Guest Post by Jean Lee
November 1 – 7, 2015 is National Memory Screening Week, an important initiative to encourage the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. I’m delighted to share the following blog post from Jean Lee, author of the memoir Alzheimer’s Daughter. Jean and I connected on Twitter, and I’ve read and reviewed her touching memoir this year. Take it away, Jean.
On my next birthday I’ll be 61 years old. Both of my parents died of Alzheimer’s. I wrote about my journey as their caregiver in Alzheimer’s Daughter. Does the thought that I might become afflicted with the disease haunt me? Yes. It niggles in the back of my mind.
I’m lucky to live in a small town and still doctor with a Marcus Welby, M.D.-type family physician. This man has treated four generations of my family; my parents, myself, my children, my grandchildren. Needless to say he knows us well.
After Mom and Dad died, I asked my trusted doctor about my risk. He answered since my parents had not been diagnosed until they were in their mid-eighties it was not really a part of my family history. He reasoned if everyone had parents who lived into their eighties, nearly everyone would have a history. This reassured me, but still the thought persists, especially when I can’t think of a word I want to use, or lose my train of thought in a conversation.
November 1-7, 2015 is National Memory Screening Week, bringing awareness to the positive aspects of screening and attempting to remove stigma. When I visit my doctor for my yearly physical, my blood pressure is noted, I’m prompted to have a mammogram, vials of blood are drawn, I’m questioned about diet, exercise and assessed for depression. All of these are types of screening. Why not routinely offer a Mini Mental to patients at age 60-65 to collect some baseline data? Comparisons could then be made as we age?
I know, health care costs are already prohibitive and many people are afraid to know. As for me, I’d appreciate the baseline data. In the meantime I keep exercising, taking my fish oil and eating handfuls of spinach and kale.
If Alzheimer’s has touched your life, and you seek connection with others who have shared this journey, below are five books written from five perspectives about the disease.
All of us felt compelled to write our books, hoping to make a difference…hoping that we might make the pathway of others traveling this road a little less painful and lonely. Perhaps you will find comfort and support within our pages.
Somebody Stole My Iron by Vicki Tapia
Vicki details the daily challenges, turbulent emotions, and painful decisions involved in caring for her parents. Laced with humor and pathos, reviewers describe her book as “brave,” “honest,” “raw,” “unvarnished,” as well as a “must-read for every Alzheimer’s/dementia patient’s family.” Vicki wrote this story to offer hope to others, to reassure them that they’re not alone.
Blue Hydrangeas by Marianne Sciucco
Marianne describes herself as a writer who happens to be a nurse. This work of fiction is based upon her care for the elderly. It’s a tenderly told love story about Jack and Sara, owners of a New England bed and breakfast. Sara is stricken with Alzheimer’s and Jack becomes her caregiver.
What Flowers Remember by Shannon Wiersbitzky
Shannon writes this work of fiction through the eyes of a small-town preteen girl, Delia, whose elderly neighbor, Old Red Clancy is failing mentally. The aged gentleman has to be placed in a care facility, but Delia will not let him wither away. She devises a way for the whole community to remind Old Red how important he has been in all of their lives.
On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s by Greg O’Brien
Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Greg O’Brien’s story isn’t about losing someone else to Alzheimer’s, it is about losing himself a sliver at a time while still fighting to live with Alzheimer’s, not die with it.
Alzheimer’s Daughter by Jean Lee
My memoir details my journey caring for both parents who were diagnosed on the same day. It is written with wincing honesty about the cruel affects of the disease, but a WWII love story held together by faith and family is contained within the pages.
About the Author
Jean Lee wrote lesson plans for 22 years as an elementary school teacher. She had no aspirations to write a book, however when both parents were diagnosed on the same day with Alzheimer’s, her journey as their caregiver poured out on paper through her memoir, Alzheimer’s Daughter. After the sadness of her parents decline, life brought her a joyful topic–triplet grandchildren. She is currently working on a series of books for ages 9-12 entitled Lexi’s Triplets, written through the voice of the family mutt.