Alzheimer’s Daughter introduces the reader to my healthy parents, Ed and Ibby, years before their diagnosis, then recounts painful details as our roles reversed and I became my parents’ parent.
Their disease started as translucent, confused thoughts and ended in a locked memory care unit after a near decade of descent into the opaque world of Alzheimer's.
I began writing Alzheimer’s Daughter one week after my mother's death––when I was stunned, realizing Dad had no memory of her or their 66-year marriage.
I write to pay tribute to the undying spirit at Ed and Ibby's core, and with the hope that the story of their parallel decline might be helpful to others.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
By Bryan Wiggins
No one I know has Alzheimer’s disease. My parents have entered their eighties with their sharp minds intact. Only one of my four grandparents suffered any kind of dementia, and Granny’s wasn’t that severe. So when I forget a name, lose my car keys, or question what the heck I’m doing standing in the basement after clomping down the stairs, I shrug my shoulders and carry on. I could still get Alzheimer’s, of course, but with no family history of it behind me, I find other things to worry about.
But when I decided to write a novel with a protagonist whose mother was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, my lack of firsthand experience with the disease threatened to damage the one thing most critical to building the fictive world that readers love to lose themselves within: character credibility. So I set out to do the research that could show me what my own experience had failed to teach me. I went to a talk by a nationally known Alzheimer’s expert at my local memory care center. I dove deep into the web. I read Still Alice to see how someone far more qualified than me—a neuroscientist with a Harvard Ph.D. and a grandmother who had died from the disease—built a book that rang true for the readers I was most concerned about pleasing: those who either suffered from the disease or loved someone who did.
Somewhere between my worries about getting things right and penning the final lines of Autumn Imago, I created Mara, the 70-year old mother of my story’s hero, park ranger Paul Strand. Mara’s condition compels Paul to bring Mara and the rest of the family he’s abandoned to his remote Maine campground for a tempestuous ten-day reunion. After the book was published, I was honored to receive letters from a few family members of Alzheimer victims who shared how moved they’d been by my tale. That response inspired me to go back to examine how the largely intuitive process that guided my writing had worked to shape the woman who became the moral center of my story. What I discovered was that I’d built Mara less from an examination of her disease than of the impact she and it had on the family that surrounded her.
For Paul, the kitchen fire Mara starts in the home she shares with Paul’s sister, Kim and her family is the warning shot that brings him back to his family again. It signals the limited time he has to heal the breach between himself and his mother before she finally slips away. Every conversation with his mother becomes a struggle over whether to share the feelings he’s buried from their past or the compassion that can comfort her as she faces a frightening future. For Kim, Mara’s caregiver, Mara becomes the test of selfless giving mandated by her calling as a pastor. Kim struggles to live up to that divine ideal while battling the all-too-human emotions of anger and frustration experienced by anyone whose attended to an Alzheimer’s victim’s long term care. Kim’s husband, Robert, exploits Mara’s condition, as he challenges her failing memory when her instincts get her too close to the secrets he keeps from his wife and family.
Kim and Robert’s fiery teenage daughter, Aida, lashes out at everyone except Mara, revealing the compassionate heart that beats beneath an angry and conflicted girl. Aida’s tubby, shy, and brilliant 13-year-old brother, Aaron, may be the one who sees Mara, and her situation, most clearly. He diagnoses both the early stage of his grandmother’s disease and the mental acuity that still illuminates her while others can see only the dark shadows of things to come. Finally, Paul’s younger brother Tommy, a recently-recovered drug addict, provides the true litmus test for Mara’s competency. When Mara’s slight-of-hand provides Tommy with protection from the prosecution of a crime Paul believes Tommy should pay for, Paul later learns that his brother deserved the second chance his mother afforded him.
Mara, of course, is defined less by how these family members see her than how she sees herself. She possesses a wisdom and will that become more apparent as the story unfolds. And though the progression of her disease escalates the rate at which she breaks her connection to both her family and her world, that loss of every person and place that she loves is, in the end, one we all must surrender to. If writing Mara taught me anything, it’s how much I have to learn from those with Alzheimer’s Disease. They and their families are people who cherish the core component of our identity that I take so blithely for granted. My discovery of a character struggling to hold both herself and her family together before both slipped away reminded me that every day—and every memory we make in it—is a gift.
For me, that’s a lesson to remember.
BRYAN WIGGINS is a Maine-based author whose works have been published in The Maine Review, Canoe & Kayak, and Sea Kayaker magazines. For the past nine years he has been the host of the Pine Cone Writers’ Den, a Maine novelists’ collective, and a regular speaker on the New England writing circuit. By day Bryan works as an advertising agency brand strategist and copywriter. For the past thirty-four years, he has made annual pilgrimages to explore the rugged mountain landscape of Baxter State Park that is the setting for his second novel, Autumn Imago. That recently published story of family and natural drama was one of only three books selected to launch Harper Legend, a new HarperCollins imprint of “visionary fiction.” Bryan is currently at work on 48, the second book in his “Imago Trilogy.” This latest novel is a cautionary tale of personal ambition that follows its protagonist’s lifelong pursuit of hiking New Hampshire’s 48 4000 foot+ peaks. You can learn more about Bryan and his work at wigginscreative.com
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Mary Ann Drummond, RN, is the author of Meet Me Where I Am – An Alzheimer’s Care Guide and I Choose to Remember. As the CEO of Angel Tree Consulting, Drummond has a passion for presenting innovative and successful strategies in both caregiver and provider settings to assist individuals with dementia “live their best” each day. With over thirty years of nursing experience and sixteen years as a VP in the assisted living industry developing programs for dementia care, she credits much of her expert knowledge to the greatest teachers of all, those who live daily with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Meet Me Where I Am has entered a third print and has won three IPPY awards including: 2015 Silver Medalist Living Now Book Award for Caregiving, 2016 1st Place Gold Medalist Beverly Hills Book Award for Caregiving, and 2015 CIPA EVVYY 1st Place Book Award for Health and Diet. Ms. Drummond enjoys working with organizations across the country to increase successful outcomes in dementia care.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017
By Judy Cornish
Seven years ago I left my law practice in Portland, Oregon, in search of a small town where I could semi-retire and practice elder law. I found the community I was looking for in Moscow, Idaho, but not retirement. Instead, I’m now the owner of two businesses, an author, and the creator of the DAWN Method, a unique approach to dementia care that helps families keep their loved ones at home with more comfort and less stress. It all began with a courageous, sweet, whitehaired woman who lived across the street from me.
She lived alone, with no children nearby, and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years earlier. When her family said they were moving her into a care facility because she could no longer drive, I volunteered to help her stay on at home. Within a few months, I was helping so many neighbors it became necessary to hire staff. Palouse Dementia Care was born.
From the start, my goal was simple: I wanted to help her—and each of my new clients--continue to live where they wished to live, with dignity and autonomy. My training, however, was not in medicine or social work. I was a lawyer with a classical education.
And yet, my background became an asset: it caused me to see my clients’ dementia from a different perspective. In their changing abilities I saw a pattern. They were experiencing distress over the loss of rational thought but, if I encouraged them to communicate using intuitive thought, they relaxed and found comfort and success. And, although they were losing both memory and memories (their remembering selves), when I joined them in experiencing the present, they were delighted and blossomed, because their experiential selves were intact.
At first I trained only my staff, but soon families were asking what we were doing that helped their loved ones become so comfortable. In 2014, I formed the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN) and, in 2015, started writing.
The Dementia Handbook: How to Provide Dementia Care at Home was published this spring. It explains the simple pattern of abilities and disabilities I first saw in dementia. My second book, Dementia With Dignity: Using the Tools of the DAWN Method, will come out this fall. It details the emotional needs caused by dementia and provides specific techniques for responding to each of them. I wrote both books for us—the families and friends of people who are experiencing dementia.
The response to my dementia care approach has been very positive from the start here on the Palouse, with many people volunteering and helping me make it available to a wider audience. The response to the book has been positive, too. On Amazon.com, we’ve been on the first page of dementia books almost from publication.
Although my retirement goal changed, my goal in working with and writing about dementia has never wavered. I want to help us, as families, to provide the kindest dementia care possible, enabling our elders to live longer at home with dignity and autonomy. Thank you, AlzAuthors, for the opportunity to share my hope with you and your readers.
Judy Cornish is an elder law attorney and geriatric care manager who has spent the past seven years working with families and people experiencing dementia in northern Idaho. Prior to her work in dementia care, she practiced law, worked in vocational rehabilitation with traumatic brain injury, and spent a year as a psychosocial skills trainer in an enhanced care unit for the mentally ill. With her varied background—and education in literature, languages, fine arts and the law—she brings a diverse set of skills and a unique approach to dementia care. Her DAWN Method enables families to keep their loved ones at home longer, with less stress and more comfort. Today, Judy runs Palouse Dementia Care, providing case management and care services on the Palouse, and the Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN), through which she consults and provides training in the DAWN Method.
The Dementia Handbook on Amazon
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Wellbeing Network® (DAWN):
The DAWN Method Facebook Page
The DAWN Method Twitter
The DAWN Method LinkedIn
Judy Cornish, JD:
Judy Cornish Public Figure Facebook Page
Judy Cornish Twitter
Judy Cornish LinkedIn
Judy’s dementia care company in Moscow, ID:
Palouse Dementia Care Facebook Page
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
What would you do if both parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? At the time of their diagnosis, Ed Church struggles to his feet, yelling, “How dare you use the A. word with me,” while Ibby wags her finger at the doctor scolding, “Shame on you.” They protect each other, Ibby by asserting, “We’re not leaving our home,” and Ed reassuring, “We’re just fine.” About his driving Ed defends, “I’m an excellent driver, I’ve never had an accident.” When their daughter, Rosie, finds dings in Ed’s car, he dismisses, “Someone must have bumped into me.” After Rosie moves them to assisted living, convinced they are on a second honeymoon, they break the news, “We’ve decided not to have more children.” In the late stages, they politely shake Rosie’s hand, inquiring, “Now, who are you?” In Alzheimer's Daughter readers journey with Rosie Church from her first suspicions that something is awry to nearly a decade later as she is honored to hold Ed and Ibby’s hands when they draw their final breaths.
Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer's love story, fiction, Marianne Sciucco, .99
What if the person who knew you best and loved you most forgot your face, and couldn't remember your name? A care facility is everyone's solution for what to do about Sara, but her husband, Jack, can't bear to live without her. He is committed to saving his marriage, his wife, and their life together from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. He and Sara retired years ago to the house of their dreams, and operated it as a Cape Cod bed and breakfast named Blue Hydrangeas. Jack has made an impossible promise: He and Sara will stay together in their beautiful home no matter what the disease brings. However, after nine years of selfless caregiving, complicated by her progressing Alzheimer’s and his own failing heart, he finally admits he can no longer care for her at home. With reluctance, he arranges to admit her to an assisted living facility. But, on the day of admission, Sara is having one of her few good days, and he is unable to follow through. Instead, he takes them on an impulsive journey to confront their past and reclaim their future. In the end, he realizes that staying together at any cost is what truly matters.