Alzheimer’s

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

Status Quo or Same-O Same-O

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How often have you felt defeated because your day-to-day existence is somewhat routine and boring?

The life of a family caregiver, attending to a loved one with a disease or malady that is all-encompassing, is never Same-O Same-O. Any semblance of status quo flies out the window shortly after taking on this learn-as-you-go caregiver role. The boring life about which the family caregiver used to complain no longer exists as she or he memorializes that long-abandoned way of living. My memorial to status quo existed while attending to my father during his Alzheimer’s journey.

Requiem for the Status Quo speaks of that memorial to things that once were.

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.”

 

 

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.

 

Weather got you down? Read a book!

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Boy do I have a book for you. The paperback of Requiem for the status quo is discounted until the end of February. For only $13.95, you can add this book to your To Be Read (TBR) list!

If the Ebook is more to your liking, it is currently just $4.99 or free to Amazon Unlimited subscribers. It will always be available, but the paperback will not be, at least until later this year.

Hurry while supplies last! Discounted price!

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Requiem for the status quo was picked up by a publisher two years ago this month. The eBook and audiobook will continue to be available on Amazon through Black Rose Writing until the end of 2019. I am arranging for different publishing options for the paperback version, however, and will be releasing that paperback later this year.

In the meantime, my publisher and I reduced the paperback price for the month of February so those who want to add this book to their library can do so at a discounted price. If you are a Prime member, shipping is FREE! When I self-publish my novel I’ll be sure to send out an announcement so you’ll again have access to the paperback version through Amazon. And of course, the eBook is still available on Amazon and will continue to be available forever and a day. (I will self-pub the eBook at the end of the year.)

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

Jill W. I’ve never written a review when I’m only halfway through a book, but I wanted the author to know sooner rather than later, how much her book has affected me emotionally. My family has been dealt the dreaded card of dementia so reading REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO has been difficult since we’re living Coleen and Patrick’s nightmare now. I find myself only able to read pieces at a time because the author has done a superb job of making Patrick and his family’s battle with this horrible disease, so real. Last night as I read, I found myself laughing and then crying. This book is a must read for anyone touched by Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Ann C. Irene Frances Olson writes believable fiction. Her characters are kind, funny and endearing — even in their flaws. When Colleen takes over her father Patrick’s caregiving because of his advancing memory issues, the reader can’t help but be moved by the tender relationship between them. The effervescent Colleen finds herself in a challenging life situation — pulled between her father’s condition, her working life, her brother’s disdain for her father’s illness and her own desire for companionship. Having experienced the devastation that Alzheimer’s can bring to a family, it was both heartbreaking and a joy to follow Colleen’s path. Yes, there was loss, but the author helps us see the beauty and courage in facing the inevitable challenges of aging and how it’s possible to do it with grace and love.

Jason This book is about the many faces of Alzheimer’s, from those how bear the thief in their brain to those who must cope with and care for loved ones. The story is straightforward and written with love, it is a daughter’s anthem of love for her father while also being a support for others facing the journey of incremental loss. Colleen describes it best when she identifies Alzheimer’s as a thief robbing us of our memories and our future. If you or a loved one are walking this journey, this story is sure to give both a sense of how to make this journey possible and how to mourn with others on the path.

This Week’s Good News

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Guess what the currency of media is? OUR ATTENTION.

Don’t invest in bad news, invest only in the good!

Ron Robert doesn’t believe in giving up even after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was a retired man who was extremely bored with his life and when he received the diagnosis so many of us fear, he enrolled in University to get off his butt and once again get involved in life. Read this astounding article that contains some of the best news about Alzheimer’s I’ve heard in quite some time.

Time’s running out: discount book sale ends late 11/13

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All of the books shown in this graphic are part of the AlzAuthors Caregiver Appreciation week-long sale, starting today, November 7th. You’ll see my novel, Requiem for the status quo, in the upper right corner that is priced at 99 cents from Nov 7th through 13th. To link to all the books you see above, click on the AlzAuthors link here. Simply click on the book’s image and it will take you directly to its page on Amazon, making it extremely easy to purchase as many titles as you please. And don’t forget to gift others with titles as well. It’s so easy to do and the recipients of your gifts will be so pleased that you’ve thought of them.

The Alzheimer’s Community

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I have been closely involved in matters regarding Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia for eighteen years now: long-term care (LTC) housing, memory care, Alzheimer’s support group facilitator, and Washington State LTC Ombudsman. But it took me becoming a published author of a novel that focuses on a family’s Alzheimer’s disease experience before I finally found my Alzheimer’s community.

AlzAuthors is a group comprised of over 170 published authors (as of this writing) who have published fiction and non-fiction books reflective of their personal Alzheimer’s experience. The six members of the AlzAuthors Management Team (Team) is the Alzheimer’s community about which I speak.

The Team’s motto says it all:

We can sing a lonely song, or form a choir and create harmony.

Without exception, the authors featured on our site and each member of our Management Team had the experience of struggling with the learn-as-you-go-task of caring for someone with cognitive impairment. We all made mistakes, and we learned from them, but we also had successes, and we celebrated them.

As a recent addition to the AlzAuthors Management Team, I became even more convinced that my personal Alzheimer’s community resides within this group. The support, the kindness, the giving nature reflected within the Team is incomparable in my experience, and we are not just keeping it to ourselves. AlzAuthors is spreading their influence into numerous parts of the world…which is kinda why they asked me to join the team as their Global Outreach Coordinator. The six of us know our presence is evident in more countries than just the United States, but our imagination and passion is boundless so we have set out to become a household word in small and large communities throughout the world.

Why AlzAuthors? Because this 100% volunteer group has brought together some of the best books on Alzheimer’s and other dementia in one central location: our bookstore. We’ve categorized those books to make the personal caregivers’ or professionals’ shopping experiences an easy one with categories such as: Caring for Parents or Grandparents, Caring for Spouses or Partners, Living with Dementia, and Children and Teen books, to name a few. We know a caregiver’s “free” time is limited or non-existent, so we’ve done our best to make their shopping experience an easy one. They simply click on the cover of the book they’re interested in and they are taken directly to Amazon to make the paperback, eBook, or audiobook purchase.

We’re working hard so you don’t have to.

And finally, we understand the journey of unpaid (family & friend) caregivers because:

  • We have experienced the loss of a loved one with dementia.
  • We know the pain of being forgotten.
  • We all have witnessed decline.
  • We have provided countless hours of caregiving.
  • We know many others have experienced the same and we believe in the power of sharing those stories.

Kindness Fridays

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This week’s kindness spotlights the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) a fabulous group for writers of women’s fiction. Most if not all the administrative staff is volunteer – the reason why their kindness is this week’s selection. As a member of this organization, I was given the opportunity to have a podcast recorded for their Hear Me Roar program because I’m a debut author. Although my novel, Requiem for the status quo was released a year ago, it was my debut publishing effort.

This podcast is approximately 30 minutes in length, and although my novel is certainly the focus, much attention was spent on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the world. Perhaps this podcast will keep you company on your commute in the next few days; although it may seem a bit choppy, I think it’s worth hanging in there to hear my, and the host’s, provocative discussion.

Dynamite storybook for seniors with dementia

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I was asked to write a story or two for an anthology of short, short, stories that would be read to seniors with cognitive impairment. I jumped at the opportunity. That anthology, The Mighty Ant, is now available in paperback on Amazon.

I am one of 33 contributors to this collection of short stories for seniors who suffer from dementia and other related memory or cognitive disorders. This book is the culmination of a project from editor and contributor, Jessica Bryan, who is a caregiver and advocate for caregivers. Several years ago she began to notice that her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, lost focus and could no longer read lengthy books. Jessica began reading to her mother and found that simple, short stories were easier for her to understand. The Mighty Ant is filled with these kinds of fiction and non-fiction stories.

The proceeds from the sales of the books will be donated to a local Council on Aging. The generous contributions of authors like myself have come from all over the world. The result is a book with different perspectives, reminiscences, and tales that reflect not only local culture, but a variety of customs, ethnicities, and lifestyles.

I am honored to have my two stories titled, A Neighborly Friendship and A Sweetheart of a Story included in this collection. A Sweetheart of a Story was selected as the final story in the book because the editor felt it was the perfect selection to provide a sweet ending to the anthology. Buy a copy or ten or more for yourself and others…perhaps your local memory care community would love to include the reading of this book to their senior activity schedule! Currently only $12 for this 322-page large print storybook.

 

My novel’s 1st anniversary

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Requiem for the status quo‘s anniversary is the perfect opportunity to announce my involvement with a fabulous project focused on Alzheimer’s disease.

I am one of over 150 authors from around the world who will be represented at the Alzheimer’s Association – Western Carolina Chapter’s Dementia Education conference in Charlotte, N.C., this August. I, and over 25 other AlzAuthors, have donated copies of their books, which will be given away in a raffle to conference attendees.

I wanted to support this cause because during my caregiving experience in the early 2000s, I most definitely could have used more fiction about Alzheimer’s to normalize my day-to-day stresses, and some up-to-date non-fiction to help my learn-as-you-go caregiving experience. Something else from which I surely could have benefited is the non-profit, AlzAuthors. AlzAuthors.com is a nonprofit website that shares information on books and blogs about Alzheimer’s and dementia. I am proud to say that I, too, am a member of this fine organization. Had it been available prior to my father’s death from Alzheimer’s disease, I no doubt would have tapped into its resources.

AlzAuthors started in 2015, when Founders Jean Lee from Ohio, Vicki Tapia from Montana and Marianne Sciucco from New York, who had also written books about Alzheimer’s, met in cyberspace. They discussed the growing need for resources about dementia. A year later, after Shannon Wierbitzky joined the team, the group started a website and published posts from 60 authors. In 2017, Canadian Kathryn Harrison and Ann Campanella from North Carolina joined the administrative team.

Since that time AlzAuthors has published weekly posts, sharing resources about books and blogs that focus on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The site has grown to include over 150 AlzAuthors from around the world and has a bookstore with a vast collection of top books for individuals, doctor’s offices, assisted living facilities and other eldercare services. AlzAuthors also has a thriving presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. AlzAuthors Jean Lee and Ann Campanella, whose memoirs were recently named to Book Authority’s Best Alzheimer’s Books of All Time List, will share “The Story Behind the Stories” of AlzAuthors at the Alzheimer’s Association conference.

“Together We Can,” the Dementia Education Conference held by the Alzheimer’s Association – Western Carolina Chapter, will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 29, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3400 Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte, N.C. The event is geared for healthcare professionals, caregivers, people living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia and members of the general public. Attendees will learn more about research, caregiving practices and tools to assist in the journey with Alzheimer’s. For more information, visit ALZ.org/NorthCarolina or call 800-272-3900.

For more information about AlzAuthors. visit their website: https://alzauthors.com/.

National Alzheimer’s Month Book Deals

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September is World Alzheimer’s Month. READ THIS ARTICLE CAREFULLY TO DISCOVER HOW YOU CAN WIN A FREE COPY OF MY NOVEL, Requiem for the status quo.

Several of the AlzAuthors group of writers who have written fiction or non-fiction books on the subject of Alzheimer’s or other dementia are offering special, discounted offers to those who would like to get ahold of a select group of books being offered September 27 – 30, 2017.

I am a member of this group of writers and am offering a total of eight free copies of my novel, Requiem for the status quo: four (4) free Kindle eBooks and four (4) free paperback books (the latter available to residents of the United States only). All you need to do is Like/Follow my author Facebook page, then write a comment in the AlzAuthor post that appears on that page.

In order to get in the drawing for a free Kindle eBook or free paperback copy,  you must indicate in the comment section which format you would prefer: Kindle eBook or paperback. Please don’t say you don’t care which format you receive; for accounting and distribution purposes I will only put your name in one of the drawings so be sure to specify your preference.

All those Liking my page and posting a comment indicating their format preference will have their names entered into a drawing that will take place at Noon, Pacific Standard Time, on Saturday, September 30th. I will Messenger the winners through FB to request either your e-mail address (for eBook sending) or postal delivery address (for paperback book shipment) so that I can send out your complimentary book copies the first week of October.

But I am not the only author offering great deals on books – all the books contained within the graphic on this post are discounted during the September 27 – 30th timeframe. Be sure to go to the AlzAuthors website, click on the Bookstore tab, locate the author and their book being offered at a discounted price, click on the photo of their book and you will be directed to the site where their discounted book can be purchased. Since I am personally offering free copies of my novel – as opposed to doing so through an Amazon.com promotion – you will not find Requiem for the status quo in the AlzAuthors bookstore during this promotion.

 

The secret of Alzheimer’s disease

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I discovered something shocking during the weeks that followed my novel’s release:

Alzheimer’s disease is still a secret.

I know; we’ve all certainly read about it, especially when a celebrity is diagnosed with the disease. Every once and awhile there might be an Alzheimer’s Association commercial on television…that is assuming we don’t fast forward through it or walk out of the room. Another reason we’re familiar with the disease is that it is happening to so many people with whom we are acquainted – whether intimately or tangentially.

But it’s still a secret. The very definition of the word speaks to its intent: adj. not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others; n. something not properly understood; a mystery. from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary

In many of my promotional posts and boasts for my novel Requiem for the status quo, I’ve indicated that my book tour would probably look more like a senior center tour than what is normally the route for authors: readings and signings in major and independent bookstores. That’s the tact I took, approaching numerous senior centers in Western Washington. 25% of those I approached booked my author event on their activity calendars.  But when I approached a major senior housing community foundation to get on their speakers’ calendar, I was told the residents pushed back at the foundation’s previous efforts to enlighten and inform when they hosted those who spoke to the reality of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.

Damn. Read the rest of this entry »

Support for my readers

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I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my “book tour” may look more like a senior center tour than a literary one. The reason: I want to reach those who could use a bit of what I have to offer. As my Author Bio states, I want to make a difference in the lives of others by writing novels that encourage those who just might need another cheerleader in their corner. At the bottom of each of my site’s pages is a section titled READERS CORNER. Each week I provide a new element of encouragement as my simple way of standing in my readers’ corner.

Yesterday I witnessed one small way in which someone was reached by my novel.

I had a haircut appointment with my wonderful stylist, Molly, of C.J. Salon. Molly has followed my entire publishing journey and is very familiar with the topic of my soon to be published novel, Requiem for the status quo. She finished up with her previous client and welcomed me into her chair. I did the reveal of my published novel which I had brought with me for a much anticipated Show and Tell moment. I also gave her several copies of my marketing brochure that provides a peek into the storyline and the lives of the characters. “Please hand them out to women who could possibly benefit from reading my novel.”

She grabbed one of the brochures, said, “I’ll be right back” and ran out into the parking lot to flag down her previous client. Turns out this client is fully-involved in a family member’s dementia journey and Molly felt she could benefit from reading my book. Turns out she was right. Her client was so excited, she hugged Molly and basically said, “This is what I’ve been looking for!”

That, my friends, was the highlight of my week – someone who wanted what I had to offer and just might benefit from the read. But you wanna know something else? My appointment was initially scheduled for 3 pm. The day before I found out I had a change of plans for my Friday, freeing up my morning, so I called C.J. Salon, asked if they had an earlier opening, and I grabbed it.

Molly’s client benefited from my change of plans – a change that initially was upsetting to me, but turned out to be just what was supposed to happen.

My oh my, I love how the Universe cooperates when its occupants are just going about their lives, oblivious to its whiles!

In less than two weeks, Requiem for the status quo will be released. It is currently available for preorder at Black Rose Writing; enter discount code PREORDER2017 before July 20th for a 10% discount. You can also preorder Requiem at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Be sure to shop around for the best price, you won’t be sorry you did. And for those of you with eReaders, the eBook will be available at most online book retailers on, or about, July 27th.

Requiem for the status quo

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Allow me to reintroduce myself:

My name is Irene.  I am the author of the upcoming novel Requiem for the status quo.

Some of you know me as a family member, friend, or casual acquaintance.  Others are familiar with me as the author of this blog, a writer who has posted hundreds of articles over the past several years.  Still others know me because of my professional connections as a volunteer advocate for vulnerable adults living in long-term care (LTC) facilities, or because of my years as an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator.

Typist caricatureI’m here to announce that in addition to being the family member/friend/acquaintance/volunteer/co-employee of the past and present, I am also the novelist who has something to say.

“Oh my gosh Irene, I didn’t realize your book was already published!”

It’s not, but I’m actively pursuing agent representation by contacting several agents per day until I no longer need to.

“Why should people be interested in your book?”

Because I have an engaging way of writing about Alzheimer’s disease – a disease that will affect each and every one of you because until a cure or vaccine is developed to eradicate it, this disease is here to stay.  Whether a person’s diagnosis falls into the actual Alzheimer’s category, or into one of several other dementia such as: vascular, lewy body, frontal temporal, Parkinson’s, or dementia resultant from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), there’s no escaping its effect on the unpaid caregiver (that’s you and me) and the person being cared for (spouse, partner, mother, father, brother or sister).

And here’s a fact of which some of you may not be aware: Alzheimer’s is not just an older person’s disease; an increasing number of people are being diagnosed well-before the age of 60.

“Say it isn’t so, Irene.”

I can’t do that.  What I can do, however, is tell you a wee bit about my book: Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging Award: a very tardy response

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First-Best-Moment-Award-WinnerDid you ever get so busy that you received an award and didn’t go pick it up, and then you forgot that it was waiting for you?  That’s me.  Lori, one of my most favorite bloggers, has been writing her blog Let’s Talk About Family since December 2011.  This fabulous person nominated me for the Best Moment Award in May of 2013.  All I can say is that not “picking up” my award qualifies me for the Worst Moment Award, but I’ll try to make up for it with this post.

Lori’s blog family history starts with her mother’s failing health and death, and continues with her father’s life as a widower who eventually moves into an assisted living facility (ALF).  Her blog is one that I never miss.  You know how you can manage the notifications you receive so that you get a notification e-mail immediately, daily, or once weekly?  Her blog is one of those that I receive immediate notifications – I can’t wait any longer! is the way I treat her blog.  Thank you so much for opening up your life to us in the blogging world.

Rules for the Best Moment Award:

Winners post information about the nomination, thanking the person who nominated them, with their acceptance speech that can be written down or video recorded.

Winners have the privilege of awarding the next awardees (see below) The re-post should include a NEW list of people, blogs worthy of the award, and winners notify them the great news.  Winners should also post the award badge on their own website.

What makes a good acceptance speech?
Thank the people who helped you along the way, be humorous if you can to keep the reader entertained and smiling.  Provide inspiration that helps your story to touch the lives of others.

And here’s mine: I’m thrilled to be acknowledged as having something good to say from time to time.  I don’t think I’m an excellent writer, but I do have lots to say and I’m quite willing to write up a storm.  I’m the youngest of three siblings and the only one of us who has been involved in the lives of senior citizens – and everything that involvement implies – for close to two decades.  I’ve always loved people older than me; I guess it gives me comfort knowing that I’m younger than someone else.  My official responsibilities over the years involved: working in the senior housing industry both in the corporate environment and in assisted living/memory care facilities, being an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator, and a Certified Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman for the State of Washington (an advocate for vulnerable adults living in LTC facilities.)  I’m retired from active work but I am actively still involved in being an advocate for the vulnerable by writing my first novel – a project I hope to complete by end of this year.  My novel focuses on the lives of family members who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

My nominees for the Best Moment Award are:

Kay Bransford, for Dealing with Dementia.  The reason I enjoy Kay’s blog is best described by her blog’s subtitle: A family caregiver’s journey to deliver loving care with grace and humor.  We all know there is absolutely nothing humorous about Alzheimer’s or other dementia, but humor can be found in the human interactions between caregiver and family member.  If you look for them,  you will find them.  Kay, I’ll be posting my acceptance of a different award you recently nominated me for very soon.  THANK YOU!

Dementia Poetry is an in your face journal of a daughter-in-law’s disease journey with her mother-in-law, in the form of extremely well-written poems.  The subtitle for her blog is: The Politically Incorrect Alzheimer’s Poetry Blog.

Theresa Hupp’s blog, Story and History, is a moving journal of a family’s life covering past, present, and future.  But that’s not all: Theresa is a fabulous, published author.  I’d say I’m jealous, but friends, and that’s what I consider Theresa, don’t turn green with envy – at least they shouldn’t.  Theresa, you nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award in February of 2014, but I already received that award a couple years ago so I’m not going to claim it again, but I thank you profusely for nominating me.

Reflections on Dementia, Caregiving and Life in General is a must-read blog all the way from Singapore.  This blogger takes care of her mother who has Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.  Her insights and her view of her world will engage you from the very first posting you read.

 

 

The tethered caregiver

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Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios
Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios

Imagine that you are the primary family caregiver for a loved one with dementia in your home.  You have no time to yourself while in the house so how can you possibly find the time to leave your loved one alone to complete some pressing errands?

But you do leave the house and you do leave your loved one alone at home, because you haven’t figured out how to get someone else to do those errands for you, or you don’t know how to secure someone else to watch your loved one while you do the errands.  I favor the latter option because a 24/7 caregiver absolutely must get out of the house and feed her soul while crossing items off her To Do list.

I went to Staples office supply store yesterday to pick up three items for my writing quest: a new thumb drive that I can trust to store my magnificent masterpiece of a manuscript; a new mouse pad because my right wrist and hand have worn out the previous one; and a ream of lined filler paper for taking notes and drafting new ideas.

Because it is currently back-to-school shopping time, Staples was crazy-busy yesterday.  The checkout line was very long and directly behind me was a young mother with a shopping cart filled with supplies for her two school-aged children.  An older woman with two items asked if she could please go ahead of her because she had a sick husband at home; the young mother graciously agreed to let her do so.  When it was my turn at the register, I turned to the older woman and asked her to go ahead of me to which she responded, “Oh thank you so much, you see I have a situation at home and I need to get back quickly.”

Have any of you been there – done that?

Do you know someone who has?

The following advice goes to those of you who know someone in a similar predicament as the woman at the Staples store: be the respite that person needs.  Don’t wait for them to ask for help – they won’t ask you; you must make the first move.  Put yourself in that someone’s shoes and imagine racing through your errands, all the while freaking out wondering what’s going on in the house while you’re away: the person with dementia wandering away from the house or falling down in or around the house, turning on the stove or running the water without turning either off, or letting someone inside the house who should not be inside the house.

Now it’s your turn: imagine the worst-case scenario and apply it to this situation.

Now do something about it.

Other articles to inspire you:

Solo Caregiving; Helping an Alzheimer’s Caregiver; Caregiving: Grief, Guilt, Exhaustion, and Discrimination

Helping an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

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Want To Help Someone Who Is an Alzheimer’s Caregiver? Here Are Some Tips.

Attached is a very worthwhile read by blogger, Kathie Ritchie.  The article includes her suggestions as well as those of caregiver adviser, Marie Marley.  (Note: the links provided for Marie Marley appear to be broken, but Kathie includes Ms. Marley’s input within the body of her own blog article, making the content easily readable.)

Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios
Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios

Additional articles that will provide information and suggestions to non-caregivers on how they can help their neighbor, co-worker, besieged family member:

The above will give you more than enough material to provide readers with helpful suggestions.  If you don’t take the time to read the attached articles – and I sincerely hope you do – I’ll leave you with one suggestion that I hope you do follow:

If a caregiver doesn’t ask  for help while on his or her caregiving journey, don’t assume they aren’t in need of your assistance.  Offer specific assistance to them; don’t force them to come up with a suggestion on how you can help. 

Examples: “I have some individual frozen leftover meals I’d like to bring over for your household, what’s a good time for me to drop them off?” or “I’m headed to the grocery store, what can I pick up for you?”  or “It may sound crazy, but I enjoy working in the yard.  I’ve completed my Spring yard cleanup, I’d like to come over and help you with yours.”

Like Nike says, “Just do it!”

Teenage advocates against Alzheimer’s disease

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Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Teens (AFA Teens) brings hope that is sorely lacking from the Alzheimer’s medical community.  The younger generation is doing something that many of us older adults are not: bringing more awareness to a disease that most of us have been exposed to, either peripherally or specifically.  “AFA Teens, founded by a teenager, seeks to mobilize teenagers nationwide to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, and to engage, educate, and support teens and their families.”

My family in the 70s. My dad died from Alzheimer's, and my brother's wife died from Alzheimer's.
My family in the 70s. My dad died from Alzheimer’s, as did my brother’s wife.

As adults, we are affected because the person with the disease is our spouse, partner, sibling, or older relative.  But what about the cousins, nephews and nieces, children, and grandchildren out there?  Children and teenagers are also exposed to this disease.  The challenges faced by teens who are actively involved with these relatives – living close enough to have frequent interaction with them – are challenges that adults have a hard time grasping.

“How come Pappy doesn’t recognize me any more?”  “Why does mom always forget the things that are important to me – like my birthday!”  That’s right; some teenagers have mothers or fathers with early-onset disease.  What should be one of the most exciting times in their young lives is instead spent as a co-caregiver with their other parent.  (I addressed this unfortunate family dynamic in my article, Alzheimer’s Heartache: young family members adjusting to a grandparent or parent with dementia.)

I strongly encourage you to visit the AFA Teens website.  I know you will be encouraged by the efforts being made by these young advocates.

World-wide epidemic on your doorstep

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A May 15, 2014 New York Times article, Alzheimer’s, a Neglected Epidemic by Ginia Bellafante, provides a keen look at a fatal disease that many still assume is one that only other people get.  Maybe my coworker a few cubicles away from me or the neighbors down the street will have to deal with some sort of dementia, but not our household – right?  You wish.  Alzheimer’s is a world-wide epidemic and it’s knocking on your front door.

In 2010, Alzheimer’s was the underlying cause in 500,000 deaths in the United States.

Let’s look at another epidemic with horrific fatality totals.  Remember the AIDS crisis?  As of the year 2010, in thirty years’ time, AIDS was responsible for 636,000 deaths in the U.S.   And yet Alzheimer’s – a very unpopular disease that is erroneously characterized as just an old person’s disease – racked up almost that many deaths in just one year.

Alzheimer’s isn’t just for geezers any more.

That’s the title of one of the chapters in my manuscript – a work of fiction that centers on the lives – patients and their family caregivers – affected by Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  A couple of my characters are in their 80s but there are three characters ranging in age from early 40s to mid 60s whose disease journey began when they were no longer considered young – but definitely not considered old.

What will it take to push people out of denial and into activism?

In the New York Times article linked above, AIDS activist, Peter Staley, is quoted as saying, “The hidden blessing of H.I.V was that it hit a community, my community, a community of mostly gay men.  We had a base of organizing that came out of Stonewall.”  [1969 demonstrations by members of the gay community in response to a police raid at Stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village.]  And then he goes on to say, “Alzheimer’s hits old people.  There is no real organized community beyond AARP.”

I’m not happy with Mr. Staley’s characterization of Alzheimer’s as an old person’s disease because it perpetuates a myth that is simply not entirely true.  But I fully back his advice to all of us:

How does a large, affected community get the country to care?  It means playing a strong inside game: These family members need to organize effectively; they need to find their allies in Congress; they need to show up with sick people in front of key members of health communities.

Right on.

Alzheimer’s struck my dad in his mid-80s and my sister-in-law in her early 60s – both now deceased.

Who’s next?  Me?  My daughter?DSCF0511

You?  Are you doing your part to shine a spotlight on the hideousness of this fatal disease?  At the very least, have you made a monetary donation to the Alzheimer’s Association in your country – a donation from which you will personally benefit?  United Kingdom; Alzheimer’s Prevention; Alzheimer’s Society of Canada; Fight Dementia – Australia – to list a few.

Alzheimer’s shifting personality

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Little Did We Know.

The attached article from a blogger that I follow contains extraordinary prose on how dementia can fool, frustrate, and reward, all in one sitting.

Sundowner time
Sundowner time

Please take the time to read her accounting of how Alzheimer’s has encroached on her family.

Caregiving and The 36-Hour Day

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A Caregiver’s Day.

Caring for a loved one is a full-time job, as one of my fellow bloggers clearly illustrates in the attached article.  Please read her article, especially if you’re not quite aware of how full the carer’s day can be.

My father died of Alzheimer's 10/13/2007. I'm on the left, then my hubby, then my brother.
My father died of Alzheimer’s 10/13/2007. I’m on the left, then my hubby, then my brother.

There’s a reason why the book, The 36-Hour Day (now in its 6th edition) is so popular with health professionals and family caregivers.  The subtitle for the book reads, A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease, related Dementias, and Memory Loss.  As the former caregiver for my father who died from Alzheimer’s in 2007, I can verify that whether you are providing hands-on care or managerial long-distance care for a loved one, your job never ends.  A normal day is a relative term that changes with every day or hour – or as is sometimes the case – every minute.

My article, A normal day, caregiving style, throws a spotlight on how a patient’s and caregiver’s life changes once a diagnosis has been delivered.  The concept of normal is an ever-changing paradigm where the sand on the beach shifts so much, one can barely hold herself upright.

I celebrate all caregivers who manage this extraordinary task so well, and so devotedly.  You are a hero to many.

You are a hero to me.

A normal day, caregiving style

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Approaching The Final Destination.  The attached article focuses on one caregiving journey that is coming to an end.  Chris McClellan’s caregiving journey is coming to a close because his partner, TLO, is approaching his final destination.  Recently, another blogger that I follow, who was the caregiver for her husband, Chuck, came to the end of her caregiving journey because Chuck approached, and reached, his final destination.

Each caregiver/blogger that I follow has said the same thing in almost the same words that echo how Chris describes the tenor of the day-to-day life of a caregiver: “I’ve come to realize that what I might think is a routine day, is totally off the charts by normal standards.  I’m sure most family caregivers can get in touch with that.”

Whether a loved one needs care because of cancer, as in TLO’s case, or Alzheimer’s, as in Chuck’s case, the lives of both caregiver and patient are forever changed once a diagnosis is pronounced.  The 10-15 minute medical consultation in an exam room or a doctor’s private office thrusts the recipients into the as-yet-unknown world of living with a terminal illness.

My father and my sister-in-law, both of whom have died from Alzheimer's in the past five years.
My father and my sister-in-law, both of whom died from Alzheimer’s.

My brother’s wife, Nancy, was diagnosed with mixed dementia when she was barely 65-years old.  In the first article on my brother’s caregiving blog, he also characterizes diagnosis day as the day his life, and that of his wife, changed forever.

Normal becomes a shifting paradigm that can look different from month to month or moment to moment as a loved one’s disease progresses towards its final destination.  Both caregiver and patient can’t recall – for one reason or another – what normal used to mean before the disease’s arrival in their lives.  I know from personal experience with my father, that the caregiver truly can’t imagine life without caregiving – so all-consuming and life-changing is a fatal disease in ones life.

Normal?  What does that mean?  And in the midst of caregiving, you become aware that the only escape from this new and ever-changing normal is the death of the one for whom you provide care.  What liberation!  What freedom lies on the horizon!

No, that is not what the caregiver is thinking.  He or she is focused on the here and now, because such focus is required in order to adjust to the shifting sands of normalcy.

But the end does come as it did with my father on October 13, 2007, with my sister-in-law on July 4, 2012, with Chuck in late February 2014, and as will happen with TLO once Chris and TLO’s journey comes to an end.

What we all would give for just one more day of abnormal normalcy with our loved ones.

But all journeys come to an end, and none of us would rob our loved ones of their final escape to a destination towards which their lives had been headed since their own personal diagnosis day.

Freedom from pain; freedom from physical and cognitive restrictions.  Let it be.

Caregiver Coaching Services

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via Desonier Caregiver Coaching Services.

Click on the link above to read about one man’s journey from spousal caregiver to professional coach of those who are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

My hero - my father: 1918 - 2007
My hero – my father: 1918 – 2007

During my time of caregiving, (my father died in 2007 from complications relating to Alzheimer’s disease) I oftentimes sought out the advice of anyone I could get my hands on who might a) lighten the emotional load I was carrying; b) lead me in the right direction when looking for next steps in the caregiving process; and c) let me cry a river as I pondered whether I was doing enough for the one for whom I provided care.

Way back when I was enmeshed on my caregiving journey, I was not aware that this type of coaching service was available – perhaps it wasn’t.  What speaks volumes to me is that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other dementia is such that more and more people seem to be adrift and searching for that beacon of light that might pull them safely to shore.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that if it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes at least that when trying to take care of a cognitively challenged parent, spouse, sibling, partner, or friend.

Driving Under the Influence of Dementia: Part 2

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STOP signI addressed some of the issues of Driving under the influence of dementia in an article I wrote in November 2013.  Back then I hadn’t planned on writing a Part 2 for this article, but after a couple local incidents involving DUI of dementia, I must provide the following.

Yesterday afternoon in a suburb of Seattle (in Bellevue), an 89-year old woman with early stage Alzheimer’s left her house for her normal daily routine of going to her favorite pancake house, then to several retail locations.  She never returned home last night and as of today, she is still considered missing.  I hope the outcome of her case is better than that of another elderly person with Alzheimer’s who also went on a brief errand, but never came home.  (Update as of 12/28/13 6:45 pm: this woman was found safe approximately 16 hours after she first left her home.  She was found 20 miles away from home.  Unfortunately, she wandered 20 miles away from her normal driving area.)

On Saturday, December 21, 2013, Joseph Douret left his Seattle area home (in Issaquah), to grab dinner.  He was reported missing the next day by his wife who stated that he never came home the previous evening when he left to grab some dinner for the two of them.  Mr. Douret, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, was found dead in his vehicle on Christmas Eve.  Police indicated that he appeared to have died of natural causes.

Taking away the keys to a vehicle – or getting rid of the vehicle as need be – are both very difficult tasks, but these are tasks that must take place if a loved one with dementia still has access to their automobile.  “But he/she is only driving a few blocks to pick up a couple items; there’s no way he/she will get lost.”  Unfortunately, what should be a routine drive can become a death journey because nothing is routine for the person with a brain addled by dementia.  Nothing looks normal or familiar;  the anxiety ratchets up several notches; panic sets in; and the countdown begins for that person’s last hours of life on earth.  Even if the person is eventually found safe, he or she will have endured a very uncomfortable time emotionally and physically.  The positive outcome of that incident, however, is that it will most likely be the catalyst that spurs people on to remove all driving options from their loved one.

Please make the decision today to take action and do the responsible thing on behalf of the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Baby steps towards Alzheimer’s diagnosis

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Amyloid Scanning Protocols Fail to Get the Nod from CMS.

I like the above article and every single article that mentions some sort of steps moving towards diagnosis and treatment, even steps that are stunted right out of the block.

Stillness gets us no where.  Although limited, at least this article discusses some progress towards shutting down Alzheimer’s and other dementias.  During a time where very little good news is forthcoming relating to this disease, I’ll take anything – thank you very much.

Dementia: a shortened good-bye

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Dementia and Suicide.

The attached article, written by a blogger in the UK, is straight-forward and thought provoking – it should be.

I live in Washington state, and I am glad that Death with Dignity is a legal option assuming all the legal requirements are met.  This is a very personal subject matter, as is the choice that individuals will make to seize the opportunity, or to reject the opportunity.  There is definitely a separate element of this option when the law is utilized for those with dementia. When is someone still capable of making the decision?

A non-profit in my state, Compassion & Choices of Washington, is an excellent resource for materials and information. They have even developed an Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Mental Health Directive – a first-of-its-kind directive that allows people – while still competent – to document their wishes related to who will provide their care, where care will be provided, how it will be financed, how to deal with difficult behaviors that may arise, and many other matters that both caregiver and patient face.  Bless all of you who face this horrific disease that has no effective treatment, and certainly no cure.