By Amie McGraham
The year I turned fifty, I transitioned from a successful thirty-year sales and marketing career to the role of primary caregiver for my mother, returning to the island home of my childhood three thousand miles away. Mom has had Alzheimer’s for the past few years and, while she’s aware that she’s slowly slipping away, refuses to recognize this because of her religious beliefs. Disease of any type is a topic we never talk about. For her, to acknowledge dementia would be to admit that disease is real: that God’s plan has been altered.
I was raised in this religion. Based on faith healing, it rejects medicine, doctors and hospitals; prohibits alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and drugs. My parents divorced when I was eleven and I divorced myself from religion, beginning a twenty-five year spiral into a life of alcoholism, half measures and wanderlust; unfulfilled careers and relationships. Eventually, I clawed my way out and began rebuilding my life.
Repairing the relationship with my mother is part of my recovery. Immersion into the world of Alzheimer’s caregiving initially felt like a labyrinth in which all roads seemed to lead to frustration, anger and impatience. Sometimes it seemed more like a duty. But caregiving, I’ve discovered, is truly the best form of service. It’s taken a while to embrace this; longer to actually live it. In caring for my mother — actually living with her for the first time since my reckless departure from her life at age thirteen — I have developed real compassion. For my mother. For others. And for myself.
Now, I’m giving back by writing about the Alzheimer’s caregiving experience. My writing roots go back nearly a century; both grandparents were published authors. At age eight, I aspired to be a famous novelist, furiously scribbling stories in my office in the garage. But life happened, and my future dreams of a writing career were shelved until now.
I’ve transferred my passion for writing into purpose, with a flash blog launched in 2017. As the only child, long distance caregiver to my mother whose faith-based religion disallows acknowledgement of her Alzheimer’s, I offer a unique perspective in caregiving. My words take the reader on a holistic journey beyond the clinical aspects of the disease and into the emotional core of caregiving.
My audience includes caregivers and caregiving organizations worldwide. Since a caregiver’s free time and attention span is limited, I keep my message laser-focused; every post is 140 words or less. Although I’m active on various social media platforms, promoting my blog and website is an intentionally understated effort, out of respect for family privacy and due to time constraints as Alzheimer’s rapidly progresses.
As caregivers, we, too, live this disease. Untethered in time and space, we become the mirrors of our carees’ emotions. And through our shared experiences, together we can strengthen the bond of compassionate caregiving.
“I’ve been loving your recent posts, bittersweet as they are.”
–Michelle Seitzer, Eldercare storyteller & advocate
“Your blog reminds me of my own caregiving journey. You have a way with words.”
–Melody Leavitt, caregiver to parents with Alzheimer’s
“A brief and important post . . . often the caregiver and young carer roles are far more than personal care. It’s those other tasks that can be your undoing.”
–Lillian Lake, caregiver and young carers advocate
About the Author
Amie McGraham grew up on a small island off the coast of Maine. She has written and published more than 300 articles on animal advocacy for Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the nation and is currently writing her first novel. She received her BA in English from Arizona State University. Now a family caregiver and occasional pet sitter, she splits her time between Maine and Arizona. Her article, “Staying in the Okay Part,” was a featured Caregiver Story on The Caregiver Space. Her blog, Taking Care, shares her journey as caregiver to a mother with Alzheimer’s and is read in ten countries.