Caregiver Judith Clarke Looks for Laughs Every Day in “Dementia Isn’t Funny”

If nothing else in all our years, I've learned from my husband how to laugh at myself, and life, and always with him. - Judith Clarke, Blogger DementiaIsn'tFunny.com.png

By Judith Clarke, Blogger at Dementia Isn’t Funny

Laughter costs nothing and work instantly.

Take off everything but your underwear,” the nurse said. “Doctor will be in shortly.”

She handed my husband a gown and left. 

Peter looked at me. “What am I supposed to do?”

“Take everything off except your underwear.” 

He took his shirt off. “Is this enough?”

“No, everything but your underwear.”

As he stripped off his trousers he said, “Good thing I wore underwear today.”

I burst out laughing. 

When you live with someone whose medical diagnosis includes the words “mild dementia,” you learn quickly that laughter is absolutely essential for both patient and caregiver. Alzheimer’s disease may be lurking. Laughter can’t slow the disease nor cure it, but it costs nothing and works instantly.

Decades ago I learned to laugh at my husband’s lightening quick rejoinders. Ever the life of any party, he joked about everything. Even now he laughs at himself, though much of the time he forgets why before the laughs have faded.

He was diagnosed with “mild dementia” in 2003. For the next eight years I was his caregiver, a relatively easy job, though worrisome. About six years later the doctor said, “I can no longer rule out Alzheimer’s.”

By then there was no choice but to hire help. I’d come up with the idea of therapy-dog visits for Peter and his dog Nobby. I got lucky with Bill who drove them to nursing homes in our area every Wednesday for seven years.

Peter had just gotten up when Bill arrived. Not one to be rushed, Peter sipped his coffee, nibbled his toast, and wiped (and wiped and wiped) the kitchen countertop. He will not be dissuaded from that task once he starts. Bill and I smiled.

“‘Mrs. Clarke,’” I said, “are you about finished?”

Bill chuckled. “He’s a good little ‘housewife,’ isn’t he?” 

Peter muttered, “Well, someone has to do it, don’t they?” 

In 2017, he seemed to get worse by the day. He’d gotten lost on a sweltering day and was found, hours later, five miles away. With that, his easy-going temperament changed, although still quick witted, a dark side had erupted like a zit on a teenager’s chin.

Mark, an additional companion was a big help too, but by year’s end, my resolve was shredded. A temporary fix, a locater watch, gave me confidence that Peter was safe walking Nobby. But it begged problems because his engineer’s mind soon figured out how to get the thing off.

Then he fell face first into a muddy ditch while walking. A policeman notified me and took me to the ambulance a block away.

Peter was already on the gurney when I climbed in behind him. He turned his battered, muddy face toward me and said, “Uh oh, now I’m in trouble.” He kept the EMTs entertained all the way to the hospital.

With the advice of our daughters I weighed the options. I’d known for months I had to do something, but I’d played ostrich. The choices were assisted living, memory care, private-care home, or 24-hour care at home. He didn’t meet the requirements for assisted living and round-the-clock care at home was a non-starter because he would hate it, as would I.

The only real choice was memory care. The day he was admitted was one of the worst days of our lives, mine because I knew what it meant, and Peter’s because he didn’t.

Anyone who has opened a door to memory care should be prepared for the stress, guilt, and pain that lies on the other side. Peter can’t articulate his feelings, but I can speak to feeling paralyzed while watching confusion engulf him.

The first time his new neurologist visited, she introduced herself, and asked, “Would you like me to call you Peter, Mr. Clarke or Dr. Clarke?”

He grinned. “Dr. Clarke sounds good.” We laughed with her.

I know it’s easier for me than for Peter. I still live in our home while he’s in a strange new environment that will never feel like home no matter how I try to make it seem so.

When I visit, I walk in and immediately begin to tidy his room. One day, in addition to the usual mess, the comforter was turned so that the ends were dragging the floor off the sides of the bed.

“Did an aide make your bed or did you?”

“Is it right or wrong?” he asked.

“It’s the wrong way ’round.” 

“She made it,” he said.

I laughed like I hadn’t laughed in weeks.

If nothing else in all our years, I’ve learned from my husband how to laugh at myself, and life, and always with him.

About the Author

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The author and her husband, Peter

The writer’s block that stopped Judith Clarke cold was hidden behind dementia’s sweeping skirts. During the years she’d tried to write a novel about innocence, she admitted that her husband’s “mild dementia” diagnosis was actually Alzheimer’s disease. Real life. Not fiction.

Writing a novel, or writing anything at all, was no longer a priority. Peter was, and remains, her first priority.

Daughters Carolynn and Leslie urged their mother to start a blog, Dementia Isn’t Funny. Putting thoughts to paper helps anyone facing a challenge and Judith soon realized that her therapy was helping others —

“…You are my hero and you give me hope.” Ellen

“Such honest, insightful disclosures! You avoid the trite phrases that elicit pity and get to the heart of this very complex life we lead. It’s pure generosity and what’s more, you are gifted.” Mary Ann

“Thank you for some simple answers for a not-so-simple predicament.” Carol

“Thank you…so many [posts] were just what we’ve been going through. I appreciate your candor and humor! It’s a road no one wants to be on, but you are holding a light for some of us who are coming along behind.” Jabberwalky

“So love reading these…treasures and trials…. Such stories can only help us have empathy for those we meet day to day.” Carol

In 2016, Judith placed second in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) contest for blogs with under 100,000 unique visitors.  Her other blog, “Wherever you go, there you are”  has appeared on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop site.

Judith has written two books, Mother Tough Wrote the Book (2001) and That’s All She Wrote (2007). Both are out of print, but Mother Tough will send an autographed copy, or a boxful, upon request. Contact mothertough105@gmail.com

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For more vetted books and blogs about Alzheimer’s and dementia please visit AlzAuthors.com. Reprinted with permission of AlzAuthors.

New Release Spotlight: “Electricity,” A Paranormal Romance from Claire Gem

new release spotlight

This week’s new release is brought to us by Claire Gem, who’s written some terrific  paranormal romances. I personally know Claire as she grew up in my town and attends the Local Authors Showcase I coordinate each year at Middletown Thrall Library.  This looks like another enthralling read.

img_3925About the Book

She’s an electrician starting over with her son. New job. New town. New life.

He’s a coworker who’s interested in more than her ability to run conduit.

The building they’re rewiring was once an insane asylum…but it appears some of the patients never left.

Mercedes Donohue pulled up roots in Atlanta when her marriage imploded. She’s come back to New England, to the place where she was born. Mercy’s focus is to stabilize her teenage son’s life—he took the breakup pretty hard—and to establish her place, gain the respect of Progressive Electrical’s team.

She never expected so many sparks to fly so soon, both on the job and after hours.

Daniel Gallagher has been alone since his fiancé’s death. He’ll never feel that way about any woman again, and certainly won’t try with another independent, strong-willed one. Then Mercy short-circuits his plans.

Although the asylum closed its doors over thirty-five years ago, Mercy & Daniel quickly realize the abandoned building is very haunted.

If you like a heart-melting romance laced with healthy dose of supernatural thrills and chills, you’ll love Electricity. Purchase now!

About the Author

2019AuthorPic smallBorn in Brooklyn,, Claire grew up in Middletown, NY. She now lives in Massachusetts where she works for Tufts University—when she’s not writing. Her books have been recognized by competitions such as the N.Y. Book Festival, the Holt Medallion Awards, the RONE, and the National Fiction Awards. She writes paranormal romance—love stories set in old haunted places. Her latest release, Electricity, takes place in an abandoned mental asylum.

 

 

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Millenial Blogger Rachel Hiles Shares her Caregiving Journey in “Taking Care of Grandma”

By Rachel Hiles

When I became my grandma’s caregiver, I searched desperately for support.

No, not home-delivered meals or adult daycare.

Not home care agencies or government programs.

No, I was on a relentless pursuit for the others.

You see, when we are in the thick of caregiving, there are times when we feel oh so alone. Even if we have watched people taking care of their relatives while growing up, or hear about it on TV, we are never fully prepared for caregiving until it actually happens to us. And then we are islands.

When you realize for the first time your loved one might have dementia, it feels like the ocean is coming to swallow up your island.

This feeling of aloneness is a feeling I have grown quite accustomed to as an only child. As an only child caring for an only child, I realized just how small our tiny little island was and this gnawing only grew stronger.

The people I thought would come through for us never showed up. Some of these same people were the ones who were telling me I should give up and look at placing Grandma in a facility. I said, “No, she can stay at home.” In spite of it all, my primary motivation is to see this through to the very end, making sure she has a good life every step of the way.

I figured there had to be some others like us. Others not just caring for their loved ones at home, but proactively looking for ways to keep them there. Others that could find the humor in caregiving mishaps, instead of being so freaked out by them they never even try. Others that are willing to make sacrifices to help their loved one, who after all, sacrificed greatly for them. Others that are concerned with respecting their elders and values of family and community (yes, they still do exist).

Since I had my own social struggles, I didn’t know anyone personally my age, let alone someone my age who was also caring for a loved one, so I started searching.

In my search for the others, takingcareofgrandma.com was born. It was my desperate attempt to light the branches on the beach and send out smoke signals to other people like me who are caring for an aging relative. I thought that if I started blogging about my caregiving adventure, the others—granddaughters, nephews, nieces and neighbors, people searching for the same things I was searching for—would find me.

Be careful what you wish for, they say. Out of nowhere, the others started popping up left and right. In my inbox. On Twitter. At Grandma’s high school class reunion. At conferences.

Thanks to my smoke signals, the others are showing up all the time.

Ultimately, I hope that my blog is more than just an endearing story from an ephemeral point in one person’s life. I hope that my readers of TakingCareofGrandma.com find my tips and tricks, videos and silly stories helpful, and that they spark ideas of how they might be able to support a loved one they are caring for. When I told my grandma I wanted to start my blog, I convinced her by telling her we were doing the world a service—after all, it is up to us to show the world how it’s done. I never looked back.

Even though I started TakingCareofGrandma.com with the intention of finding, helping, and inspiring others, it is seriously one of the greatest gifts I ever gave to myself. Starting this blog has not only been a source of catharsis for me, it has also put opportunities in front of me and brought people into my life in a way I never thought was possible.

My advice out there to anyone who is currently caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia: Never lose hope of finding the others. It is when you least expect it and in our darkest moments that they come into the light.

About the Author

img_3931Rachel Hiles is a 30-something aspiring local celebrity do-gooder in Kansas City. She is a proud graduate of the UMKC Bloch school, where she obtained her Masters of Public Administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management. She worked in the developmental disabilities field in a variety of roles for over 13 years. Most recently, she ventured down the path to self-employment as a graphic, web, and media designer so she could have flexibility in her role as primary caregiver to her grandma, Barbara.

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For more vetted books and blogs about Alzheimer’s and dementia please visit AlzAuthors.com. Reprinted with permission of AlzAuthors.

 

 

New Release Spotlight: “King of Malorn,” Book Five in The Annals of Alasia by Annie Douglass Lima

new release spotlight

 

Thanks for stopping by! Take a look at this brand-new fantasy adventure story with a hint of romance by author Annie Douglass Lima. You can download a copy of the ebook for free between July 9th and 11th!

King of Malorn Cover

Book Description

Life as the king’s younger sister should be exciting.

Not for Princess Kalendria. She’s sick of the dissent and of constantly having her family undermined by those who think they could rule Malorn better than King Korram.

Hoping to lighten the mood in the palace, Kalendria plans a ball to celebrate her seventeenth birthday. It doesn’t hurt that their handsome Alasian ally King Jaymin has promised to attend, and she’s been waiting for him to notice her for as long as she can remember.

But unfriendly forces have their own party plans. When Kalendria, Korram, and Jaymin barely survive an assassination attempt, their only recourse is to flee into the wilderness. Tracked by unknown assassins, they must figure out whom they can trust and who is behind the plot. Can Kalendria help her brother reclaim his throne – oh, and catch Jaymin’s attention while she’s at it – before they are all killed and war destroys both kingdoms?

Click here to download your copy of King of Malorn on Amazon now!

Click here to see King of Malorn on Goodreads.

Series Information

Annals of Alasia

King of Malorn is book 5 in the Annals of Alasia. But don’t worry if you haven’t read the others; it will still make sense on its own.

Each of the first four books can stand on its own as well. They each deal with events surrounding the same major political incident: the invasion of the kingdom of Alasia by the neighboring kingdom of Malorn.

Prince of Alasia begins on the night of the Invasion and describes what happens to twelve-year-old Prince Jaymin after he is forced to flee for his life.

In the Enemy’s Service features a girl as the protagonist and tells the story of those who were not able to escape from the Alasian palace when the enemy invaded.

Prince of Malorn begins several months earlier and focuses on the Malornian perspective of the events leading up to the Invasion.

The Nameless Soldier shows how a young Alasian soldier lives through the Invasion but then has to survive and make a name for himself in enemy-occupied Alasia.

In each of the books, main characters from the others make brief appearances and interact with each other at the point where the timeframes and settings overlap.

I also have a short ebook of “interviews” that I conducted with the characters in the other three books. Annals of Alasia: The Collected Interviews is not available on Amazon, but I send a free copy to anyone who signs up for my mailing list (to receive updates when I release new books or occasionally offer them for free).

About the Author

Annie Douglass LimaAnnie Douglass Lima considers herself fortunate to have traveled in twenty different countries and lived in four of them. A fifth-grade teacher in her “other” life, she loves reading to her students and sparking their imaginations. Her books include science fiction, fantasy, YA action and adventure novels, a puppet script, anthologies of her students’ poetry, and Bible verse coloring and activity books. When she isn’t teaching or writing, Annie can often be found sipping spiced chai or pomegranate green tea in exotic locations, some of which exist in this world.

Connect with Annie Douglass Lima

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Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blogger Lickety Glitz Invites Us into Life with Vascular Dementia in “Stumped Town Dementia”

By Lickety Glitz

I started…

… to worry that Mom’s behavior wasn’t old age quirky-ness, but possibly a much more serious problem.

I started…

… a new career that required relocating away from family, friends, and the region I loved best.

I started…

… to consult with Dad on my visits home about how long we thought it might be before he needed me back permanently to support him in Mom’s care. Another year? Three? Five?

I stopped…

… breathing when the ER doctor announced on conference call that Dad had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I could tell that those who were there in-person had stopped breathing too.

I started…

… sharing 24/7 care for Mom with my sister when Dad died three weeks later.

I started…

… blogging about our dementia adventures a year later as a way to keep far off friends and family engaged in Mom’s life. I’ve been writing for over a year now, and…

… I’ve started to realize it’s so much more.

It’s a lifeline for me. An umbilical cord to a not-so-distant universe of word-weaving creativity; now a tiny galaxy of curling and curving locution that tethers me to the world of my present.

It’s a permanent record of a journey I don’t want to forget. An autobiography of dementia certainties: misplaced items, misplaced poop, mismanaged emotions. A sweeping saga of dementia unknowns; tremendous courage, epic failures, colossal comedies.

It’s a connection to a massive universe of dementia caregivers who see their journey mirrored in ours. It’s a connection to a smaller cosmos of family and friends who can’t always be with their beloved Gloria but want to stay informed. It’s a connection to my sister, The Other Girl, a relationship sometimes fragile and strained, but united in a never-questioned bond of love for our mother.

And lastly, it’s a connection to myself; my devastating defeats, my soaring successes, my inherited joy of hilarity in the tragically absurd – a gift from Mom and Dad who shared the same comedic sensibilities. When I write a post, whether dire and dark or laugh-out-loud light, I have to relive my emotions, examine my responses, assess my behavior with unflinching honesty. If I shrink from that often-painful task, then I am doing everyone who follows our adventures a disservice in telling a dishonest tale.

A year ago, I sat down at my computer to inform family and friends of Mom’s dementia progression. A year later I rise in realization that I’m actually telling myself about myself.

About the Author

Stumped Town Dementia is a personal blog chronicling the dementia adventures of Girl and The Other Girl, sharing hilarious, heartbreaking, bittersweet and courageous moments of life with our Mom who has vascular dementia. We celebrate the insanity and relish the laughter of this long, strange journey. It helps us make it through the days when there are no smiles to be had.

Stumped Town Dementia has been featured on The Caregiver Space, Family Caregiver Alliance, Being Patient, and Alzheimer’s Society UK.

Lickety Glitz has been a former just about everything from non-profits arts administrator to cabaret performer to post-production professional to Crappiest Daughter of the Year award winner about 40+ years in a row. She recently broke that winning streak by stepping up to the plate, hand-in-hand with The Other Girl, to provide their dementia mom with the best end-of-life care possible.

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Email: licketyglitz@stumpedtowndementia.com

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For more vetted books and blogs about Alzheimer’s and Dementia please visit AlzAuthors.com. Reprinted with permission of AlzAuthors.

New Release Spotlight: Susan Wilson Returns with “The Dog I Loved,” Another Great Novel for Canine Lovers

new release spotlight

From the New York Times bestselling author of One Good Dog comes another heartwarming novel about humans and the dogs that save us.

This is a great series. I particularly enjoyed A Man of His Own and  One Good Dog. Also, The Fortune Teller’s Daughter, an earlier novel not in this series, is a great read.

The Dog I Loved

Book Description: Rose Collins is a free woman. After spending years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit, Rose has finally been released, and a mysterious benefactor has landed her a job as a project manager on a crumbling estate in Dogtown, an abandoned settlement with a rich history.

With the support of Meghan, a grumpy ex-soldier confined to a wheelchair after an explosion, who she met while training Shark, Meghan’s service dog, as part of a prisoner rehabilitation program, Rose begins to rebuild her life. As she settles in at Dogtown and learns more about the original residents – women who often lived alone, with only their dogs for protection – she feels a connection to them, and, for the first time, starts to believe that she might have a chance at a happy ending.

But when secrets from her past begin to emerge and threaten the life Rose has built for herself, she and Meghan must fight for their freedom, happiness, and the chance at redemption.

Preorder The Dog I Loved

Available November 12, 2019

About the Author

Susan WilsonSusan Wilson is the author of nine well-received novels including her 2010 novel, ONE GOOD DOG, which enjoyed six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and THE DOG WHO DANCED received the coveted Maxwell Medal for Fiction from the Dog Writer’s Association of America in 2012.

Her latest novel, TWO GOOD DOGS, was released in March 2016.

Her 1996 novel BEAUTY was made into a CBS Sunday Night Movie starring Jamey Sheridan and Janine Turner and can still be seen occasionally on the Lifetime network.

She lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband.  She has two grown daughters and three grandchildren.  Susan is also a horse lover with a Quarter horse mare, Maggie Rose.

Connect with Susan Wilson

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Laura Mansfield Shares Her Journey into Eldercare in “Geezer Stories: The Care and Feeding of Old People”

Mansfield Canva

By Laura Mansfield

Suddenly, five years ago, my world fell apart as my parents tumbled headfirst into old age. It was a pivotal time in my life. I was remarrying after a decade of being a single parent. My son was leaving the nest, starting college, while a special-needs stepson was landing unsteadily in my new nest. I was leaving my successful career at a high-powered advertising agency to start my own consulting business, which would allow me greater flexibility to care for my parents, my new family, and to watch over my son as he spread his wings into early adulthood.

It seemed doable. I was living the life of my generation—Gen T—the Taffy Generation, because “sandwich” just doesn’t cut the mustard. My friends and I are pulled like saltwater taffy as we have children later, our parents live longer, and we blend families in non-traditional ways. We’ve long since quit believing in the myth of work-life balance.

Untitled designI started writing about my journey into eldercare on Facebook in what I called #GeezerUpdates. The Facebook posts quickly gained traction and morphed into a blog at geezerstories.com and ultimately a book—my bittersweet memoir, Geezer Stories: The Care and Feeding of Old People.

There’s no how-to manual for taking care of old folks. We’re all flying blind here as our parents slide into their second childhoods. My book has a bite to it, with a backward glance at my own childhood. It’s a survival story about how to persevere in the face of inevitable hardship. It’s about choosing to age gracefully, despite the pain and the pathos. As my father, aka DooDaddy, famously said, “Growing old is not for the faint of heart.”

Over the past five years, my second marriage failed, my business faltered, and my son lost his way, as I found myself torn apart by the seemingly endless demands of caregiving. I moved three times and changed jobs four times, ultimately ending up back with the agency I left five years ago. And I lost both my parents agonizingly to cancer, which they faced with courage and dignity. My son graduated from college and has become his own person. My life has come full circle.

One of the many blessings of this tumultuous time was my father holding court at my Geezer Stories launch party. He had read the book—which was not always kind to him—three times. He could no longer walk or stand or even sign his name. I had a stamp made of his iconic scrawling signature, which he gamely stamped on each copy as he shook hands and gregariously greeted his fans that afternoon at Union Ave Books. It was a triumph. We sold out. It was DooDaddy’s last public outing. Continue reading