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

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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

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Meet Tamara Prosper, author of “The Elders,” a Collection of Short Stories

Elders are not merely old people. Regardless of their current condition, at heart they’re still parents, spouses, teachers, veterans, housekeepers, artists, entrepreneurs, farmers, neighbors, caregivers, and friBy Tamara Prosper

Ever since I can remember trying to navigate through grief, frustration, anxiety, anger and sometimes even joy, writing has been the compass that lead me to equilibrium. Seven months after uprooting my family by moving from our home in a major southern city to take what I expected to be my dream job as the Administrator of a beautiful nursing home in rural North Carolina, I was exhausted, frustrated, angry and depressed. My children had quickly adjusted to our new environment. My husband seemed to be moving forward in his business endeavors. He and the children appeared to be quite content with everything except for the fact that I spent very little time with them. My friends lived far away and I had little time to make new friends so I poured my feelings into journals.

When saddened by the unexpected death of a resident, I wrote. When I was frustrated by demands from the corporate office, I wrote. When angered by the unrealistic expectations of resident’s family members and when my character was questioned, I wrote. When my staff was mistreated and when we celebrated our first deficiency-free annual state survey, I wrote. I wrote of individuals that I worked with before moving to North Carolina. I wrote my imagined explanations for the exasperating behavior of certain residents and their loved ones. I placidly withstood and gently addressed blatantly disrespectful behavior from a resident’s family member, then filled pages with the fury that had been veiled behind my calm demeanor. Hurt feelings, sweet memories, righteous indignation, joy, sorrow, celebration, dread, and voracious hope flowed from my spirit to my journals.

book cover (1)In nine months I had written and edited more than a dozen stories, finally choosing those that I believed were worthy of sharing with the world. I wanted people to see the humanity of elders and their caregivers. Elders are not merely old people. Regardless of their current condition, at heart they’re still parents, spouses, teachers, veterans, housekeepers, artists, entrepreneurs, farmers, neighbors, caregivers, and friends. They want what everyone wants – to enjoy a good meal, to laugh at a funny story, to spend time with loved ones, and to contribute to the world. Caregivers, whether professionals or responsible loved ones, are among the unrecognized heroes of our society. They give far more than they receive, simply because they know it must be done. By sharing varying perspectives and situations I seek to make these truths known.

By having a glimpse into the lives of The Elders, people may recognize someone they know or have a frame of reference for someone in the future. I want people to feel a connection with The Elders so they will empathize with and advocate for the elders in their communities.

Purchase The Elders

About the Author

Tamara G. ProsperI’m an Aging Services Professional with a sincere love for older adults and a resolute desire to see them thrive throughout all stages of life. I work directly with elders in organizations that support their care. I share as much information as possible with as many elders and caregivers as possible, to prepare, inform, educate and encourage them as they experience aging. I’m thankful to have received very positive feedback from readers.

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For more extraordinary books about Alzheimer’s and dementia please visit the AlzAuthors Bookstore.  Reposted with permission of AlzAuthors, the global community of authors and readers whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia. I am a co-founder and admin.

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