Solo caregiving struggles

According to the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures research, there are more than 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Some have assembled a team of family and friends so the responsibilities are evenly spread out, but that is not always the case. The solo caregiver manages—or tries to manage—everything on his own.

That’s where those who are on the outside looking in can become a caregiver’s hero.

OFFER TANGIBLE ASSISTANCE. We will never be wrong in assuming the caregiver needs help so rather than saying, “Call me if you need anything” we can ask, “What exactly do you need?” If we remember what we needed when we were on the mend from illness or surgery we should be able to come up with an endless list of concrete gifts of assistance.

MEALS. You need to cook for yourself and/or your household anyway so make a double recipe, pack that extra portion in a disposable dish, freeze it, and keep doing that for a week and deliver one full week’s worth of frozen meals to the caregiver who, receiving your food offerings, can look forward to not having to be creative in the kitchen at the end of the caregiving day. Engage others to sign up for this dinner on wheels program so the responsibilities are spread out amongst many.

ERRANDS. You’re running to the store for a few items; take the time to ask Sam if there’s anything he might need while you’re out. He may need a half-gallon of milk—and he might have needed it for the past several days—but embarking on that task proved impossible for him. With very little effort on your part you can make a huge difference in Sam’s well-being. Maybe the needed item is toilet paper; acquiring that for him makes you a genuine hero!

CHORES. The last task a time-strapped caregiver considers doing is housework or yardwork. You will not insult your friend or neighbor by offering to vacuum their house or clean their bathrooms. Or perhaps it’s a lawn that needs mowing or a flower bed, weeding; that sprucing up will provide the caregiver with a virtual—and literal—fresh view of their circumstances.

OTHER OPTIONS. Sam may turn down home improvement offers but he might say, “What I could really use right now is some help figuring out Nancy’s health insurance statements.” Or he might say, “My wife’s not much of a conversationalist anymore, I’d give anything to have an hour to talk with someone who is. Could you stop by later today for a visit? I’ll even talk politics if it means having someone else to talk to.”

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE. The family caregiver has so much going on physically and emotionally, offers of assistance can be the salve that gets them through each day.

Grief: Your caregiving friend is grieving the loss of a person who is still with him. Unlike the sudden death of a family member, the Alzheimer’s caregiver suffers the prolonged loss of their loved one—oftentimes called ambiguous loss—because although physically present, the person with dementia is continuously leaving their loved one.

Exhaustion. Physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion sneak up on the solo caregiver and they are killers. The solo caregiver must put their needs above those of the one for whom they are providing care and sometimes they need you, the outsider, to help them prioritize those needs. Just like the airlines’ seatbelt instructions, the person meeting the need requires attention before the one requiring it.

BOTTOM LINE. You have so much to offer the time-strapped family caregiver; your gifts of kindness are more valuable than you could ever imagine.

Do you want additional insight into what caregivers with whom you are acquainted are facing? You can order Requiem for the status quo at Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well as all online and brick and mortar chain and independent bookstores. And if you have already read my debut novel, please consider leaving a review on the online retailer’s website of your choice. 

 

 

 

 

 

Requiem characters’ radio interview

Craig Boyack, author and author supporter – yes, author supporter – conducted a radio interview of two of the characters from my debut novel, Requiem for the status quo.

Patrick Quinn, father of the protagonist, Colleen Strand, has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and he’s having a difficult time trying to figure out how not to be a burden to his daughter, Colleen. He’s friendly with the radio host, even joking about a part of the male body that withers and needs medicinal support and encouragement from time to time. (Don’t worry, it’s G-Rated, you have to read the context of the interview to fully appreciate the sense of humor this fine, eighty-four year old man exhibits, even in the midst of his disease journey.)

Jonathan Quinn, Patrick’s son, who’s not too keen on what has happened to the father whom he at one time looked up to. Yes, Jonathan is embarrassed by his father’s forgetfulness and seems to think his father’s challenges are all about him, Jonathan, instead of the person who has a front row seat to every twist and turn the plaques and tangles of his diseased brain takes. Jonathan is firmly implanted on the road to denial and sadly, it gets in the way of his relationship with his father.

The interviewer is a fictional character, Lisa Burton, a character in one of Craig Boyak’s novels. The interview takes place on her show, Lisa Burton Radio. This different way of interviewing an author, in this case, me, and spotlighting the author’s novel, is so ingenious, you will be taken aback by how effective Craig’s blogging methods are.

Please, read the interview, and when you’ve done so, I hope you’ll purchase my book from any of the many online and brick and mortar book stores out there, including  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.

 

Dementia caregivers: 21st century heroes

Those family members who have had, or who currently have, a family member or close friend with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, you are my hero.

You took on the task of showing your love and compassion by signing up to become a family caregiver which at its best is a learn-as-you-go, long-term commitment. Your efforts make a difference in the life of your loved one. They may not be able to express their appreciation for all that you do, but please know that the essence of who they are acknowledges your kindness.

Your name and/or identity may be lost to them, but you are still a vital part of their life, and your friendly and loving demeanor goes far toward affirming them and making them feel valued and loved.

Thank you for all that you have done, continue to do, and will remain doing in the future. It is an honor to be in your company.

Requiem for the status quo was 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.

 

Release day for Requiem for the status quo

Today is release day for my debut novel.

My horoscope that day

On December 29, 2012, I first sat down to write that novel.

On the day of the fifth anniversary of my father’s October 13, 2007 death, I decided to write a novel inspired by my caregiving experiences as his Alzheimer’s care manager. I was certain novel writing would be a huge undertaking because I had never written fiction. Because of the enormity of said project, I figured I would wait until the beginning of the following year – you know, a fresh start and all.

But the universe had other plans. My December 29, 2012 horoscope was what the universe used as the catalyst to get my attention. More than that, it shocked me into action. The horoscope so alarmed me, I cut it out of the newspaper, typed it out in large font, and after writing my novel’s very first page, I framed all three to memorialize the outstanding coincidence of what my Taurus-scope said. Here, for your enlightenment, is its wording:

Now’s perfect to start a new writing project; no need to wait until next year. Put down your thoughts without worrying about form, one word at a time.

I showed the horoscope to my husband and if it at all possible, he was more shocked than I at the horoscope’s content. He left me alone the remainder of the day, knowing the horoscope meant business, and so did I. I closed the door to my office, sat at my computer and started typing.

I didn’t know what I was doing. As I mentioned earlier, I had never written fiction. At that point, my personal blog, Living: the ultimate team sport was filled with 100s of non-fiction pieces, most of which centered around aging, long-term care, as well as numerous posts about Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia, and the caregiving struggles faced by families. But to write prose – with dialogue!!!!! – was beyond my skill set, and remained to be for quite some time.

The short of the long of it is that Requiem for the status quo was not the first title for the novel, there were many, the first being Have we met? Aren’t you glad I changed it to its current one? Not only were several titles tried on but my magnum opus went through many rewrites, most notably and importantly, the first draft contained a whopping total of 140,000 words. You see, I had a lot to say and I just kept typing until I had nothing more to add.

That’s an excellent way to get thoughts down on paper, but the first draft is by no means the final product that is pitched to agents and publishers. My now published novel is less than 68,000 words. Yes, lots of cutting and slashing took place over the years, to the point where not only am I proud of the finished product, but a publisher is also proud of it, Black Rose Writing.

Requiem for the status quo was released by Black Rose Writing. 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.

I will close this post by providing glimpses of my father to you over the years. I hope you enjoy this montage that includes, from top left: My mother and father’s wedding day 1947; my wedding day 2000 (my favorite photo of my dad and I); and the Desonier family circa 1971.

Writing to make a difference, one person at a time

February 10, 2000, four years before diagnosis

Writing a novel just for the hell of it isn’t what I did when, on December 29, 2012, I started to write REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO.

First and foremost, I sat down at my computer because I had something to say about how Alzheimer’s disease affected my father.  Additionally, having graduated from the unofficial school of family caregiving, I figured someone just might benefit from the good – and the not-so-good – ways in which I managed my father’s illness.

Now thirteen years after my father’s initial Alzheimer’s diagnosis, my novel will hit the virtual and brick & mortar shelves of bookstores. It will also make its way in person to a number of  senior centers and senior living communities in my area. As an event on their activity calendars, I will read passages from my novel that might just ring a bell in the minds and hearts of those gathered to listen to what this Baby Boomer has to say. Maybe what I share will inspire them to purchase REQUIEM which I will gladly sell to them at a highly-discounted price. And once they’ve read my novel, perhaps they will share it with someone else, and so on down the line.

Is REQUIEM about Irene Frances Olson and her father, Don Patrick Desonier? Continue reading “Writing to make a difference, one person at a time”

Caregiving 101

I’ve written several articles over the years about the importance of assembling a caregiving team when caring for a loved one – a team that doesn’t necessarily rely on family because not everyone has a participatory family when it comes to these matters. That was certainly the case for REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO‘s Colleen Strand while taking care of her father, Patrick Quinn. She sought help from her brother  but that was not something with which he chose to be involved.

REQUIEM, my debut novel, is now available for pre-order from my publisher, Black Rose Writing. You will receive a 10% discount with code PREORDER2017 if purchased before its release date of July 20th. Additionally, in the days ahead, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble will be offering a pre-order option leading up to the novel’s release. Ebook options will be available at most online book retailers as of July 27th.

Of all the life-changes we encounter during our journey, caregiving is one of  – if not the most – difficult speed bumps to get over.

Caregiving: the ultimate team sport suggests how one might use the strengths of each team/family member to handle the varied needs during the caregiving journey.

Family dynamics that hamper caregiving success exposes the need to let go of stereotypes or childhood roles that don’t serve siblings well as adults. If ever there was a time to work together for the greater good, taking care of a family member with dementia or other terminal illness ranks right up there at the top.

Solo caregiving addresses the needs of the person who appears to be strapped with fulfilling all the roles needed for a successful caregiving venture. The solo caregiver need not settle into those roles, however. The help of other, well-meaning individuals, can lessen that daunting task.  Certainly, much relies on the neighbor, coworker, even casual acquaintance, but said entities are a resource from which much assistance can be found.

Here are several more articles for the caregivers out there – and those acquainted with a caregiver – to provide some wisdom and encouragement through the tough times: 

Club Alzheimer’s

No one wants to be a member of a club characterized by a disease that robs a person of their cognitive function and is always fatal. Unfortunately, as of this writing, 5 million Americans (many more million in other countries) are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Here are a few more facts extracted from the most current Facts and Figures document published by the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • In 2016, 15 million Americans provided unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias;
  • That equates to 18.2 billion hours of care valued at $230 billion;
  • 1 in 3 adults dies with Alzheimer’s or other dementia;
  • It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined;
  • Since the year 2000, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 89%;
  • Every 66 seconds, a person develops the disease.

Continue reading “Club Alzheimer’s”