Wednesday, March 22, 2017

AlzAuthors: Harriet Hodgson and The Caregiver Series

By Harriet Hodgson


If you told me I would write a series for family caregivers, I would reply, “Thanks, but I think you’re delusional.” I would say this gently and go on my way. Although I’ve written about my caregiving experiences, I never thought of writing a series. This is odd because I’ve cared for three generations of family members.

My mother had a series of mini strokes and, according to her doctor, they added up to Alzheimer’s. I was her family caregiver for nine years and didn’t realize how exhausted I was until she died. A few years later, I became my twin grandchildren’s guardian and caregiver.

On a Friday night in February of 2007, the twin’s mother (my daughter) died from injuries she received in a car crash. My father-in-law and brother also died. In November, the twin’s father died from the injuries he received in another crash. It was unbelievable. The court appointed my husband and me as their guardians, and we did this for seven years.

I hoped life would calm down, but it didn’t. In 2013, my husband’s aorta split and I drove him to the hospital. He was bleeding to death and the ER team took quick action. Unfortunately, successive blood transfusions couldn’t keep pace with the blood loss. My husband had three emergency operations and suffered a spinal cord injury during the last one.

The injury paralyzed his legs. My husband was hospitalized for eight months and dismissed to my care. During this time I visited him three times a day, moved us out of the house we had lived in for 20+ years, built a wheelchair-accessible townhome, and maintained a writing career. Many people have asked me how I did all this and my answer is: “I don’t know.”

A week after my husband moved into our townhome, I sat down at the computer and started writing The Family Caregiver’s Guide. The purpose of the guide is to make family caregiving easier. Caregivers have little time for reading, so I wrote succinctly and listed Smart Steps at the end of each chapter—self-help tips for readers. As with my other books, I tell a personal story and back-up points with research. Many of the points I make pertain to Alzheimer’s disease. Fifteen five-star reviews of the guide are posted on Amazon. Some of the comments:
  • ... even though the subject matter is a challenging one for any of us, there is a sense of "I can do this” . . .
  • The book is like a friend that you can return to time and again for assistance and strength.
  •  I loved the Smart Steps at the end of each chapter, a brief review of what has helped her and should be a life line for you.
  • A great resource for any caregiver.
The reviews and comments I’ve received are gratifying. Many people have said they wished they had the book before they became caregivers. The Family Caregiver’s Guide came as a surprise and there were more surprises to come. One book led to a four-book series from WriteLife Publishing. My heart, soul, and life are in these books!
  
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

AlzAuthors: Gela-Marie Williams, author of Green Vanilla Tea

By Gela-Marie Williams

I remember the evening my youngest son came to me in my bedroom holding a rather dog-eared manuscript of Green Vanilla Tea. I had worked on this family story with my two boys over a few years. I’m not sure how many, exactly. We simply worked on it until we’d tussled with it enough and one day it was done. My son leaned against the doorframe, favouring one leg as his dad would have done. I remember noticing how much space he took up in the doorway. No longer the boy he was when this story all began, but a strapping 19-year-old. He was the age I was when I met my husband, the man readers would later get to know as Dominic. I thought he might ask what was for dinner. Like most teenagers, he was perpetually hungry and ate more than I thought humanly possible. But he said,

“Thanks Mom, I think this will be the most powerful story I’ll be able to share with my life partner one day.”

I leaned back against my pillows and thought, Wow, we did it; my job is done.

The manuscript my son held in his arms is a story I wrote that followed our family journey though Dominic’s illness with Younger Onset Dementia and ALS/MND. Dom died in 2007 aged 45. There is heartache and there is humour. But at its core, Green Vanilla Tea is a love story. A story of love and life in a world where so much was amiss, written as an offering of hope to my two [then] teenage sons.

My writing started out as a spontaneous, creative response to grief, with no thoughts of placing this part of our life on display. Amidst the demands of caring for Dom and parenting my sons, writing kept me anchored. It held still the paradox, where life was both empty and full, together and falling apart and the simplest things were the most extraordinary. I wrote of love and loss and finding hope in inexplicable times.

After Dom died, I collated my musings together for the boys. Dementia in a young person is a slippery beast. So much of what they experienced felt invisible and without words. They asked me to write our story. To “try and capture it somehow” and “give it form.” We had no intention to publish. It was enough that my writing provided a wonderful launching pad for rich conversations with my sons.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

AlzAuthors: Cynthia Toney, author of 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status

By Cynthia Toney
Alzheimer’s is a cruel prison that held my dear mother-in-law in chains for approximately three years, taking her freedom and her mind until it finally took her body. I understood little about the disease before watching a once brilliant, witty, and loving lady wither before my eyes.

I was shocked by how quickly my mother-in-law forgot how to communicate with me and then forgot who I was. We’d had so many interests in common that our conversations had always been easy. I missed her intelligence and laughter, and she no longer spoke the customary “I love you” in parting. But if I was saddened and worried by her condition, my husband and his brother were devastated. They had to learn to manage the life of the matriarch who’d always done the managing for our family and had handled it as well as she had her jobs as a bank vice-president and a high-level position in state government.

The emotional toll that this reversal of fortune for her had on the rest of us needed to be fully expressed. I decided to write about Alzheimer’s and its effects on both victim and family by using one of the characters in my fiction series for teen girls.

Mrs. Villaturo first appears in book one, 8 Notes to a Nobody. She is the healthy, elderly next-door neighbor of my main character, Wendy, who is a young teenager. Mrs. V (as Wendy calls her) becomes a surrogate grandmother to the girl, who grows to love her neighbor. In book two, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, Wendy is in high school, is forming a romantic relationship, and is becoming part of a blended family. During the changes all this brings, she discovers something wrong with her beloved Mrs. V.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

AlzAuthors: Marie Marley, author of Come Back Early Today - A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy


By Marie Marley

I took care of my beloved Romanian 30-year life partner when he developed Alzheimer’s. The disease began very slowly, and for the longest time I just couldn’t understand the changes he’d been displaying. He’d become short-tempered, often confused and sometimes unusually forgetful.

Then one night he was found driving on the wrong side of the road. Realizing what he’d done, he pulled over and stopped. A wonderful lady pulled up behind him and asked if he needed help. Seeing his bewilderment, she gave him a ride home, and he told her to call me. That’s when I began to wonder if he might be getting Alzheimer’s.

I took care of him for four years. When he could no longer live safely at home, I was regretfully forced to place him in a nursing home. It was an excellent facility dedicated exclusively to the care of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

He lived there for nearly three years before passing away. During that time, I often couldn’t reach him. Then one day I was in Walgreen’s and saw an aisle with stuffed animals. With great hesitation, I decided to buy him one. It was a tiny chick that peeped when you pushed a button on its chest. I was afraid my brilliant former lawyer and subsequent professor of French would be insulted that I’d taken him a child’s toy.

Quite to the contrary, he loved it, and immediately began caressing and kissing it. He named it “The Little Yellow One.” Then we began playing little games with it. We laughed like a mother playing with her small child. After that I took him more stuffed animals. He loved each more than the one before. I realized I’d made him magnificently happy. What’s more, I’d discovered a way to interact with him that was meaningful to us both.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

AlzAuthors: Daniel C. Potts, Physician, Poet, Writer, Alzheimer's Son

My Colors Came Alive
By Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN

"The true worth of a (person) is not to be found in (that person) him/herself, but in the colours and textures that come alive in others." - Albert Schweitzer

My motivation to write about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias was my father, Lester, an artist who had Alzheimer’s. A neurologist and only child, I found myself struggling in a dark place in 2002, just after my father’s diagnosis. I felt like a restrained bystander bearing witness to a crime I could do nothing about.

As strange as it may seem, caregiving skills were not taught in medical school. Thorough knowledge of the pathology and clinical manifestations of Alzheimer’s was not helping in the day to day challenges being faced mainly by my mother, Dad’s primary caregiver. I felt I didn’t know enough to help. Seeking the best opportunities possible to support Dad, we enrolled him in a wonderful adult daycare center, Caring Days in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and immediately Dad’s affect brightened and behavior and interaction skills improved. This was largely due to the validating, dignifying care he received there.

Then came the art. A volunteer artist with a knack for sharing his gift came to work with the clients, and Dad showed a previously unknown talent for artistic expression. Over four years, he painted 100 original watercolors. His creativity was transformative not only for him, but for all those around him. It seemed the spirit of the very one with the disease was lifting the spirits of all of us.

I remember waking in the early morning hours of January 1, 2006 with a poem in my head. Writing it feverishly, I then read what seemed unfamiliar words. Yet I recognized its beauty, and shared it with others. Thus, began my exploration of a newly found gift. This gifting had been kindled by Dad’s art, causing colors and textures to “come alive in others," as Dr. Schweitzer describes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

AlzAuthors: Susan Suchan - Advocate, Writer, Voice of Dementia


By Susan Suchan
When I look at the faces of my grandchildren and see the joy and blessing that they and my family and friends bring to me, I am determined to share this dementia experience! They love me just the way I am.  What may at times look or sound silly, different or even disturbing, is explained and discussed, so we all work together, bringing mutual joy and learned compassion for the best quality of life, for everyone involved.
When I was first diagnosed with FTD/PPA (Frontotemporal Dementia/Primary Progressive Aphasia), I was scared by what I read that was written by scholars about the outlook or prognosis of this disease. No treatment, no cure, and possibly living in a Memory Care Unit. I desperately wanted to hear from someone actually living with the disease and how they were managing. I found those people in a secret Facebook group, the AFTD (Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration), the Dementia Mentors web page, and even the Alzheimer's Association. I was validated! I mourned the diagnosis and then quickly realized that I wasn't going to die in the near future. I set out to share my experience, so that others would have access to that same validation and assurance I had found. Fear is immobilizing.
Writing and speaking publicly gives me a purpose, as well as helping to break the stigma that all dementia is not Alzheimer's. Writing and speaking also educates those unfamiliar with dementia and opens conversations. I am always touched when others respond with questions, new ideas, understanding and compassion. I am reminded that living with a diagnosis of dementia is different for each individual, but carries many similarities. I have come to learn that it takes a village to maneuver the experience of dementia.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Valentine's Day Romance eBook Sale February 10th-14th


In honor of Valentine's Day, that special day celebrating all that's romantic, I've teamed up with fourteen romance authors  for an ebook sale. Choose from all kinds of new and not-so-new releases, from your favorite romance genres: time travel, historical, billionaire,  new adult, contemporary, and romantic suspense. Some are sweet, some are steamy, and some are just 99c, including Blue Hydrangeas, which was recently added to Kindle Unlimited.

 Sale runs February 10 through the 14th