Neurological Disorders

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.”

 

 

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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.

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.

 

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.

Reader discoveries

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To celebrate my novel’s release, I held a giveaway on a Facebook readers group, A Novel Bee, and made some extraordinary reader discoveries.

I gave the members of that group 24 hours to leave a comment on my giveaway announcement if they wanted to be entered into my contest to pick one lucky (hopefully lucky) reader to receive a complimentary copy of my novel, Requiem for the status quo.

I received 37 entries, and a considerable percentage of those readers’ entries made mention of their own personal Alzheimer’s/dementia caregiving journey. Here are just a few of those comments:

  • I am a geriatric care manager, can’t wait to read it!
  • My friend just had to put her mom into a caregiving rest home because she could no longer handle her. She was becoming quite violent. It is a horrendous disease.
  • I love that you are writing inspiring stories! Many of us are or were caregivers and the hopelessness we feel when we dont see them getting better can be overwhelming. Your compassion is so sweet and much needed in todays world. Im really excited to find a new author I can enjoy!
  • I would be honored to read this book, my father had Alzheimer’s disease. I want to tell you that the cover is totally amazing !!!!!
  • I would love to win. My husband has Alzheimer’s/ dementia so it is if special interest to me.

Even as familiar as I am with the statistics for this disease – 44 million diagnosed worldwide as of this writing – it still astounds me to hear the personal stories associated with it. Like every terminal disease known to man, Alzheimer’s and other dementia are very personal diseases. The brain – the very essence of a person’s being – is the initial body part affected. What we say, how we behave, and who we are resides in the various, vital parts of our brain. Our brain is the grand traffic director of all things me.

It’s no wonder the very long goodbye associated with this disease is so devastating to the one diagnosed, as well as for the one caring for her or him. It’s very personal, isn’t it?

I am of the belief that family dementia caregivers are 21st century heroes. Additionally, all caregivers, not just those on a dementia caregiving journey are the best of the best. They are:

Ordinary people, doing the ordinary right thing, at an extraordinary time.

I am honored to be in your company.

Requiem for the status quo will be released by Black Rose Writing on July 20th. You can order Requiem at Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well as all online and brick and mortar chain and independent bookstores. 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.

 

Do Not Ask Me To Remember

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Distraught manI’m reblogging this article I wrote in April of 2013 because it comes up in my blog stats as being extremely popular to many of you out there. I can only conclude that it’s popularity remains high because there are so many caregivers in the world who are tangled up in a daily life that centers around those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. I hope many more will be encouraged – and pleasingly challenged – by what I have to say in this post.

Walk in Their Shoes… Just for a Minute.  The attached article contains encouraging advice that caregivers worldwide need to read, and re-read, from time to time.

Those of us who have been caregivers to loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementia know very well the frustrations felt when we come to the realization that we’re not sufficiently equipped to handle that which this disease presents us.  We’re walking in caregiver shoes, fully incapable of walking in those of the person with dementia.  If we could, we would shriek at what we see and experience.

So we get frustrated – understandably so.  We raise our voices in anger – and feel guilty immediately thereafter.  We complain to others about the one we’re taking care of – because we crave to be heard and understood by someone!

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...
PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do not ask me to remember is a loaded statement and one which should give us pause.  We know the person with dementia is not able to remember the previous five seconds, so why do we ask them to remember where and when they were born?  Why do we think that repeating an answer LOUDLY AND WITH EMPHASIS will help the loved one remember this tenth time you’ve answered their same question?  Why do we think they will understand our logical explanations about circumstances when their ability to understand anything requiring organization of thought is a function forsaken long ago by the brain that they’ve been stuck with?

Because we’re human – and we want order out of chaos, and we want the one for whom we are providing care to finally “get it.”  And we want them to understand that this ain’t no cake walk for me so why aren’t you appreciating all that I do for you?

Because they don’t remember.

Life everlasting – is it a good thing?

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A recent NY Times article, On Dying After Your Time, poses many topics for discussion that must be addressed.  I knew before I even started to read the article that readers will have varying opinions on the matter of extending life beyond its appointed time to die.  These opinions will be based on ethics, biases, age of the reader, and religious beliefs, to be sure, but another factor that comes into play is the personal experience of each reader.

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 have died from Alzheimer’s in the past five years.

If the reader has watched a loved one perilously balanced in limbo with a ravaged-by-disease body and/or mind, that reader might lean towards declaring that too much is being done to artificially prolong life.  In the past five years of my life, I have watched both my father and my sister-in-law die from Alzheimer’s.  Who they were at the end of their lives didn’t come close to resembling who they were pre-disease.  If the reader has had no experience with this aspect of life and death, that reader may feel more comfortable with the decision to throw every treatment possible at the patient with the goal of allowing that person to live as long as humanly – or scientifically – possible.

One of the issues presented in the NY Times article is the fact that as we live longer, there is an increase in the amount of chronic illnesses – a fact that certainly stands to reason.  “This rise in chronic illness should also give us pause about the idea, common to proponents of radical life extension, that we can slow aging in a way that leaves us in perfectly good health…The evolutionary theory of senescence [growing old; biological aging] can be stated as follows: while bodies are not designed to fail, neither are they designed for extended operation.”

The author of the NY Times article is an 83 year old man who closes out the piece by stating, “We are not, however, obliged to help the old become indefinitely older.  Indeed, our duty may be just the reverse: to let death have its day.”

If you haven’t yet formed an opinion on the matter of  life-extension at all costs – I encourage you to do so before it’s too late.  Life and death decisions are best made well in advance of the necessity of such decisions.