her home in York. 2015

Imagine yourself being given a diagnosis of Young Onset Dementia. Your life falls apart, you feel worthless, and of no use to anyone any more. Services are nonexistent, so you feel abandoned

That’s what happened to me in July 2014, when I was diagnosed with young onset dementia at the age of 58, and still working full-time in the NHS. I retired at the age of 59, due to ill health, thinking there was no alternative. Then I sat waiting for services to kick in, but, of course, nothing happened. There were no services.

I could have given up and gone into a deep state of depression, but I knew there must be more. We all had talents before a diagnosis of dementia; we don’t suddenly lose all those talents overnight when we get a diagnosis.

Opportunities started to come my way, first with research. That was once I’d gotten over the barrier of health care professionals thinking it was their right to deny me the option. Taking part in research gives me hope and I need hope. I could be helping create a better future for my daughters, so taking part in research was a no-brainer for me. Many people, when they hear the word ‘research’ have an image of men in white coats handing out dodgy drugs. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Social and technological research is equally important while we await that elusive cure. I’ve taken part in drugs trials, but also social research to find the best ways to live with dementia and care for those no longer able to care for themselves. I’ve tested apps, I’ve commented on web sites. Yes, me a person with dementia. After all, how do the so-called ‘experts’ know they’re getting it right if they don’t ask the real experts – those of us living with dementia now?

My blog, whichmeamitoday.wordpress.com is for me, simply “my memory.” I couldn’t tell you what I did yesterday unless I read my blog. That other people all over the world choose to read it is humbling, plus it’s enabled me to raise awareness. All I’m doing in my own little way is to show others what can be achieved and not to give up. I also hope it will help others look at dementia differently.

Oh, and I’ve just finished writing my book, Somebody I Used to Know, which is due out in the UK in the New Year and America in May, along with a little “firewalking” in October for my local Hospice.

So, as you can see, I’m a great believer in concentrating on what I still CAN do and not dwelling on the issues that dementia throws at me.

About the Author

I was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia on the 31st July 2014 at the age of 58 years young. I might not have much of a short-term memory, but that’s one date I’ll never forget.

I have two daughters and live happily in Yorkshire.

Website/Blog: www.whichmeamitoday.wordpress.com

Twitter:  @WendyPMitchell

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3-D Book Cover

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 Sandra Bullock Smith, author of “Trading Places, Becoming My Mother’s Mother”

TradingPlacesFinal-FJM_Mid_Res_1000x1500When I first started caring for my mother, I had no apprehension over how difficult the caregiving job would be. I am a strong, capable woman and my mother was gracious, sweet and appreciative. She tended to know the limitations age delivered to her. I tended to know everything. I had Continue reading

Michael Ellenbogen adds to the U.S. Congressional Record

Our friend, Michael Ellenbogen, who lives with early onset Alzheimer’s wrote the following piece which was added to the U.S. Congressional Record on September 21, 2016.Michael Ellenbogen

I am so thankful to be still here. Many of my friends who were living with dementia have died and others are no longer capable of speaking. I am one of the lucky ones. My Alzheimer’s is progressing very slowly. While that is good news it is also bad news. I will be forced to endure the worst Continue reading

Meet Tom & Karen Brenner, authors of “You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care”

you_say_jacketBRENNER PATHWAYS                      

Tom and Karen’s Story

The couple, a man and woman, stood just outside the door of the Scandinavian Home, arguing. The autumn leaves from the towering elms on the grounds of the nursing home swirled around their feet as the cold wind snatched their voices away.

“I told you, Tom, I don’t want to go back today. I am afraid of some of those people. You know how much I hate scenes and last Saturday Bridget yelled at us and told us that Continue reading

Meet blogger, Lisa B. Capp “The Day The Wheels Fell Off”

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 5.51.52 PMBy Lisa B. Capp

Everyone knows someone touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

We write, because today these diseases cannot be prevented, slowed or cured. We seek answers because their manifestation is often irrational, frightening and perplexing. And, as human beings, we continually reach from darkness to find light, whether you’re someone living with dementia or you’re caring for a loved one with the disease. Continue reading

Meet Arthur Levine, author of WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING

ARTHUR LEVINE HS

Last night I lit a Yahrzeit candle for my father, who’s been gone for two years. And I decided, at the last second, that rather than sing a traditional prayer, I’d just sing a few lines from one of his favorite Broadway tunes. It made me smile in a moment that was otherwise sad.

Like many, my father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s was a long and gradual one, but that did not make it easier for him, and it didn’t make it easier for all of the people who loved him. We had to say goodbye over and over as parts of who he had been vanished like color from a beloved garment, never to be restored. Continue reading

Meet Karen Malena, author of Love Woven In Time

love wovenLove in the senior years: A true inspiration to me. My parents are married over sixty years as of this writing. Sixty years of ups and downs, good health and bad, happiness and sadness. But one thing remains: a steadfast love. It is this love that inspired me to write; theirs, and another couple: my husband’s elderly aunt and uncle. Continue reading