By Jacqueline Marcell
I never dreamed I’d have to give up my television career when I was thrust into caring for my challenging father and sweet mother. The experience was incredibly heart-wrenching, but once I finally figured everything out medically, behaviorally, socially, legally, financially, and emotionally, I became obsessed with writing my first book “Elder Rage” (with humor to make it palatable), and a passion to help others avoid the pitfalls I so unnecessarily experienced.
For eleven years, I pleaded with my obstinate elderly father to allow a caregiver to help him with my ailing mother, but he always insisted on taking care of her himself. Every caregiver I hired soon sighed in exasperation, “Jacqueline, I just can’t work with your father. His temper is impossible to handle and he’s not going to accept help until he’s on his knees himself.”
When my father’s inability to continue to care for my mother nearly resulted in her death, I immediately flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco to step in, despite his loud protests. It was so awful to have my once adoring father be so loving one minute and then call me horrible names and throw me out of the house when some trivial little thing set him off. I took him to several doctors and even a psychiatrist, only to be flabbergasted he could act so charming when he needed to.
Finally I stumbled upon a thorough neurologist who specialized in dementia, and put my parents through a battery of blood, neurological, memory tests, and PET scans. After ruling out numerous reversible forms of dementia and evaluating their many medications, he shocked me with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in both of my parents – something all their other doctors missed entirely!
I realized I’d been coping with a disease that appears to come and go, and that my father was trapped in his own bad behavior of a lifetime of yelling to get his way, which was coming out in intermittent over-the-top irrationality. I learned that demented does not mean dumb (a concept not widely appreciated), and he was still socially adjusted never to show his Mr. Hyde side to anyone outside the family. Conversely, my mother was as sweet and lovely as she’d always been.
It is quite a roller coaster ride how everything finally got worked out, but it also led me to the motto I have shared ever since: When life takes you to your knees and nearly destroys you, search for the Silver Lining because those hardships may also lead you to your highest purpose, passion and reward.
Since I had never written anything but a postcard and self-published, I am honored “Elder Rage” became a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, a caregiving book first. It received 50+ endorsements and 550+ 5-Star Amazon reviews, became required reading at numerous universities, and was considered for a film. It’s in print, audio, eBook, and autographed via PayPal.
Soon I was invited to speak at conferences and I adored being able to personally help so many caregivers. Eventually I became an international speaker on Alzheimer’s, and then a few years later unfortunately a speaker about my own invasive Breast Cancer. I also discuss Caregiver Stress and Illness, Elder Abuse, and Alzheimer’s Termed Type 3 Diabetes. To book a speaking engagement visit my website.
Connect with Jacqueline Marcell