I am a writer. That's difficult to say when I'm so busy being a caregiver for my mother who is 99 years old and has had Alzheimer's for 15 years. Mom lives with us. She is in advanced stages now but was exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's even while my husband and I cared for my father who also had Alzheimer's. No one...NO ONE is prepared for this! There's no caregiver's manual that tells us how to do this job. I decided that as a writer it might help others to write about caregiving in the non-clinical, in the trenches, personal experience, kind of way. I have found ways to help myself out of my depression, anger, denial, impatience, sadness, and frustration. I've discovered so many things to help me through the most difficult job I have ever experienced. How could I do anything BUT write about this to help others? My latest book, The Memory Keeper, is the fourth in a the series of our journey and experience dealing with the devastating disease and condition. It was a cathartic process to share my words, my thoughts, my emotions. They are sometimes raw, sometimes irreverent, often loving. I am resolved and accepting of what is to be, in a philosophical kind of way; but I also see the humor in some of the events that lead us there. Because of my writing style and the way I deal with the often taboo subjects (that one simply doesn't discuss in polite society!) many others have written to me thanking me for my candid discussion of these difficult issues. One reader who attended a book signing proclaimed that my books were like her own personal therapy sessions. Many have thanked me for giving them permission to laugh through their tears.
In my book, The Memory Keeper, I take it upon myself to record and retain the legacy that my mother leaves as I grapple with my own emotions and difficulties of caring for her. Her memories are lost...imprisoned in the disease-ridden brain that doesn't allow for thoughts, speech or even physical control. I alone must pass down the family stories. I alone must chronicle the life of the wonderful, beautiful, elegant, vibrant woman who used to reside in the body that sits quietly now in our family room staring at the television without understanding. The weighty responsibility of caregiving reminds me that while we are still able we must make the most of each moment. We must embrace the opportunities when we can to share stories, to ask questions, to spend time with each other, and to cherish life while we can. I am resolved...yes. It is too late for tears. It is time to smile about my mother's life well-lived.