Alzheimer’s disease

Meet Sue Anne W. Kirkham, author of Loving Zelda – A Stepdaughter’s Caregiving Journal

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by Sue Anne W. Kirkham

How it all began:

It was late October when my husband, Jack, and I showed up at my father and stepmother’s townhouse to walk their two dogs—a duty we’d taken on several months earlier, after they announced they no longer felt up to the task. At 84, my father suffered from respiratory and circulatory problems; at 81, my stepmother showed early signs of dementia, with some Parkinson’s-like tremors erupting, just to keep things interesting. I was determined that they not be forced by these circumstances to give up their pets. On this day, Dad greeted us at the door with another shocker. “We have to move into assisted living.” No hello. No how ya doin? Just this stark declaration.

Dad and Zelda had always been younger than their years in every respect. He continued his career as a psychologist into his late 70s, and the warm, witty, delightful woman he married in 1972 had always been active and ready for a new adventure. Each enjoyed absorbing hobbies, and they eagerly traveled the globe together for most of their 32-year marriage.

As Jack and I herded the pups that chilly autumn day, I remained troubled by the prospect of a radical change in lifestyle for my beloved father and stepmother. So I hatched a plan: leave my dreary clerical position and devote myself to lightening their load and injecting some sparkle back into their lives. I would carve out a new weekday vocation as companion/housekeeper/social director/exercise coach/assistant cook.

I kept a journal from Day One as, over the next 18 months, Zelda suffered incremental losses of mental acuity. Less noticeably, my father’s COPD was cranking toward a dramatic climax that none of us anticipated. While I focused on finding enough fingers to plug the ever-multiplying holes in the home-front dike, Dad’s staunch self-sufficiency propelled him through his own physical deterioration. Meanwhile, I watched Zelda—former organizer of Fourth of July kitchen band marches—fade into confusion. To be at her side through the slow, agonizing loss of her Self would prove to be the most affecting experience of my life. It soon became clear that the course I was chronicling was strewn with striking contrasts: moments of high hilarity and wrenching despair; snapshots of the struggle for dignity in the face of decline; arcs of mood between fear and optimism, gratitude and resentment. Hobbling my efforts to navigate these troubled waters was the crushing blow of friends and family members challenging my motives, questioning my trustworthiness.

This enterprise had much to teach me about life and death, human limitations, faith, and endurance. The struggle, as they say, was real. But the joys and rewards were every bit as genuine.

Why I wrote about it:

As my time with Dad and Zelda ended, a fresh commitment shaped my mission: I had been seeking a book topic I felt passionate about. This was that subject. I would share our experiences, unique amidst all the universal similarities, to promote understanding and support others confronting the challenge of caring for those who once cared for us. I chose the memoir format because, as dementia robbed Zelda of her voice, my journal became the story; it painted a complete and authentic picture for readers. Memoir also allowed for the interweaving of  family history, a fleshing out of characters, and a means of affirming through narration the individual’s continuing worth, untainted by the loss of physical and cognitive abilities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue Anne Kirkham is a freelance writer who blogs atwww.yourrecipesforlife.com. She has published print articles on aging and family relations as well as online profiles of inspiring everyday heroes, and essays on health-conscious living and the peculiarities of contemporary culture.

FOLLOW THE AUTHOR:

 

FOLLOW THE AUTHOR:

Author website: www.lovingzelda.com

Author Facebook page: @LovingZeldaCaregiving/

Twitter: @SueAnneKirkham1

LinkedIn: Sue Anne Kirkham

One Week Only: discounted books about Alzheimer’s and other dementia

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AlzAuthors is celebrating their four year anniversary as an entity by offering many discounted books for an entire week, but that’s not all. The Longest Day – which starts this discounted week-long period – is known in the Alzheimer’s community as a day to celebrate and honor those with the disease, and those who have passed from the disease.

AlzAuthors honors each caregiver – past and present – who has experienced the struggles inherent with helping a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or any other disease under the dementia umbrella; they are offering this discounted book purchasing opportunity to everyone who might benefit. If you know of someone in that category, please share this post with them – you will be doing them a great favor. Click right here to discover the discounted prices, then click on the book cover (or covers) of the books you wish to purchase, and you’ll be directed to the purchase page for each book. It’s that easy!

Sustenance for the family caregiver

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In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, New York Times columnist and author, David Brooks, eloquently responded to Oprah’s statement where she said, “I hear that authors write the books they need to read.” Mr. Brooks’ response:

We writers are beggars who tell other beggars where we found bread.

He further explained that statement by saying:

We found it here, we want to share it with you.

That is what the more than 200 AlzAuthors have in common. Each author may describe their quest or mission somewhat differently, but no doubt many of them would agree that the impetus to write about their personal experiences was a call to action they could not ignore.

As a member of the AlzAuthors community, I personally feel that the more mainstream the conversation surrounding the Alzheimer’s and dementia experience becomes, the more the AlzAuthors’ vision will be realized:

Our vision is to lift the silence and stigma of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

May you find sustenance within the AlzAuthors community.

My extraordinary success as an author

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A lot of time and effort go into writing a book. Regardless of the genre, much needs to take place prior to that work of art arriving in the public’s eye to be consumed. The writing process is grueling: outlining; picking character names – developing those characters to become who you need them to be, killing off characters that don’t add anything to the storyline or content; researching anything and everything having to do with absolutely every topic you decided to include within the front and back covers of your project; pounding out page after page of your shitty first draft – because every first draft is shitty; editing, cutting and pasting, throwing out your manuscript and then retrieving it from the garbage because you can’t bear to give up on something that initially seemed to mean so much to you.

But the preparation for my novel began years before I knew I would even be writing it.

My life changed forever when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Up until that point, AD was something that happened to other people. Just like everyone else, I was afraid of it – had friends whose parents or other loved ones were diagnosed with it – but just like everyone else, I really and truly did not think it could get close enough to harm me, but it did. You see, I had hoped my professional work in the assisted living and memory care field would be as close as I would ever get to the dreaded disease that is always fatal, but I was wrong.

As my author bio states: Having previously worked in memory care, she was not new to the disease, nor was her family immune.

Years after my father’s death I chose to prolong my involvement with all things dementia, venturing forth into one of the most competitive fields around because it appears that everyone … everyone … has a story to tell, and many have chosen to tell it. With well over 8 million books currently available on Amazon and just a fraction of those touted as Best Sellers, a person would be crazy to even think about adding to those numbers!

Or that person would be brave.

Bravery sounded better than crazy to me, knowing that putting myself out there would leave me vulnerable, exposed before every critic who, although a reader and not an author, would not shy away from tearing apart my completed labor of love. But I wanted something positive to result from my father’s and my family’s Alzheimer’s experience so rather than shying away from risking failure, you know, doing nothing that might prove disheartening, I chose to lay my heart out on the line.

And I am a success.

I am a success, not because Requiem for the status quo made it to Oprah’s book club and/or the New York Times’ Annual Top Books list, and certainly not because of any wealth publishing a novel has brought me…relatively few authors make money in this field. I am a success because I let my love for my father be translated into a novel, creatively based on my own family’s experience, so that others – whether a million in number or just a thousand – could find some encouragement and hope through the ashes of my family’s grief.

And guess what, others read my story and told me time and again how much it resonated with them; how my writing seemed to mirror what they too went through, or were currently going through. Readers thanked me for my story … they thanked me! If that isn’t success, then I don’t know what is.

All I can say is, “You’re very welcome.”

 

 

A wealth of books about Alzheimer’s disease

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AlzAuthors is a community of more than 200 extraordinary authors who have written about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Today I am spotlighting those books written by the community’s supportive management team, of which I am a member. Please take time to visit the six books spotlighted below. I truly believe you will be glad you did. Let AlzAuthors light your way through Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Daughter – a memoir by Jean Lee. A poignant accounting of a family’s life after both parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease on the same day.

Blue Hydrangeas – an Alzheimer’s love story by Marianne Sciucco. A touching account of a couple’s journey into Alzheimer’s and of the love that never succumbed to the disease.

Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia by Vicki Tapia. This engaging memoir offers useful information from experts within the field of Alzheimer’s research, personal lessons the author learned along the way, and ideas and tips for managing the day-to-day ups and downs of dementia.

Weeds in Nana’s Garden by Kathryn Harrison. A heartfelt story of love that helps explain Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias geared toward the children in our lives.

Motherhood: Lost and Found – a memoir by Ann Campanella. A memoir of the ordinary and extraordinary courage of those who endure debilitating and even crushing illness, and those who suffer with them when they do so.

Requiem for the Status Quo by Irene Frances Olson. A novel that explores the delicate balance of families upended by Alzheimer’s disease and how they manage their loved one’s needs with their own.

This Week’s Good News!

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The softer side of law-enforcement is front and center in this post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. What a wonderful way to celebrate the start of the spring season!

Discounted book about Alzheimer’s!

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The eBook and audiobook of Requiem for the status quo will continue to be available on Amazon until the end of 2019. I am going to self-publish the paperback version through my publishing arm, Words Matter Press so as of March 1, 2019, you will not be able to purchase a paperback copy for your bookshelf until Words Matter Press’s Spring 2019 release on Amazon.

 

In the meantime, the Amazon paperback price for the month of February has been reduced so those who want to add this book to their library can do so at a discounted price before supplies run out. If you are a Prime member, shipping is FREE! 

Let these recent reviews encourage you to get your copy today!

Rubies My mother recently died from Alzheimer’s, and I could really relate to everything she wrote about. All her information is very accurate, and I felt like she was on the journey with me.

Vicki T. Olson draws in the reader, introducing us to the Quinn family, including protagonist Colleen, daughter and primary caregiver for Patrick, her beloved father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The author deftly weaves together the stages of this dreadful disease throughout her fast-paced narrative and in so doing, educates us on the progression of this always fatal disease. The characters are down-to-earth and believable, the story sprinkled with both humor and the pain of loss. A must-read for any caregiver whose loved one has been diagnosed with dementia.
Ann H. Irene Frances Olson does not flinch from the specific cruelties of Alzheimer’s disease in this novel, and I admire that very much. It is devastating to lose someone you love, bit by bit; devastating to watch them struggle to think as their brain is constricted by plaques and tangles. That said, this is also the story of how taking on the role of caregiver can be incredibly meaningful, even though it is also impossibly exhausting. In this case, an adult daughter is caring for a father she loves, and their mutual affection is made very poignant by the toll of the illness.