A decade ago it was difficult for a caregiver to find relatable books to sustain them as they struggled to make sense of their new role in life. Thankfully, that’s changed. Caregivers can now choose from hundreds of memoirs and informational tomes. One of the best of the former category is Ann Campanella’s “Motherhood Lost and Found: A Memoir.” What makes this book stand out, aside from fine writing, is that the author was enduring not only the agony of losing her mother to Alzheimer’s, but also a series of miscarriages.
Endure she did. After her mother’s death, a successful pregnancy, and her book’s publication, this former magazine and newspaper journalist joined what was then the fledgling AlzAuthors management team. Ann has also written two poetry collections about her mother’s Alzheimer’s: “What Flies Away” and “The Beach Poems.” She lives on a small horse farm in North Carolina with her family and animals.
The Candid Caregiver: The irony of trying to create life while watching your mom slowly disappear obviously didn't escape you, Ann, but how long did it take for you to catch on to what was happening?
Ann Campanella: To be honest, in the beginning, it just felt like grief piled on top of grief, and I couldn't distinguish one type of sadness from another. Before I had my first miscarriage, I was hopeful that bringing a baby into the world would brighten my mother's days and perhaps even bring her back from the misty places in which she seemed to be getting lost.
It was several years later, as I was revising my book and splicing together what felt like two separate story lines, that it began to dawn on me that these events were connected in a primal way. A writer friend who read one of my early drafts said, "Ann, this book is about losing your mother while wanting to be a mom." Those words were like a gong going off in my head.
TCC: Horses and your relationship with them figure strongly in your book. Could you tell readers how your precious companions helped ground and comfort you during your dual struggle?
AC: As an animal lover, I’ve always felt an incredible bond with horses. There were days when I had no words to express the deep losses in my life, such as when my mother didn't know me or I thought maybe I didn't deserve to be a mother. When it was hard to be around people because I didn't know what to say, I could always visit the barn, and my beloved Crimson would stand like a statue as I leaned against him. He absorbed every emotion I brought to him and accepted me in my broken state without question.
Horses thrive on a schedule, so the routine of caring for them helped keep me going as well. Spending time outside in nature, doing the physical work of cleaning up after horses, riding, and being in close proximity to these beautiful animals fed my soul.
TCC: Tell us about AlzAuthors and how you became involved both as an author and as one of the administrators.
AC: AlzAuthors is an amazing community of authors from around the world, who write about Alzheimer's and dementia. Our management team, which is spread across the country and into Canada, is dedicated to providing resources for caregivers in need. Our website, AlzAuthors.com, features a new book or blog each week and currently represents 170+ authors.
In the beginning, I was honored to have my “Motherhood Lost and Found” featured on the site, and I believed so fervently in their mission of connecting caregivers with great books that I told everyone I knew about AlzAuthors. A few months later, the administrators invited me to join their management team. It's been incredibly uplifting to connect with so many authors who understand dementia and share the caregiving experience.
TCC: AlzAuthors has memoirs written by caregivers, primarily those who are dementia caregivers, and has expanded to include books by people who live with the disease. What else does AlzAuthors offer?
AC: In addition to our extraordinary collection of memoirs written by dementia caregivers and people who live with Alzheimer’s or dementia, we have novels, caregiving guides, books for young people, devotionals, poetry collections, and more. We also have a wide selection of bloggers, many of whom are caregiving on a daily basis.
Last year was a year of expansion for AlzAuthors and 2019 promises more growth. AlzAuthors spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Education Conference in Charlotte, N.C, and our authors donated over 60 books for this event. We’ve been invited back again this year. The management team met in person for the first time in November at the National Caregiving.com Conference in Chicago. Our books are supporting dementia cruises. We even created our first anthology, Alzheimer's & Dementia Caregiving Stories, a collection of essays that grew out of our first year’s blog posts, and it’s now for sale on Amazon.
My head spins when I think of all we’ve accomplished. But we couldn’t do it without our authors. Having so many people with huge hearts share the mission of wanting to connect those in need with necessary resources gives our team incredible energy and motivation to serve. We’ve all been caregivers, and we want to make the journey easier for others.