JoAnn Wingfield Shares Tender Alzheimer’s Memoir: The Well Spouse

About JoAnn Wingfield

The Well Spouse - JoAnn Wingfield By JoAnn Wingfield

Alzheimer’s disease! To most people, the diagnosis is a death sentence, the worst kind, because it proclaims a long, slow, and agonizing death. Facing the challenges ahead, a well spouse may have many questions: Will I have enough strength to go through the drudgery of caregiving day and night, year by year, without knowing when the end will be? How do I win a war against a disease that has no cure? How will love endure when my life partner cannot respond, reciprocate, or even recognize me?

In my memoir, The Well Spouse, I recall the events that had challenged and changed my life. Using poetic, lyrical descriptions, I capture the interactions and struggle that Alzheimer’s introduces into the relationship. My story begins with my husband’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. I was determined to live as fully as possible within the disease’s limitations. When home living became impossible, unwillingly, I moved my husband to an assisted living. I mourned, grieved, and accepted that my husband’s absence from the home we shared was perpetual. There he met “the other woman.” His unruly behavior got him booted from the facility. With the help of hired caregivers, I managed to care for my husband in an apartment as it was unsafe to move him home yet. Soon after, one of the caregivers was ill with cancer. What should I do next?

My well spouse journey was full of unexpected twists and turns, and cultural revelations, where my Chinese heritage injects perceptions of solutions and problems similar, yet different, from Western thinking. “These elements expand the approach and theme of this story beyond most caregiving books. The philosophical and ethical considerations of this process and black-and white-photos are particularly striking,” remarked D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.

I share my stories of love and loss, sorrow and despair, misfortunes and calamities, secrets and betrayals, and friendship and compassion in this book, not to tell the reader that there is nobility in caregiving – although I believe there is – but nobility alone does not come close to outweighing the years of struggle caregiving entails. When I started this journey, facing uphill battles and uncertainties, I wished that I had known what was to come so I could be prepared, and I hoped for a light in the darkness, however dim and distant, to point the way, to show me the end, and to give me hope. Now as the one who has left the troubled water behind and remain standing, I offer my stories to other well spouses, family caregivers, and those who care, to console and confer, to validate and inspire; and to shed insights and give hope to those whose lives are affected by caring for their loved ones. And I offer my story to a society that is learning to understand aging and aging-related challenges and solutions.

“… a personal and tender treatise on empathy and devotion…, candid and offbeat….”
Kirkus Book Reviews

“This is an elegant, tender, moving love story, told with gentle humor and the deep understanding that can only come from someone who obviously fully embraces life in a consciously balanced, selfless, loyal, expansive and unique way,” praised Gar LaSalle, author of the award-winning historical novels The Widow Walk Saga.

JoAnn - WingfieldAbout the Author

JoAnn Wingfield, also known as Jiang Lan (蓝江), was born in Zhenjiang, a city on the Yangzi River, and raised in Shanghai, China. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), as a teenager, she was sent to Inner Mongolia for “reeducation.” She spent 13 years there, first farming the barren land as a peasant, and later on, earning an undergraduate degree in English and teaching English. In 1986, she came to the United States to pursue graduate studies. She was able to complete a Master’s degree and an Ed.D. in the United States despite having almost no secondary education.

She had a successful academic career:

• teaching as a tenured professor
• working in executive and leadership positions in various universities
• serving as a board member of several national and international professional organizations

JoAnn retired in 2011 after nine years of caring for her husband during his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. She now lives in Seattle with her two dogs. The Well Spouse is her first non-academic book.

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