Wednesday, May 24, 2017

AlzAuthors: Tracey Shorthouse Tells Her Alzheimer's Story Through Poetry

By Tracey Shorthouse

When I was first  diagnosed  with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and Posterior Cortical Atrophy in 2015, I wanted something to focus on. All my life I have helped others through being a nurse, and I still wanted to do that. 

The brain needs stimulation to keep going, so after the initial shock at being diagnosed and the relief that it wasn’t MS as what I first thought and feared, I took stock of what I could still do, and if I couldn’t do something I persevered until I relearned old skills. I had an occupational therapist who used to come and see me, and she got me in touch with groups that promote positivity in dementia. So I joined The SUNshiners, a network for people with a diagnosis of dementia living in Dover Deal and Shepway, Kent, UK.  I also attend meetings for the Dementia Action Alliance when I can, and get involved with other things, like talks. 

I talk to post diagnostic groups - people who have recently been diagnosed with dementia - and the public to bring awareness that dementia can affect all ages, not just the elderly. Last May, I gave a talk to the local police. I also go to a creative, inspired writing group weekly. I started writing a blog on Facebook,  as a way to keep a journal and to help others in the process. 

I started writing short stories at first to keep my brain active, but I found them too complex to carry on. So instead I started to write poetry. At first it was cathartic to write about my dementia and get it out of my system, but I didn’t want to focus on it as dementia is only a part of who I am. It doesn’t define me. So I wrote about nature, life, and then  stories that came into my head as poems.

I didn’t know I was going to write a book until I showed a friend one of my poems and she suggested getting it published. Then she saw how many poems I had and it stemmed from there. I found a self-publishing company who took an interest and read my poems. 

I was excited when the book was finished. I chose the cover because I love nature, especially trees and the different seasons. The leaves disappearing gradually are an indication that my brain cells are disappearing slowly, and at the end the leaves are on the ground. With nature, nothing goes to waste, and there is always a chance for things to regrow, or in my case relearn. The photographs inside are my own, taken from the area where I live. Nearly everyone who has read the book has given me such positive feedback. It’s a blessing. 

I wanted the book to show anyone with a medical condition that they don’t have to give up. As a nurse, I saw too many people give up when they got their diagnosis. Life is for living to the best of our abilities. For me, it’s precious, so I am hoping that people will take what they need from the book in their own way. 

A Poem from  I Am Me

                                               Dementia and Me

Sometimes I think there is a race
Between my dementia and me
Although it is going at a slow pace
I still wish I was free

My memory used to be hot
Especially with knowledge and spelling
Now I am really not
My brain is its new dwelling

It is like having an alien residing in my brain
At times it takes control
And I feel a lot of strain
As my memories unroll

What did happen yesterday or last week
I really don’t remember
I sigh as everything looks bleak
Since I was diagnosed in December

I want to yell and scream
And tell it to go away
Maybe it is all a dream
But then again I know it will be okay

Because I am a fighter
And in control
And have become a writer
Even though I am not on a pay role

I retired as a nurse in May
Even now that is becoming a distant memory
But at least I can be gay
But the dementia still takes my energy

I hate feeling tired all the time
Having to pace myself
But I am still in my prime
Even though the books remain on the shelf

I miss reading and listening to music
Remembering and concentrating is really hard
But at least I am still lucid
And still write the odd card

My perception of things is often off
I stumble and my speech is sometimes slurred
I worry that people might then scoff
But at least my vision doesn’t get blurred

Damn you dementia! I want to yell
I want to get cross and stamp my feet
But it is only a short spell
Then I feel a bit of a cheat
As the dementia has no voice
It can neither see or hear
And I know I have a choice
But sometimes I wish I was a seer

To see how long I have before the dementia takes over
But I think I wish to live my life to the best of my ability
 I could never be a rover
And at least I prefer some tranquillity

So although my life is a fight
Between the dementia and me
I will win just out of spite
And kick the dementia with glee

©Tracey Shorthouse 2016

Follow Tracey Shorthouse on Facebook

Purchase Tracey's Book on Amazon


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

AlzAuthors: Celia Koudele and The Little Book for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

By Celia Koudele
This book was my legacy for the next generation, putting in writing as much as I could about my experience helping caregivers of dementia patients.

My mother, grandmother and aunt all died from a type of Dementia, mostly Alzheimer’s.

I became my mother’s caregiver after my Dad died of cancer at 75. When my Mom had Neuropathy, the doctor at the Mayo’ Clinic did a memory test and concluded she too would probably get Alzheimer’s. Even with our family history, we went through that period of denial.

I also went to work at the local Alzheimer’s Association, thinking I would learn more and be there to hear about a cure first-hand before I too possibly developed the disease. I was a Help Line Specialist and learned from over 65 callers a month about the many journeys of Alzheimer’s. My job was to listen, comfort, educate, and try to give them ideas to make their daily life better.


Fast forward several years ago and I realized I had lots of ideas from my own experience of caregiving my mom and helping others. These solutions, experiences, and ideas would die with me if I didn’t share them with others. My goal in writing this book was to help other Alzheimer’s families learn from my experiences and ideas to make their life with Alzheimer’s easier in any way. People don’t know these behaviors can happen, what to do once they have a diagnosis, or how to talk and interact with people with dementia. Ignorance is not bliss. It can happen to anyone.

I knew what it feels like to be exhausted, afraid, and sad because the Mother I knew was slipping away, and I didn’t have the energy or knowledge to make it better. This Alzheimer’s Caregivers book is short and simple. When I began the journey of caregiving, “The 36 Hour Day” was a popular resource, but it was a large book, and by now I was caregiving for my mom and also my mother-in-law, so there was little time to read all of that large book! My book is purposefully “Little” because caregivers are exhausted, busy, and need an answer to their problem quickly. It covers the emotions, daily living problems, and the big decisions about placing them in a facility. It is for all of you pretending they “aren’t that bad” while quality time slips away. Denial hurts everyone. There are ideas to cope with anger, bathing, and wandering. Always remember no one is promised forever, we all get one day at a time.

I often share my books with doctors, people in stores, friends, strangers, and anyone struggling on this journey. No one should have to fight this disease alone with no help or support. I also often find support groups and church groups to speak to and to help with the many facets of this. God Bless them.

I receive feedback from Amazon, social media, and friends who have purchased the book and come back to buy more. Sometimes I give presentations at assisted living centers and support groups and people come up to ask questions and purchase the book.

Connect with Claudia Koudele:

Instagram: Alzcaregivers

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sweep Me Away with Sweet Contemporary Romance Giveaway and Raffle!

I recently discovered something called subscriber magnets from My Book Cave and thought I'd give them a try. This is way for me to partner with other authors to share our books and find new readers. The bonus for readers is discovering new authors and books and a chance to win some great prizes.

This week's promotion, Sweep Me Away with Sweet Contemporary Romance, offers several great reads in a variety of romance genres. Some are samplings while others are free ebooks in their entirety. I added a sample of Blue Hydrangeas to the mix because so many people tell me it's  a true love story. 

One lucky reader will win a $50 gift card from our Amazon, iTunes, or Barnes and Noble raffle. To  enter the raffle and discover new books for your summer reading, follow this link.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

AlzAuthors: Karen Kaplan's Sci-Fi Dementia Novel

By Karen B. Kaplan

Perhaps it is not often that you come across science fiction that is (1) gentle and not full of weapons and nasty robots, and (2) includes a character who is one of the first with dementia to get cured of the disease. There are so many other aspects of reality to ponder, such as how robots might help or hinder grievers, it is a wonder that science fiction writers have not provided more material on such things. (Have you ever noticed that the Star Trek crew does not include a spiritual counselor?) As a healthcare chaplain, I have been curious about what it might be like to be cured of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Virginia Boyden, financial planner of the main characters, is one of those first lucky persons to be a “dementia returnee.” Virginia shares what it was like to get dementia, as well as what happened on the return trip. A temporary detour to complete health does arise, but Virginia figures out how to handle it. 
Perhaps reading about dementia in upbeat fantasy might help us indulge in the comfort and hope that such fantasy can provide. It offers a different perspective, especially when the main characters Gomer and Muriel Ackerman try to grapple first with their financial planner’s decline, and then the issues that arise as she recovers. Here is an excerpt:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

AlzAuthors: Rebecca Thesman - How a Long-Distance Caregiver Learns to Cope

By RJ Thesman 

When the memory thief first visited our family, we didn’t think much about it. Mom was, after all, fully capable of caring for herself and she was in good health.

But gradually, ever so subtly, the memory thief began to take from her the basics of life: where she stored her pots and pans, how to read a recipe and produce the finished product, how to find her way home from the grocery store.

The resulting prognosis surprised and challenged us. Alzheimer’s Disease plus an inoperable brain tumor – no cure, no solutions. Mom could no longer stay in her home.

My siblings and I worked together, hoping for an easy transition, but Mom has always been an independent, stubborn woman. It was the doctor who had to be the bad guy as we took away her car keys, “The doctor says you can no longer drive,” then, as we found a beautiful assisted living facility, “The doctor says you cannot live alone.”