Minding Our Elders Together: Joining a Community of Caregivers

  • "Torn between love and exhaustion; dedication and guilt."

    These words, from the prologue of my caregiving support book, Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories, sum up the emotions that rage through caregivers, daily. We’re on alert – 24/7. We dread the calls that summon us to emergency rooms or worse. There never seems to be a moment when we aren’t worried about someone or something. We love the people we are caring for, but we sometimes lose ourselves.

    Over the course of two decades, I cared for seven elders. I was raising my own children, one of whom has chronic health issues. I was a freelance writer. I wrote Minding Our Elders.
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    During my first go ‘round with agents, I’d been told, by many, that they loved the book. They loved the concept. But who was I? They couldn’t sell the book to a publisher, because I wasn’t known.

    Well, I was a caregiver, with twenty years of experience. Those were my credentials. But that wasn’t enough for them to try to sell the book. I still had three elders in one nursing home – my mother-in-law, who knew only me; my dad with his poor, surgically induced, demented brain; and my mother with dementia. But those credentials weren’t enough. So, the manuscript gathered a bit of dust.

    For most of the twenty years, I was married. I divorced toward the last years of caregiving. My children were growing up. I was the sole breadwinner, so I needed to get back in the workforce. I became a news researcher/librarian at a newspaper. After a couple of years of lobbying for an elder care column, the okay was given to try it. And yes, the readership is there – big time.

    That success, coupled with the fact that my last three elders had died, and I’d completed the book’s epilogue, convinced me to, again, try to get Minding Our Elders published. My column readers wanted more.

    Nothing changed with the agents. But I found a small publisher, and the dusty manuscript became a published book. When I read from Minding Our Elders at caregiving events, people weep. They laugh. They nod their heads. They relate. And they realize that they are part of a fellowship.

    That is what I want to continue doing with this blog. I want to reach out to fellow caregivers. I want to share my experience. I want to tell them where I went wrong. I want to help them take care of themselves by using the many resources available. And I promise to keep searching for more of those resources.

    Welcome to my world, as expressed in this blog, and in stories and articles I will write for alzheimers-issues.com. I’m excited to be here to converse with you on the message board. Please feel free to e-mail me personally or share your comments in the message boards. As a community, we’ll walk this road together.
Published On: June 14, 2006