By Kathi Macias
As a fulltime writer/editor, I was blessed to be able to work at home and take care of my mother during her last few years of life. I was also blessed that even up until her death at the age of ninety, she was clear-minded. Sadly, so many others are not, making their caregiver’s job so much more difficult.
Though I didn’t have to deal with the issue of Alzheimer’s with either of my parents, I have countless friends and acquaintances who have done so in the past and are doing so even now. Because I write novels about current issues, it seemed a natural choice to base one of my books on the heart-rending topic of Alzheimer’s.
As I planned the book, I realized I wanted it to be about more than what the caregiver experienced; I wanted it to be told (primarily) from the viewpoint of the person actually experiencing Alzheimer’s. And so the idea for To the Moon and Back was born.
Rachel, my primary character, is in her late sixties and also in the early to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s. At times she is clear-headed, but more and more often she finds herself slipping into what she considers “the darkness,” where she begins to lose herself and the memories of a life she once considered happy and fulfilling.
With the increasing darkness comes more and more confusion and fear—and yes, even anger. Her husband of nearly forty-five years, dealing with health issues of his own, is perplexed at the changes he sees in Rachel. Their grown daughter, who comes home to help out, is the first to suspect the problem, but she tries desperately to come up with alternate explanations for her mother’s erratic behavior.
As this family takes its first tentative steps toward acceptance and working through this devastating diagnosis and debilitating disease, readers are drawn in and better able to view and understand the issues related to Alzheimer’s because they can “feel” those issues through the eyes and hearts of the book’s characters. That’s why I felt it was important for me to write about this issue in a fictional setting; the feedback I’m getting from readers confirms I was right. Many, in fact, have told me they’ve found numerous helpful nonfiction books about Alzheimer’s, but To the Moon and Back is one of the few fictional resources available.
In addition to the moving story of a family dealing with Alzheimer’s, I’ve added a “Making It Personal” section at the end of the book, containing thought-provoking questions that can easily be used by individuals or in a group setting. These questions are followed by a section of resources for caregivers and friends/family members of those with Alzheimer’s. This particular disease, perhaps more than most, is definitely a “family affair,” and I believe it is important to approach and deal with the topic with that fact in mind.
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