By Robyn Hollingworth
About ten years ago my life took a turn. I guess you would say it took a turn for the worse, but really, it just changed. I was in my mid-twenties, living in London and working in fashion. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his early 60s, and within the year, I had moved back to small-town south Wales to help my mum look after him.
His decline was swift, his actions included (at the start) repetition of stories, misplacing items, and accidentally putting on Mum’s cardigan to go to the shops – so far, standard! He had really mellowed and was fairly stoic and philosophical about the illness, often making jokes about his forgetfulness, even though it must have been terrifying for him. Then life took a turn for the “even worse.” Mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away just three months after I moved home. The effect this had on dad was profound and catastrophic. The seismic shift in the family dynamic tipped him right over the edge. By this point, my older brother was also in residence, but still we couldn’t give dad the level of care he needed. One day he mistook me for a burglar and came at me with a knife. It was at this point that we had to seek more help and Dad went into a care home. Continue reading
by Vanessa Williams-Harvey
It took years of silence for me to come to terms and let it all out. Everything came to an abrupt halt in August of 2015. On that painful and dark day, our mother was ultimately placed in a nursing facility. We continue to struggle with that painful decision. My personal guilt, frustrations and regret plagued my soul to the point of endless days and restless nights. I was able to find relief when I pulled out my tablet and began to jot down everything that had been swirling around in my head.
I started writing about the good times; there were a few. The more I wrote, the more I relaxed and I could finally exhale. I used words to breathe life into the dark reality I suppressed for far too long, finding a voice in writing that I wasn’t quite comfortable with verbalizing. I felt incapable of being accountable to myself, let alone anyone else.
“I Remember” is a candid and brutally honest glimpse of what my family and I experienced on our journey with Alzheimer’s. My writing is a deep dive with frank details about some tough and challenging times, as we struggled to communicate and collaborate with one another. It took a lot of time for me to realize that I wasn’t the only one hurting. The very same pain that was ripping at my heart and head was also wreaking havoc on each and every member of our family in a very distinctive way. Continue reading
By Tracey S. Lawrence
Once upon a time, I was a self-employed graphic arts professional. I designed stuff. I helped clients with their marketing and printing problems. My parents were living it up in southern Florida, and I believed in the Myth of Retirement:
- Stop working
- Spend money like you’re drunk
- Spoil your kids and grandkids
- Do all the stuff you always dreamed of
- Eventually, gently, die in your bed at home
- Cherubs lead you to heaven’s gate
- Cue heavenly choir
In 2003, I learned about the harsh Reality of Post-Retirement. I went to visit my parents in Florida and realized Dad had been covering up his illnesses. He had a lot of issues. He was 75. My mother, who was 74, was very dependent on him.
After a test gone wrong, my father’s short term memory evaporated, and following many misdiagnoses, I realized he had vascular dementia. He knew it, too, and did not want to live that way. My brother and I supported his wish to avoid prolonging his life. My father died in July 2004 at the age of 76. Continue reading
By Jessica Bryan
I am a writer. That’s difficult to say when I’m so busy being a caregiver for my mother who is 99 years old and has had Alzheimer’s for 15 years. Mom lives with us. She is in advanced stages now, but was exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s even while my husband and I cared for my father, who also had Alzheimer’s. No one…NO ONE is prepared for this! There’s no caregiver’s manual that tells us how to do this job.
I decided that as a writer it might help others to write about caregiving in the non-clinical, in the trenches, personal experience, kind of way. I have found ways to help myself out of my depression, anger, denial, impatience, sadness, and frustration. I’ve discovered so many things to help me through the most difficult job I have ever experienced. How could I do anything BUT write about this to help others?
My latest book, The Memory Keeper, is the fourth in a series of our journey and experience dealing with this devastating disease. It was a cathartic process to share my words, my thoughts, my emotions. They are sometimes raw, sometimes irreverent, often loving. I am resolved and accepting of what is to be, in a philosophical kind of way; but I also see the humor in some of the events that lead us there. Because of my writing style and the way I deal with the often taboo subjects (that one simply doesn’t discuss in polite society!) many others have written to me thanking me for my candid discussion of these difficult issues. One reader who attended a book signing proclaimed that my books were like her own personal therapy sessions. Many have thanked me for giving them permission to laugh through their tears. Continue reading
By Robin Gail
When my husband and I began the long journey taking care of my mother, we had no idea what to expect. We had no experience, knowledge, or help from anyone. When we first suspected Mom was ill, I began research how to help her travel through the relentless disease of Alzheimer’s. I found quite a number of books, but they were most often written from a medical point of view.
After my beloved mother died in ’09, I felt a strong urge and need to help others going through what we had gone through with caregiving. I wanted to write a book from a personal point of view, a book full of tips and ideas from someone who had actually traveled this road with their ill loved one. I felt very motivated to try to ease the burden that I know from firsthand experience others feel when being a caregiver.
I wanted to write the book shortly after Mom’s death, but it was too difficult to relive everything so soon after experiencing our caregiving journey. So, as I recalled things we did, I would jot them down on Post-it notes and put the notes away for a later time when I knew I would be ready to write. Continue reading