Meet Rachel Hiles, “Taking Care of Grandma” blogger

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Rachel Hiles

When I became my grandma’s caregiver, I searched desperately for support.

No, not home-delivered meals or adult daycare.

Not home care agencies or government programs.

No, I was on a relentless pursuit for the others.

You see, when we are in the thick of caregiving, there are times when we feel oh so alone. Even if we have watched people taking care of their relatives while growing up, or hear about it on TV, we are never fully prepared for caregiving until it actually happens to us. And then we are islands.

When you realize for the first time your loved one might have dementia, it feels like the ocean is coming to swallow up your island.

This feeling of aloneness is a feeling I have grown quite accustomed to as an only child. As an only child caring for an only child, I realized just how small our tiny little island was and this gnawing only grew stronger.

The people I thought would come through for us never showed up. Some of these same people were the ones who were telling me I should give up and look at placing Grandma in a facility, I said, “No, she can stay at home.” In spite of it all, my primary motivation is to see this through to the very end, making sure she has a good life every step of the way.

I figured there had to be some others like us. Others not just caring for their loved ones at home, but proactively looking for ways to keep them there. Others that could find the humor in caregiving mishaps, instead of being so freaked out by them they never even try. Others that are willing to make sacrifices to help their loved one, who after all, sacrificed greatly for them. Others that are concerned with respecting their elders and values of family and community (yes, they still do exist).

Since I had my own social struggles, I didn’t know anyone personally my age, let alone someone my age who was also caring for a loved one, so I started searching.

In my search for the others, TakingCareofGrandma.comwas born. It was my desperate attempt to light the branches on the beach and send out smoke signals to other people like me who are caring for an aging relative. I thought that if I started blogging about my caregiving adventure, the others—granddaughters, nephews, nieces and neighbors, people searching for the same things I was searching for—would find me.

Be careful what you wish for, they say. Out of nowhere, the othersstarted popping up left and right. In my inbox. On Twitter. At Grandma’s high school class reunion. At conferences.

Thanks to my smoke signals, the others are showing up all the time.

Ultimately, I hope that my blog is more than just an endearing story from an ephemeral point in one person’s life. I hope that my readers of TakingCareofGrandma.comfind my tips and tricks, videos and silly stories helpful, and that they spark ideas of how they might be able to support a loved one they are caring for. When I told my grandma I wanted to start my blog, I convinced her by telling her we were doing the world a service—after all, it is up to us to show the world how it’s done. I never looked back.
Even though I started TakingCareofGrandma.comwith the intention of finding, helping, and inspiring others, it is seriously one of the greatest gifts I ever gave to myself. Starting this blog has not only been a source of catharsis for me, it has also put opportunities in front of me and brought people into my life in a way I never thought was possible.

My advice out there to anyone who is currently caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia: Never lose hope of finding the others. It is when you least expect it and in our darkest moments that they come into the light.

About the Author

Rachel Hiles is a 30-something aspiring local celebrity do-gooder in Kansas City. She is a proud graduate of the UMKC Bloch school, where she obtained her Masters of Public Administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management. She worked in the developmental disabilities field in a variety of roles for over 13 years. Most recently, she ventured down the path to self-employment as a graphic, web and media designer so she could have flexibility in her role as primary caregiver to her grandma, Barbara.

Connect with Rachel:

https://takingcareofgrandma.com

https://facebook.com/takingcareofgrandma/

https://twitter.com/takingcareofgma

https://www.caregiving.com/members/rkhiles/

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Meet Daniel Kenner, author of “Room For Grace”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Daniel Kenner

After many long months of exhaustive family struggles, cognitive and behavior changes and, a lengthy process of medical evaluations and tests, my dad, Buddy, received the devastating diagnosis of Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD). It was Valentine’s Day 2013. FTD is a rare neurological disease that affects personality and social behavior, speech and language comprehension and, executive functions involved in reasoning, decision-making and planning. Never to be outdone, my mom, Maureen, always the fierce competitor, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer only four months later.

That year, my best friend’s parents died in a terrible plane crash and that sudden tragedy struck me in such a profound way. “I am going to lose my mother and my father,” I remember thinking, “but I still have time.” I don’t know which is worse: losing parents instantly or watching them slowly deteriorate but, I knew I wouldn’t squander the chance to say goodbye.

Dad was a natural storyteller and through that, he became my favorite story to tell. He was my hero. The highest compliment I can give of my dad was he had a son that idolized him. Everything he loved, I was determined to love just as much or more: Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, Marlon Brando, absurdist theater and the San Francisco 49ers. But dementia made him quiet and apathetic, he no longer expressed an interest in the things we used to do together. To the outsider, it looked like he stopped caring. Mom would go for chemo and when she’d come home he wouldn’t ask how her day was or how she was feeling. She constantly worried that neither of them would be strong enough to keep their vows. The life they worked toward was not there; it had changed past the point of recognizing and the reality of what they retired to was obvious. What would happen to Dad when something happened to her? What was going to happen to Mom when something happened to him? But the silver lining was that the doctors had promised aggression and there was none of that. Dad was content and experienced joy. When we’d ask him what he liked about a situation or an event, his response always revolved around describing somebody’s smile. So, for three years Mom continued to be Dad’s main caregiver and, during that time, she completed sixty-three rounds of chemotherapy.

Sixty-three rounds of chemotherapy.

There was an onslaught of doctors and nurses and family and friends and volunteers and neighbors who never said no and extended every possible resource to us. I needed my own way to help, to keep me close, to feel protected. Not wanting to lose my parents’ voices, I planned and organized an oral history project for their thirtieth wedding anniversary. We recorded thirty hours of interviews and conversations. Room for Grace became my way to preserve their stories and their legacy. The project prepared me for a life with them gone but, a life of peace and with no regrets.

Then, a week after Father’s Day, Dad slipped on the steps bringing up the laundry. He fell down six stairs onto hard basement concrete. The man we loved spent the last seven months of his life basically paralyzed with an incomplete spinal disorder. And, because they were soul mates on a timeline so interconnected, on August 10, my thirtieth birthday, the doctors recommended Mom to Hospice. She was out of options.

I spent the last fall and winter by their bedsides. It was so painful but when I was called to act, I did. I jumped in. Full speed ahead. Until the end, Dad was able to be the father that he wanted to be. Tragedy showed me what kind of man I am, or at least, the potential of the man I can be. By participating fully, I left myself open to heartache, but also open to great joy and happiness and deep and meaningful connections. My patience, my humor, my work ethic, my love, all the traits a father would want for his son, brought out the best of my parents. I learned to never miss an opportunity to do something good for someone else. Room for Grace was a gift we shared together and it became my strength and my armor. It saved me countless times from heartache and desperation because I knew I would never lose them. My parents are going to miss out on a lot of my life; I am going to have to find symbolic gestures and signs to fill that emptiness, but I know that they were truly proud of me and that they had countless chances to watch me grow. I am so eager to share their story with you.

About the Author:

Daniel Kenner is an actor, playwright and co-author of  Room for Grace. Through anecdotes and hard-earned lessons, a family tackles challenge after challenge and reframes daily struggles with a positive outlook allowing them to transcend and conquer mortal fears with dignity and room for grace. More information can be found at www.RoomForGrace.org. Room for Grace partners with different organizations and 10% of each book purchased will be donated. The first organization receiving donations is Eye to Eye which began in Maureen Kenner’s Room 4 classroom. Eye to Eye fulfills their mission by supporting and growing a network of youth mentoring programs run by and for those with learning differences.

www.RoomForGrace.org

https://www.facebook.com/Room4Grace

https://www.instagram.com/silverbootimprints

@TheDanielKenner

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Welcome back Bobbi Carducci, author of “Caregiver – You Are Not Alone”

Reprinted with the permission of AlzAuthors.com

By Bobbi Carducci

Caregivers very often become isolated as the needs of the one-in-care progress. Even well-intentioned family and friends begin to drift away, leaving caregivers wondering if anyone understands what their life has become.

I know that feeling very well. A caregiver for my father-in-law, Rodger for seven years, I often felt as if the rest of the world had moved on to work and family life, believing my days were easy.

Some questioned how hard could it be to stay at home and cook his meals and take him to the doctor now and then. Surely I exaggerated the difficulty.

Worse was when I doubted myself. Was I the only one who questioned whether my loved one was faking sometimes? Or wondered why someone I cared about and rearranged my life for was suddenly treating me as the enemy? Did anyone else get angry and lose their temper or was that a character flaw unique to me? Toward the end, after weeks of little sleep and constant stress, when I prayed for it to be over, I questioned my humanity. I didn’t want him to die. I wanted the pain to end. But still, was I the only one holding that silent wish in their heart?

After speaking with caregivers and interacting with them as caregiver support group leader, and through online groups and as speaker at caregiver conferences, I heard many caregivers express the same doubts and fears inspiring me to write my second book for caregivers.

Caregiver –You Are Not Alone is an anthology of caregiver stories representing varying ages, genders, and family dynamics all doing the hardest job they ever had to do. Although they may be slightly different from our personal experience, they are our stories too.

Each story is followed by an essay reflecting on my personal experience and feelings while caring for Rodger, when I felt very much alone.

About the Author

Bobbi  Carducci is a national speaker on the subject of Alzheimer’s and dementia, how it affects entire families and how to Prepare to Care – What Adults need to Know about Alzheimer’s/ Dementia Before and After It Strikes Home.

Amazon: Caregiver –You Are Not Alone

Amazon:  Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver

Website: www.bobbicarducci.com  

Twitter: @BobbiCarducci2

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Meet Barbara Smith, author of “Still Giving Kisses”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Barbara Smith

I am an occupational therapist, specializing in developmental disabilities. I had never planned to work in the area of geriatrics. But when my mother developed Alzheimer’s disease, I was thrust into the world of home care, Medicare, assisted living and nursing homes. I read numerous books and learned the lingo of lawyers, the health care bureaucracy and gerontology.

Fortunately, as an occupational therapist, I have years of experience adapting environments and creating activities to promote functional skills and quality of life. I wrote this book to share how I helped my mother enjoy her life as best as possible, as she regressed through the stages.

I could not help but notice that the residents in my mom’s assisted living and then her nursing home had few visitors. I believe that there are many reasons for this, but common ones are:

  • Friends and loved ones are scared and confused about the person’s decline
  • Friends and family do not know how to relate to a person who may no longer speak or seem to recognize them.
  • And most sadly, friends and family think that the person has so little awareness that their presence is of no value.

My primary goal in writing Still Giving Kisses: Helping and Enjoying the Alzheimer’s Victim You Love was to offer an alternative to the above situations. Like many others, I was in the “sandwich generation.” My son was a tween and teen during these years and had many developmental and social challenges related to autism. The time crunch from work and family obligations naturally made spending time with my mom difficult–as I’m sure is true for millions of other caregivers. However, when loved ones learn how to help and actually enjoy being with this person, the relationship takes on a beautiful and mutually beneficial meaning. Given the right information and support, family and friends can learn how to spend quality time with a loved one that will create positive memories.

The title of this book reflects one of the few remaining motor acts my mother was able to perform during the last few months of her life. When she was no longer speaking, non-ambulatory and unable to eat independently, she was still able to pucker up her lips to communicate “I love you, come over for my kiss.” This was a highly significant motor act, one that symbolizes a continuing connectedness between myself and the Alzheimer’s victim I loved.

There are many books on the market that describe the symptoms and stages of Alzheimer’s disease and behavioral interventions that promote function. Often this information is dry and overwhelming. There are also many highly readable memoirs that give the spouse, adult-children or the victim’s point of view. In writing, Still Giving Kisses, I strove to provide both.

You will read a compelling memoir of a woman whose earlier mental health problems compounded the many challenges of memory impairment. The many therapeutic techniques, adaptations and teaching tools I share are all tricks of the occupational therapy trade, along with my own unique touch. Extensive resources and medical, legal and care-giving information provide survival tools.

Although I wrote this book primarily for friends and family of Alzheimer’s victims, Still Giving Kissesprovides a framework for health care professionals entering the field of geriatrics. Indeed, I wish this resource had been available when my mother began showing the earliest symptoms. I hope that my book helps you to enjoy a journey that nobody chooses to take . . .

About the Author

Barbara Smith is an occupational therapist specializing in developmental disabilities. She discovered a penchant for creating highly effective therapeutic activities out of household materials such as detergent bottles, cardboard boxes and newspapers. Her book The Recycling Occupational Therapist describes how to fabricate and use these activities.

Barbara’s second book From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills(published by Therapro, Inc. 2011) is written for parents with typically developing children from ages birth through five years to help develop the skills needed to read and write. In addition, the activity adaptations make learning easier for children with sensory, motor or sensory challenges.

From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skillsis written for parents of children who have or they suspect may have an autism spectrum disorder. Readers will learn how autism impacts the development of hand skills and to use the teaching strategies and adaptations that help children reach their potentials to perform everyday functional activities and academic skills in school.

Please visit the following links for information on resources including my books, courses, educational videos and social media.

Buy the book: Amazon

Website: http://www.RecyclingOT.com

Blog: http://www.recyclingot.blogspot.com

Educational Videos https://rumble.com/user/RecyclingOT

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RecyclingOT/?ref=ts

Twitter https://twitter.com/barbarasmithotr

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Meet Carol B. Amos, author of “H.O.P.E. For The Alzheimer’s Journey”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Carol B. Amos

“H.O.P.E. for the Alzheimer’s Journey: Help, Organization, Preparation, and Education for the Road Ahead.”

My two brothers and I were devastated when our mother began displaying signs of Alzheimer’s disease in 2002. She lived alone in her home and her nearest adult child lived four hours away. We banded together to face this challenge head-on. We began a period of observing, investigating, collaborating, and careful listening to gain insight into the situation. We visited and called our mother more often. We each solicited advice from caregivers we knew and visited our local Alzheimer’s Association office.

My brothers and I worked hard to help our mother maintain her independence and remain in her home. We worked with her doctors and after multiple attempts, Aricept was prescribed. We hired a social worker and nurse to assist her. When “issues” arose, we never knew if an event occurred as she explained. This was extremely frustrating to us. Eventually a dangerous incident demonstrated that she could no longer live alone. It was difficult taking responsibility for our strong, independent mother.

I learned about Alzheimer’s disease through reading, attending workshops, observing caregivers, and from on-the-job training. I have learned from my successes and my failures during this eleven-year period. I have shared my learning, experience, and encouragement with friends, family, and colleagues as they embarked on their journey. I found that a little information made a big difference in their caregiving, so I wrote the book “H.O.P.E. for the Alzheimer’s Journey.” Help, organization, preparation, and education can make the Alzheimer’s journey less stressful and more rewarding.

“H.O.P.E. for the Alzheimer’s Journey” equips caregivers for their journey. The book is a combination of structured information, insights, and personal narratives to demonstrate the concepts. The concepts are conveyed in an open, honest, and creative manner using original family email communications. These emails provide insight into our thoughts, concerns, emotions, and deliberations as we realized our mother’s memory loss, sought a diagnosis and treatment, selected housing options, and developed care strategies as our mother continued to deteriorate. The book introduces The Caregiving Principle™, a simple and novel approach that provides a deeper understanding of the person with Alzheimer’s and a framework for the caregiver’s role. The Caregiving Principle™ statesthat the amount and type of caregiving required is directly related to the needs and capability of the person requiring care. In other words:

            “Needs of the Person” – “Needs Filled by the Person” =“Needs to be Filled by the                                                                                  Caregiver(s)

Simply put, if a person has needs and cannot provide for all of their own needs, then someone else must provide those needs. The “someone else” is a caregiver. The principle utilizes a holistic approach by using Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to define a person’s needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs increased my understanding of my mother.

“H.O.P.E. for the Alzheimer’s Journey” has been a blessing to many caregivers since the pre-release in May 2018. My ultimate goal is for the book to become obsolete. I am actively involved with fundraising and advocacy efforts to increase research so that a cure is found for Alzheimer’s disease.

About the Author:

Carol B. Amos started her Alzheimer’s journey when her mother started having memory problems. Carol has immersed herself in Alzheimer’s education by reading and attending conferences, workshops, and support groups. Carol is a CARES Dementia Specialist and is Alzheimer’s Association essentiALZ Plus certified. She was the winner of the 2012 “Your Favorite Memory” essay contest sponsored by the Delaware Valley Alzheimer’s Association. She has a passion to share her knowledge and make the journey for Alzheimer’s caregivers less stressful and more rewarding. She is also working to help eliminate Alzheimer’s disease as an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer, fundraiser, and advocate.

Carol has a B.S. and M.Eng. in chemical engineering from Cornell University. She retired from a thirty-five-year career at The DuPont Company. She is active in her church (youth ministry, women’s ministry, usher board, and construction committee). She has been married to her husband, Alvin, for nineteen years. She enjoys tennis, travel, and gardening at her home in Delaware.

Connect with the Author:

Buy the book:  Amazon

Website: www.carolbamos.com

Twitter: @Carolbamos

LinkedIN: www.linkedin.com/in/carol-b-amos-a18b9a158

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carol.b.amos.3

Amazon Book Page: https://www.amazon.com/HOPE-Alzheimers-Journey-Organization-Preparation/dp/168350903X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Publication: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/06/19/alzheimers-caregivers-remember-there-h-o-p-e/714534002/  

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Meet Richard Creighton, blogger of “Living With Alzheimer’s”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com 

By Richard Creighton

Why would a 78-year-old grandfather who doesn’t like to write become a blogger? The answer lies in my personal experience before my wife Kate was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011.

We played a major role in caring for our parents. There was a lot to learn. I felt we knew far too little about our parents’ experiences before our involvement in their lives. Kate and I were happy to have cared for them, but we wanted to make life easier for our own children. That meant keeping them knowledgeable about our lives. That, in turn, led me to start a journal the day of Kate’s diagnosis. This was a way to document our experiences for future reference.

After a year or two, I began to think that my journal might be of interest to others, especially those who are living with Alzheimer’s themselves. It was too much for a book, and I was continuing to make regular entries. A blog seemed like the way to go.

There are three things about our story that make it a little different from others. First, it is both an account of our post-diagnosis experiences, as well as a “real-time” account of what is happening every day. Second, ours is a story of optimism and joy. No couple escapes the challenges of dementia and the sadness that comes with it, but we have been able to live happily throughout our journey. Third, it is not a place to look for advice. I believe there are many other sources for that. This is simply our story. It tells what it’s been like for us to live with Alzheimer’s.

We’ve maintained an active lifestyle throughout our journey. Most of that has involved our everyday activities here in Knoxville. We attend most of the theatrical productions at three of our local theaters. In addition, we attend a variety of musical events that include opera, jazz, and Broadway. We have traveled a good bit over the course of our marriage. Since Kate’s diagnosis, we’ve enjoyed an African safari and trips to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, and New Zealand. Our last and final international trip was to Switzerland in 2015, where we both paraglided off the mountain top overlooking Interlaken.

About a year after her diagnosis, we started eating out for all our meals except breakfast. For us, that has proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. The meals themselves have been secondary. The important thing is that it has helped to minimize stress and social isolation. It wouldn’t be for everyone, but it works for us.

We’ve been very fortunate. We continue to enjoy life and each other even though Kate’s memory is virtually gone. It is only now that we are reaching the hardest part of our journey. Our experiences may not be representative of others, but I am sure that almost any primary care partner will recognize the issues we have faced. If you get a chance, drop by sometime at http://livingwithalzheimers.com.

About the Author

Richard Creighton is a former college professor and business owner. He and his wife, Kate, met in college and have been married 55 years. They have a daughter and a son and five grandchildren.

Caregiving has been a central part of their lives since the Fall of 1989 when Kate’s father had a stroke. Three of their parents were cared for and died at home, his father in the hospital. Kate’s mother lived in their home for almost 5 ½ years with 24/7 care provided through an agency. Through those experiences Richard learned much about the health issues, living arrangements, and personal care for people with dementia.

Kate was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years before his dad died. He says that his experiences with their parents has helped him to be a better primary care partner for Kate. He is guided by his belief that there is no greater privilege than to walk with someone you love through the last chapters of her life.

Blog: http://livingwithalzheimers.com

Twitter: @LivingWthAlz

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The Power of Community

by Irene Frances Olson, AlzAuthors Global Outreach Coordinator

The quickest method to connect with someone is the virtual, social media connection with which we are all familiar. But unless a person crosses the precipice from virtual to real, there is no way to truly understand the benefit of in-person relationships.

That was the case for the AlzAuthors Management Team when all six of us convened at the 2018 National Caregiving Conference in Chicago. The team was generously gifted with the opportunity to gather from the corners of the world from which we hail: the states of Washington, Montana, Ohio, North Carolina, and New York, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Meeting for the first time was a highly anticipated emotional event that proved beyond beneficial to me. You think you know someone after spending months or years emailing, texting, and video-calling, but what I discovered is you can’t truly know a person until extended “facetime” occurs.

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AlzAuthors In-Person Connections. Upper Left: Lisa B. Capp, Jean Lee, Vicki Tapia, Irene Frances Olson; Upper Right: Florrie Munat & Ann Campanella; Lower Right: Bobbi Carducci & Marianne Sciucco; Lower Left: Kathryn Harrison & Jean Lee

I met with as many conference attendees as I could and having done so, I came away concluding that community is everything. Like-minded individuals – at least 250 of them – gathered together for several days to feed the spirit, nourish the soul, and further the mission of being a support to the weary caregiver.

Regardless of which disease renders a person in need of care – Alzheimer’s, cancer, ALS, and the like – caregiver heroes need as much support as can be given. A powerful community goes a long way toward lessening a person’s burden, and as AlzAuthors has been known to say:

One can sing a lonely song, but we chose to form a choir and create harmony.

Six-pack Winner
Winner of the NCC18 AlzAuthors 6-Pack Giveaway

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New Release! Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Stories, Volume 1, an AlzAuthors Anthology

AlzAuthors AnthologyThe AlzAuthors management team is pleased to announce the publication of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Stories: 58 Authors Share their Inspiring Personal Experiences, Vol. 1. This poignant collection of stories grew out of the first year’s blog posts on AlzAuthors.com, from June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017. Within its pages, you will be immersed in a world of writing about Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The contributing authors have all been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia, whether they live with the disease, are caregivers, or simply care. They reveal the story behind their books, what made them sit down and painstakingly share their story, and what they have gained from doing so.

This year-long project was made possible through the international collaboration of seven women, all daughters of dementia, your AlzAuthors management team.  We have worked tirelessly to find and vet resources – memoir, novels, nonfiction, poetry, children’s books, and blogs – to provide those living with dementia a friendly place to find the support and knowledge they need. We believe that by sharing our stories we open a dialogue that not only reduces the stigma surrounding a dementia diagnosis, but enlightens others to the reality that “I made it through. You can too.”

Heartfelt thanks go to our Special Projects Editor Jay Artale, author of  A Turbulent Mind: A Poetry Collection of a Mother’s Journey with Alzheimer’s,  who  donated countless hours to the design and formatting of this beautiful book.

In early 2019, we will begin the process of creating Volume 2, which will consist of posts from June 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018.

This book would make a wonderful gift for a caregiver you may know who is in need of knowledge, support, and comfort. Please keep it in mind as you do your holiday shopping. It is currently available on Amazon in Kindle format. Purchase here. A paperback is in the works and should be published within the next week or two.

All proceeds from anthology sales will be used by AlzAuthors.comto maintain our site and promote our authors’ books.

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Meet Martin Schreiber, author of “My Two Elaines”

MTE coverReprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Martin J. Schreiber 

If there’s one thing worse than Alzheimer’s, it’s ignorance of the disease.

Count me among those who were ignorant. Over the past decade, I’ve learned more about Alzheimer’s than I ever thought was possible. To be sure, I’m no expert on the science of the brain. But I know what Alzheimer’s did to my heart – it broke it when it struck my wife Elaine some 14 years ago.

I’m striking back against Alzheimer’s by speaking out, to wipe out some of that ignorance of the disease. My book, My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, came out in November 2016. Loved ones of those with dementia say it resonates with them. I’ve done more than 150 presentations in four states, with lots more coming up. I’m energized by these audiences.

Following a recent event in Wisconsin, a man who is a caregiver for his wife with dementia approached. He wanted to thank me for writing the book.

“It turned my life around,” he told me, tears welling in his eyes – and soon in mine, too. “You saved me.”

Comments like those are beyond what I expected when I wrote My Two Elaines. My goal was to help caregivers learn, cope and survive. I felt compelled to share my own experiences so that other caregivers would have an easier time.

My book grew out of a short magazine article about me and Elaine that was published in a Milwaukee-area magazine in July 2014. Up to that time, only my family and closest friends even knew I was an Alzheimer’s caregiver. After reading the article, they urged me to use my name recognition as a former governor to draw attention to the plight of these heroes.

Fast forward to the fall of 2015, after Elaine moved to memory care assisted living. My quieter time at home was allowing me to reflect on the now-completed experience of caregiving at home, and to ask myself “what’s next?” I set to work, pouring out my thoughts on paper and on my laptop – whichever I had at my fingertips when inspiration struck.

In just two months, I had a first draft of a book, and I began to share it with not only my inner circle, but also with friends I’d lost contact with due to my caregiving responsibilities. They told me, “we had no idea what you were going through.” That made me think, if it was happening to me, surely there must be many other caregivers whose work was going unnoticed, unacknowledged and unsupported. That spurred me to get my book published.

The first shipment of books (5,000!) had barely  landed in my garage in November 2016, and right away I hit the road. The response was so great I had to order more books (10,000!) in early 2017. When it was time to order once again, I took a step back and knew I needed to include some of the “conversations from the road.” I also realized that while I had told my story and Elaine’s (by way of her journal entries), I hadn’t given our kids the chance to voice their thoughts. So now, all four of them have added their perspectives in the Epilogue.

I sincerely hope that my book is helping others who are experiencing isolation, grief and depression due to caregiving. We cannot give up. We have to educate others.

If there’s anything worse than Alzheimer’s, it’s ignorance of the disease.

www.mytwoelaines.com includes complete information, including a list of Marty’sMarty upcoming Events and a speaker request form.

My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver is available on Amazon. To request autographed copies, use the order form at www.mytwoelaines.com.

authors@mytwoelaines.com

Twitter.com/MyTwoElaines

Facebook.com/MyTwoElaines

Youtube.com

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Meet Iris Waichler, author of “Role Reversal”

Role ReversalBy Iris Waichler

I began writing my book, Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents, as a tribute to my father, Melvin Sneider. I knew he was an extraordinary and giving person who had touched many lives. When I began writing, he was 95 and in good health after recovering from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 90.

Suddenly things changed. He was hospitalized for pneumonia. As it happens with many seniors, he suffered a cascade of medical problems. They included irregular heartbeat, inability to eat food except if it was pureed, memory issues and dementia, incontinence, and decreased mobility. He was unable to get dressed or bathe without help. His decline continued until his death at age 97.

While I was writing my book, I encountered many people who were caregivers. The numbers surprised me. I had been a caregiver for my mother and two friends prior to becoming my dad’s primary caregiver. I come to caregiving from two perspectives. I have been a medical social worker and patient advocate for forty years. My work involved helping patients and family members cope with catastrophic illness and helping them to set up additional care post hospitalization.

I chose to blend my personal experience as a caregiver with my professional expertise in writing my book. Many caregivers face universal challenges that leave us feeling overwhelmed and alone. Before he became ill, my dad had written his own autobiography. I learned he had become a caregiver from an early age trying to protect his brothers and sister from a father who was emotionally and physically abusive. I decided to use his voice with mine in writing my book. He became a caregiver for many people in his life, something I had never realized until I read his writing.

My book is an unusual combination of memoir and self-help. It is also unusual in having the voices of the caregiver and the person who receives care. I use my dad’s life story as a springboard to approach common caregiving concerns. For example, when my dad decides to go into assisted living, I have a chapter where I interview a nursing director about what family members and potential residents should know and ask about when considering this transition.

My goal in writing my book was to reach as many people as possible who are struggling with this ultimate role reversal, where the adult child becomes a caregiver for their parent. It is a useful tool for all caregivers. I address topics like coping with grief, memory loss, and confusion to concrete issues like estate planning and assessing the right level of care.

When I contacted publishers, some told me since my father was not well-known nobody would care about his story. I have been so pleased to hear from so many people telling me how much they connected with him and how they loved his story as well as my professional input.

The response to my book has been surprising, gratifying, and overwhelming. It has won six major book awards. People seem to really respond to the the way I have structured Role Reversal and find the information, resources, and support strategies very useful in their daily lives. This brings me great joy. I am very proud of my book and love the idea that my dad will live on through my readers.

About The Author

Iris***Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW is the author of 3 books including Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. Role Reversal is the winner of 6 major book awards. Ms. Waichler has been a medical social worker and patient advocate for 40 years. She has done freelance writing, counseling, and workshops, on patient advocacy and healthcare related issues for 17 years.

Website: http://iriswaichler.com

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/IrisWaichler

Link to buy on Amazon 

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