AlzAuthor Julie Bigham Shares How to Create Joy Filled Visits in the Midst of Alzheimer’s

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By Julie Bigham

My passion for bringing joy to the lives of seniors began at an early age, when my gramps encouraged me to entertain at his Senior Center. Fifteen minutes of stand up, egged on by applause from the crowd, ignited a spark of love in my heart for the older generation. Thirty plus years later that spark has erupted into a full flame of passion for providing support to professional and family caregivers caring for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s.

Through my work experience as an activity professional, it became evident to me that providing high quality, compassionate care for those living with Alzheimer’s takes a village, and family engagement in any setting is vital. Families can become overwhelmed with doctor visits, medication changes, increasing care needs, and care plan meetings, not to mention the emotional stress. With everything they juggle, families can forget the importance of spending quality time having fun with their loved one, often spiraling into isolation and depression. Continue reading

Krysten Lindsay Hager Writes Dementia -Themed Fiction for Young Adult Readers

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By Krysten Lindsay Hager

I started writing Dating the It Guy as a romance between a high school girl and the popular senior son of a senator, but I also wanted to include a storyline of having the main character deal with her grandpa’s recent dementia diagnosis. My grandfather moved in with us when I was Emme’s age because he could no longer live on his own. I decided to write about it years later just to get it out. In fact the first time I read a section of it to my mother, she left the room because it was too much to deal with. It’s tough to look back at memories like that sometimes.

So I finished the book, but set it aside for a while. Then two years ago, there was a pitch contest online and I decided to see if there would be any interest in this story. My publisher said she’d be interested in seeing it. At that time I had only published middle grade novels with her and wasn’t sure she’d want a young adult novel from me—after all there are a lot of publishers who aren’t fond of genre hopping. I remember when I sent it to my publisher I mentioned I hoped that this book would help someone else. My publisher wrote, “have I told you I love your writing?” Continue reading

“Life on Planet Alz” – An Alzheimer’s Caregiver Shares His Story

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By Jack S. Cohen

This is a true story about coping with my beloved wife’s devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the terrible scourge of our age.  In general, people are living longer and diseases of the aged are becoming more prevalent. The major neurological disease of the aged is in fact AD. Whenever a person is diagnosed with AD, their spouse automatically becomes their primary carer and unwittingly also becomes a prisoner of the disease.  

There have been many excellent books and descriptions of AD and its ravages upon the minds and lives of people, so why write another account?  Each case of AD is unique and two novel aspects of this account are: the focus on the way that AD imprisons both the patient and their spouse in a constant process of deterioration, and the inclusion of an almost daily journal describing raw incidents that can be enlightening for the reader, and especially for the spouse of an AD sufferer.  This illustrates the vicissitudes and the almost total preoccupation that this disease encompasses. Continue reading

AlzAuthor Bobbi Carducci Offers Hope to Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregivers in a New Anthology of Inspiring Stories

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By Bobbi Carducci

Caregivers very often become isolated as the needs of the one-in-care progress. Even well-intentioned family and friends begin to drift away, leaving caregivers wondering if anyone understands what their life has become.

I know that feeling very well. A caregiver for my father-in-law, Rodger, for seven years, I often felt as if the rest of the world had moved on to work and family life, believing my days were easy.

Some questioned how hard could it be to stay at home and cook his meals and take him to the doctor now and then. Surely I exaggerated the difficulty.    Continue reading

With Recipes, Poetry, and Prose Author Miriam Green Shares her Alzheimer’s Story in “The Lost Kitchen”

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By Miriam Green

When my mom, Naomi, was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I felt relieved. The doctors had finally acknowledged what our family had surmised for almost a year—Mom was losing her memory. Ok, I thought, what now?

Little in our lives changed at first. Mom still rattled around in her kitchen, she was still an avid music lover, conversationalist, and sweet companion. She could maintain her household, and even stay by herself in the evenings when my dad, Jack, was busy. But the signs were everywhere.

There was the day she tried to unlock the front door to her apartment with the wrong key. It didn’t occur to her that she should try another one, or even ask for help. I was waiting patiently on the other side as she jammed that key into the door over and over, swearing in language I had never in my life heard her utter. Daddy rushed from the shower, thinking she’d hurt herself with all the screams. It took a while to calm her down.

What did change dramatically in my life was a commitment I made to visit my parents once a week. I traveled 2½ hours each way by public transportation to be with them. Mostly, I was there for Mom. Those were wonderful mornings. We would do all manner of activities together, ambling around the city, drinking coffee, and enjoying the sunshine. I used those visits to organize my parents’ kitchen and cook them food for the week.

cover 7b Top to Bottom FadeI was privy to Mom’s anxiety over her waning memory. I held her as she cried bitter tears and told me she felt confused. It was the first indication that our roles would soon be reversed, that I was losing my mom by degrees, that the only way forward was a painful decline that inevitably led to death.

It’s been more than seven years now. I’ve learned a few things along the way— to avoid questions in my conversations with Mom; how a person’s gait can define their ill health; that front-closing bras are an Alzheimer’s intimate friend; and how to judiciously use her memory loss for our gain.

I don’t think we can ever be prepared for the strange turns and curves life throws us, but I do know that it helps me to write about them. First came the poetry. Then, what was initially a project I started with my dad as a humorous initiation into the world of cooking and caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s—we called it “The Man’s Emergency Cookbook”—eventually morphed into its current composition. Thus were born my cookbook and my weekly blog. I didn’t need to be alone in my frustrations, fears and struggles. I could connect with the community of Alzheimer’s patients, their families and caregivers who were only a short click away.

And through it all, I cooked. I took what Mom had taught me when she was still active in the kitchen and used that as a basis to experiment with easy recipes that fed my spiritual and emotional hunger. My book, The Lost Kitchen: Reflections and Recipes from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, is a combination of recipes, poetry, and prose about my family and how we have shared the demands of Mom’s Alzheimer’s.

About the Author

Green, Miriam headshotMiriam Green writes a weekly blog, The Lost Kitchen,  featuring anecdotes about her mother’s Alzheimer’s and related recipes. Her blog also appears on the ALZ Blog from the Alzheimer’s Association.  Her poetry has been published in several journals, including Poet Lore, The Prose Poem Project, Ilanot Review, The Barefoot Review, and Poetica Magazine. Her poem, “Mercy of a Full Womb,” won the 2014 Jewish Literary Journal’s 1st anniversary competition. Her poem, “Questions My Mother Asked, Answers My Father Gave Her,” won the 2013 Reuben Rose Poetry prize. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bar Ilan University, and a BA from Oberlin College. Miriam is a 20-year resident of Israel, and a mother of three. You can find Miriam on Facebook and Twitter at @thelostkichen.

 

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How Saying “Yes” Helps Caregivers: Introducing “Start With Yes!”

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From the AlzAuthors Blog

By Cathi Braxton and Tami Neumann

Janna, a resident in a memory care facility, woke up one night and found a few staff members congregated around the nurses station.  When a nurse asked Janna what was wrong, Janna told the group that there were alley cats outside her window making all sorts of ruckus.  Several of the nurses seemed dismissive of  Janna with their sideways glances and eye rolling, but one staff member, Terry,  approached Janna with a kind but concerned smile on her face.

“Janna, let’s go see what all that ruckus is all about.  I suspect alley cats get hungry at this time of night.”  With that the two of them headed back down the hallway and disappeared into Janna’s room. Continue reading

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Sarah B. Smith Shares her Mother’s Alzheimer’s Story in “Broken Beauty”

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By Sarah Bearden Smith

Writing a book was never a dream of mine. A stay-at-home mom driving an SUV, aka “shuttle bus,” I carpool kids to and from school, soccer, flag football, lacrosse, basketball practices, games, and tournaments. As I became a caregiver to Mom, God began drawing me closer and closer to Him through my pain and sorrow.

BOOK COVERBroken Beauty is the story of my mother—known as “Beauty” to our family— and our family’s journey through the devastating world of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I was a young mother in my thirties when my mother’s illness struck, and our family’s shock and pain at the disease’s manifestations has been nearly unbearable. At the time of her diagnosis, Beauty was still young and fit and my best friend. It’s a powerful and personal story about a daughter facing the unthinkable and the love I found to carry her through. Continue reading