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.
Five years after my father’s death from Alzheimer’s disease, I decided to share my family’s story so that others might find comfort in the commonality that exists from our shared stories. To be sure, with just under 6 million people in the United States diagnosed with the disease – and multitudes more globally – most of the world’s population has Alzheimer’s disease in common.
We don’t feel better that someone else has experienced or is experiencing this dreaded always-fatal disease, but we do find comfort in the fact that we are not alone. We can acknowledge that many walked this same path and came out on the other side; our active struggle will eventually come to an end.
After my father’s death in 2007, I was saturated in grief and happy to walk away from observing my father’s heart-rending decline. While gasping for breath through my tears, I also experienced a Phew! I’m glad that chapter of my life is over!
Not so fast.
Not only was that chapter not over, but forty-four additional chapters begged to be written. And so I jumped back into the world of dementia because my journey had not ended – it had merely changed its direction. As I mentioned in an earlier post, My extraordinary success as an author, within months of publishing my first novel, Requiem for the status quo, I was able to celebrate the fact that others benefited from my work of love; people saw their story in mine and dared to hope they too would become a caregiver survivor, as did I.
In the twelve years since my father’s death, I can’t meet someone without Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia becoming front and center because Alzheimer’s is everywhere. I absolutely hate that so many of us have that story in common, but I am glad that we can connect with each other within the commonality of our shared experiences.
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 Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, declared, how important it is to be granted respect in one’s life. A person deserves respect in youth and in adulthood, and those among us who are the most vulnerable deserve the highest degree of that honorable treatment.
I recently watched a special-interest show where a couple in their 60s were documented over a period of ten years, but not just any ten years: it was the decade following the wife’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The more time that passed in the documentary, the harder it was to watch her cognitive decline.
It was also very difficult to witness the effects of the wife’s illness on the husband: weight was gained, stress became unmanageable, and he even thought about ending his life. At the end of the episode, the CBS interviewer asked the husband if he still loved his wife, to which the husband responded that he loved the woman his wife used to be, but not the woman she had become. I tried to resist the way his sentiment made me feel.
I experienced the decline and loss of my father, and the decline and loss of my sister-in-law, both of whom died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease: Dad in 2007, my sister-in-law in 2012. My brother never stopped loving his wife as he performed the learn-as-you-go tasks of caring for someone with worsening cognitive impairment. Although a novice at caregiving, my brother managed to glom onto the concept of respecting the bride to whom he had committed for better or worse. Was it easy to love the person she had become, especially with her erratic and sometimes combative behavior? No, not easy, but he was wise enough to know that she was still the woman he married almost 25 years prior.
I had it easy, well, no, I didn’t. Being my father’s primary care person wasn’t at all easy, but throughout his declining health, he maintained that sweetheart of a personality he always exhibited throughout his life. I guess it was the luck of the draw that Dad kept his sense of humor and gentleness until the end. Being fully transparent with you, I have to say the typical behavior associated with cognitive decline really shook my foundation and there were times I verbally lashed out at him because I’m one of 6.8 billion people in this world (as of August 2018) who is far from a perfect specimen of a human being.
I allowed myself to hate the disease and everything it had done to my father and to my family, but I couldn’t stop loving the man, who, along with my mother, guided my path from infancy to maturity. I blame my father for not letting me get away with anything. I blame him for being strict about managing my finances. He’s the reason why I have a sense of humor so I blame him for that as well. And I blame both my parents for impressing upon me that I would never regret being kind towards others, that I should never judge others whose experiences are different from my own, that when all is said and done, we’re all equally flawed, and equally worthy of respect.
So I now blame Mom and Dad for helping me come to a compassionate place of not judging the aforementioned husband’s statement about the way he feels about his wife. I can hold kind thoughts towards him, knowing that everyone’s caregiving experience is different; that I have no right to consider my or my brother’s experiences as being more honorable than the husband’s.
Bottom line: respect is warranted regardless of the circumstances. We would all hope others would treat us with respect, isn’t that right? So I say this about that husband’s caregiving experience: You are a hero to many, and you are a hero to me. Bless you, for walking the difficult path you’ve been given. Bless you, for always doing what is best for your wife, and not what is most expedient.
My definition of a hero:
Ordinary people, doing the ordinary right thing, at an extraordinary time.
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 Antis 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 storybook.
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.
The word, requiem, in the context of my novel, Requiem for the status quo, refers to an act of remembrance as it relates to the subject matter of my novel.
Remembrance of how a loved one was prior to Alzheimer’s or other dementia taking over their lives;
Remembrance of how the family caregiver’s life has been forever changed when his or her new normal looks nothing like the predictable normal the caregiver previously enjoyed; and
Remembrance of how the technique that worked to calm and care for a loved one just one minute earlier must be discarded, while the scramble to discover what works now must begin in earnest.
I would truly love for my novel to become irrelevant. For some books found on the shelves of libraries and bookstores, the treatment of the subject matter has become antiquated. The content itself may still be extremely worthwhile for the reading public, but those readers can no longer trust that what is being presented is current and/or relevant.
That is my wish for my novel, a novel that was inspired by my own experiences as my father’s caregiver. I used literary license to change certain facts, but the storyline for both the primary character, Colleen, and her father, Patrick, and for all the other real-life characters found on its pages, is a direct reflection of the personal and professional opportunities that arose from my involvement with a disease that as of this date, is always fatal.
My suggestion to you and those whose lives have been touched either directly or tangentially by the cognitive issues that occur on the pothole and speedbump-filled dementia highway, is that you purchase or borrow a very readable and relatable story of people like you and me who may never escape a disease that sometimes destroys families, but oftentimes makes them stronger. Requiem for the status quo eBook is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers and only $4.99 for those who are not. The paperback is currently offered on Amazon for under $15.
Please read it now before my wish for irrelevancy comes true.
I so enjoyed being interviewed by the company, Nurture Your Books; they were very accommodating and generous to offer this opportunity to authors such as myself. Being able to talk about the inspiration for my novel and my writing process is such a gratifying experience. Be sure to check out the interview that took place on September 15th.
I do not have a publicist, nor do I have an agent. I do 99.999% of my book’s marketing. Paying for a review service, such as Kirkus Reviews, to read and provide a book review is not in my budget. I am constantly on the lookout for free opportunities to spread the word about Requiem for the status quo, a novel that has already proven to benefit those who have honored me by purchasing a copy. (I will post a few Amazon reviews at the bottom of this piece.)
The life and times of an author – especially one on contract with a small, independent publishing house – are not the most enjoyable times in a writer’s life. To be quite honest with you, they’re pretty darn stressful and for the most part, very unsatisfying. But I am so very grateful that my publisher chose to publish my debut novel. Black Rose Writing goes out of their way to publish up-and-coming authors so I owe them a debt of gratitude for including me as one of their clients.
It is my passion for the story – for my father’s story – that keeps me pounding the pavement/keyboard to drum up attention for the heroes of the 21st century: family caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Yes, it’s true, my book is fiction, but one doesn’t live through a multi-year caregiving experience without including personal episodes into the body of the novel – and I did.
I survived the experience, but many caregivers are currently right in the thick of it. I recently received an e-mail letter from one of my readers whose mother died just a few weeks ago from Alzheimer’s complications. This reader said, “Thank you so much for writing this book. I didn’t belong to a support group and wish I would have found this book when I started the caregiving process…I do wish I’d found your book at the beginning of my journey. It would have been a big help. Anyone going through this experience definitely needs a cheerleader in their corner.”
That is what I have tried to do. If you’ll return to this site on Sunday of each week, in Readers Corner at the bottom of each web page, you’ll see I’ve posted encouraging words for those out there needing a little extra TLC for their day. I hope you’ll revisit my author site each week to catch a glimpse of that encouragement.
And now for a few reviews:
Poignant, agonizing, funny, all-consuming, It is a distinct honor to be the first to rate this outstanding, but heartbreaking, tale of a devastating and progressive health condition, and how deeply it touches those it enfolds. The author, who has closely experienced the cruelty of Alzheimer’s in a loved one, has shown a great deal of courage and consummate determination in writing it. This well-paced and brilliantly written story is at once poignant, agonizing, funny in places and all-consuming. The reader will have difficulty putting it down but had best keep a box of tissues at hand. It made this hardened, former combat soldier weep like a schoolchild through much of the second half. But I feel I have emerged from this novel with greater sensitivity to the whole continuum of dementia and its emotional impact on those who must find a way of dealing with its encroachment on their lives. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to give justice to a description of this debut novel by an obviously compassionate, energetic and witty author. It is worthy of six stars. – R. Bruce Logan, author of Finding Lien
Helpful and Hopeful. Such a relevant read. Whether you’ve encountered Alzheimer’s directly or are fearful of when it may enter your life, do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s a quick read, and in story-telling format, this novel makes it clear that Alzheimer’s and dementia can appear in a variety of ways. It also makes it clear that there are many tools to help. My family has seen a couple different manifestations of the disease. If we had had a book like this ahead of time, we could have been better prepared. Although written as a novel, I view this book as a great tutorial on how to work through the emotions and surprises that come along with Alzheimer’s. – Amazon Customer
Heartfelt and touching story. This is such a beautiful, heartfelt, and touching book and story. The author shares so clearly and bravely the trials of dealing with all of the decisions that have to be made in every stage of dementia or Alzheimer’s for each phase your loved one is going through. The unknowns of what your loved one is going through is heartbreaking to watch, but she shows that love can trump these unknowns with laughter, humor and the help of family and friends. No one expects this disease to touch their families, but it does inflict itself onto her father. The love that she shares with her dad, her sister, and eventually her brother who has been in denial shows us that the needs of someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be met with dignity and care. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has dealt with this disease, for anyone who is dealing with it right now, or for anyone who might have to deal with it in the future. – Bruce Milnor
I have held three author events since my novel’s release back in July and I have more planned before the end of the year. At the senior centers and independent bookstores where my events are hosted, each person attending is certainly there in support of my efforts, but more importantly, I believe their presence honors my father’s story, a story without a happy ending.
Here’s an excerpt from my novel that speaks of my fictional characters’ dilemma, but it also mirrors that which occurred in my real life experience with Alzheimer’s.
If it’s true that cancer is no respecter of persons, it is equally true that Alzheimer’s disease exhibits the same lack of respect. This disease is a murderer and I’m troubled by the millions of crimes it has gotten away with.
Alzheimer’s is also a robber, not only because it robs a person of his or her memories and future, but also because it exacts an emotional price that few can afford. To be sure, monetary costs are a challenging force to be reckoned with, but many family caregivers and their loved ones would no doubt conclude that the emotional toll on a person far surpasses even the costliest of care fees paid.
Until the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia becomes blissfully unaware of the disease that is murdering him, he has a front row seat to all that is happening. My dad was the first to know when his senior moments became more than a quirk of the aging process. It grieves me to imagine what he went through when he was alone with his thoughts, witnessing first hand where those thoughts were taking him.
Yes, my father had a front row seat to the effects of a disease that is always fatal. Until he eventually became blissfully unaware, he lived with that fact every single day. If the caregiver thinks she or he has been dealt a bad hand in relation to Alzheimer’s, imagine if you possibly can how that hand plays out with the person diagnosed with the disease. I don’t know about you, but my imagination in such matters paints a picture I’d rather not see.
My very real reward for writing Requiem is that my father is honored as a result of my efforts. Additionally, it is my sincere hope that those reading my novel and attending my author events manage to discover that they have a cheerleader in their corner…me.
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.