Welcome Vanessa K. Williams-Harvey, author of “I Remember”

Reprinted with the permission of AlzAuthors.com

by Vanessa Williams-Harvey

It took years of silence for me to come to terms and let it all out.  Everything came to an abrupt halt in August of 2015.  On that painful and dark day, our mother was ultimately placed in a nursing facility.  We continue to struggle with that painful decision.  My personal guilt, frustrations and regret plagued my soul to the point of endless days and restless nights.  I was able to find relief when I pulled out my tablet and began to jot down everything that had been swirling around in my head.

I started writing about the good times; there were a few. The more I wrote, the more I relaxed and I could finally exhale. I used words to breathe life into the dark reality I suppressed for far too long, finding a voice in writing that I wasn’t quite comfortable with verbalizing. I felt incapable of being accountable to myself, let alone anyone else.

“I Remember” is a candid and brutally honest glimpse of what my family and I experienced on our journey with Alzheimer’s.  My writing is a deep dive with frank details about some tough and challenging times, as we struggled to communicate and collaborate with one another.  It took a lot of time for me to realize that I wasn’t the only one hurting. The very same pain that was ripping at my heart and head was also wreaking havoc on each and every member of our family in a very distinctive way.

As I talked with friends and colleagues about the difficulties we were having as a family, I was amazed by the number of other families being torn apart by a crisis that ultimately led to family conflict. This realization gave me vigor and purpose, while it helped open my eyes to the fact that we are not alone. Although we lacked control over many things that were happening around us, we eventually learned that we did have control on how we would emerge from the ordeal. Our family learned a tough lesson the hard way.

Unfortunately, families in conflict while in the midst of a crisis are a part of everyday life.  When emotions run high, anything can happen. It was deeply troubling to watch everyone I loved slip away. It was almost as difficult as watching Alzheimer’s steal our beloved mother.

Our family wasn’t ready, willing or able to function when Alzheimer’s reared its ugly head. “What would mother do?”  Mother would hold herself accountable and pay her dues to herself–first. By dues, I mean DUES –Do better, Understand better, Expect better, Serve best! It’s what I decided to do and our family is in a much better place today.

I Remember was released in June 2017 and is about a family in conflict, while in the midst of a crisis.  Our family’s crisis was and is Alzheimer’s. Just when we thought all hope was lost, we mustered up the energy to fight for our mother, fight for our integrity and fight for our family. Only then were we able to transition from victims to victory.

About the Author

Vanessa K. Williams-Harvey is a life-long advocate for setting high standards and helping others to achieve their life purpose through self-awareness and proper planning.  She is a registered nurse by profession and currently serves as a Clinical Informatics Manager.  She is also an adjunct faculty with a local college.  In these roles, she has the ability to connect with many diverse people and empowers them to thrive in an ever-changing world.

The book, I Remember is about her family’s journey when its matriarch is stricken with Alzheimer’s disease and how this crisis almost destroyed everything their mother had spent a lifetime building.  Only with time, acceptance, forgiveness and faith were they able to move from victims to victory.  Every family faced with a crisis is challenged and tested in ways that exposes vulnerabilities.

Vanessa is an advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness and serves as a co-chair for the Louisville area Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  She is married to her husband, Mark Harvey, and they are the proud parents of four grown sons and a dog, Maxx.  They both are active members of Burnett Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

The time is now to strive for personal acceptance and satisfaction by paying DUES Do better.  Understand better.  Expect better.  Serve best!

Website            https://www.irememberdues.com/
Email address  irememberdus@att.net

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Welcome, Karen Severson, MD, author of “Look, I Shrunk Grandma”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Karen Severson, MD

This book has been in my head for years. It started with the constant frustration of being caught in the middle of disagreements between nursing homes and families. Sent as a representative of the nursing home to address aggressive behaviors, nurses would relate to me how horrible and dangerous the person with dementia was acting. People were getting injured and care was not able to be performed. I would speak to the families and they were angry with the homes. “They are trained to handle these problems. Why do you need medications?” The families felt the homes were medicating for staff convenience.

In the heat of these situations, it was difficult to explain all the medications I have available and all the factors going into my decisions. The nursing home staff would come to me saying the families just didn’t understand or acted unreasonable. Families were upset no one was taking the time to understand their parent. There were several families who still had not even accepted their loved one had dementia.  How was I going to explain the many facets of dementia in a way to make it clear?  I always wished I had a book that I could hand to people, so everyone involved could understand both sides of the issue. Instead of homes and families in perpetual battles, I wanted us to all be on the same team. In this way, the person struggling with dementia is provided the best care possible.

My other motivation for writing Look, I Shrunk Grandma, a Psychiatrist’s Guide to Nursing Homes, Dementia and End of Life came from seeing persons with dementia suffering. Many families cling to a natural denial that dementia is terminal. As a result, they ask for medical procedures that could prolong life, but may also inadvertently cause more suffering. When stopping numerous interventions were suggested, we have been accused of being heartless or cruel, allowing someone to die. With the experience from my mother’s death, I wanted to do what I could to decrease end-of-life suffering. Modern medicine has become a curse and a blessing. We need to help people understand its limitations. Unless they understand these limitations, it is unfair to expect them to make the best decisions for their families. Most people don’t have a medical background and feel overwhelmed.

Look, I Shrunk Grandma is newly released, but the feedback has been positive. Nurses reading the book say that they finally feel understood. Part of the book discusses why I feel people have trouble letting loved ones go into hospice care. The families that have read this have felt less guilty in doing so, as well as better able to make informed decisions.

Lastly, I had to write with humor. I find it incredibly hard to read about such difficult subjects and felt humor would make it easier.

About the Author

I am a country girl born in Indiana, but moved to Hartford, Connecticut for my father’s work in the insurance industry. My parents threw me and my siblings outside with a ball all day to keep us out of their hair. As a result, I grew up loving sports and entered Ithaca College to pursue a Physical Education degree. My chemistry teacher told me I had a great memory and suggested I go to medical school. I took my great memory to University of Connecticut and later Brown University to study psychiatry. I always knew I loved the mixture of the mind and the body and had to go into Geriatric Psychiatry. I later completed a fellowship in Geriatric Psychiatry at Albert Einstein.

Despite being a psychiatrist, I act more like a pediatrician, as I love to laugh and do it often. I find it hard to be serious. Today I live in Florida and enjoy time with my family. I still play a ton of sports, but get injured way too often. I now work in the addiction field trying to save young lives. Maybe I will write about that someday as well.

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