Sandra Savell, Author of Dear Clueless: A Daughter’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s Caregiving

About Sandra Savell: Dear Clueless, A Daughter's Journey Through Alzheimer's Caregiving
By Sandra Savell

In June of 2006 my husband and I left the outskirts of Washington DC and pulled into Aiken, SC, with all our worldly possessions, two corgis, and with the anticipation of starting our pre-retirement years in a small town with mild winters.

On December 21st, my 51st birthday, I received a phone call from my cousin letting me know that Mom was in the hospital with AFIB and that I needed to get to Florida immediately. His parting comment was that I also needed to do something about Mom’s Alzheimer’s.

By St. Paddy’s Day we had closed on our new home, and began settling in. We then drove to West Palm Beach to bring Mom and her belongings back to Aiken. It took a couple of weeks to set up house with Mom, her cat, and begin a new life and family situation. One I had always anticipated with dread.

Then the learning curve began. Navigating Mom’s questions about when she was going home, who had her furniture, who was taking care of her duplex, where was the man who drove her to South Carolina (never believing it was my husband) and dealing with her continual wandering around our house/yard or screaming at me through the bathroom door with accusations of stealing her money.

During our first year in Aiken I did not have the time nor the energy to make new friends, find a church to attend or even find a caregiver support group. I was lonely and adrift.

The few people I did interact with had little to no sympathy or understanding of caregiving for a mother with Alzheimer’s. But they did have a lot of misguided advice or disapproval of my feelings, how I was taking care of my mother, and/or what I should or should not be doing. To the point where I was in tears almost daily. Every time I was upset by a thoughtless comment, my husband would say to me, “Oh honey, they’re clueless. Ignore them.” But he often suggested that I write a book about our circumstances.

Two years after Mom moved in, she lost me forever in the space of ten minutes. I brought a sandwich to her in her room as she watched TV. Suddenly I heard the plate crash and her screaming that “Sandi didn’t come home from school today!” Nothing my husband or I did would convince her that I was Sandi. I called my sister to speak to my mother. My mother hung up on her. Ditto for Mom’s part-time caregiver. Finally, my mother looked at me with pure hatred on her face and snarled, “I don’t want YOU! I want little Sandi.”

She lived with us for six more months until the Saturday afternoon on a drive home from the beauty shop when she became extremely agitated and screamed at me, “You gave my daughter to the gypsies and I have to go find her.” With that she opened the car door to jump out. I wrestled her hand away from the seat belt so she couldn’t free herself. Within an hour, we were in the E.R. It had reached the point where she was a danger to herself, me and others.

She was admitted to a mental health facility three days later and a memory care unit nine days after that. She never knew me again. She slipped and broke her hip on her 85th birthday getting ready for her birthday party. That was November 10, 2010. She died nine days later of heart failure.

Even after her death I dealt with others opinions, suggestions, advice and judgement. I finally learned to shut my ears to it. Except for my husband whose insistence that I write a book was a continuing theme of conversation between us. I had kept journals of life with Mom and Alzheimer’s. Finally, the journals became chapters which became Dear Clueless: A Daughter’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s Caregiving.

It has been five years since the book was published. I have morphed into a public speaker, a social media presence and a crusader for caregivers. I hope Mom is proud. And I’m convinced that she, once again, knows who I am.

About the Author
A Pennsylvania native who grew up in Florida, Sandi left a mortgage banking career of 19 years to become a massage therapist, working with people suffering from chronic pain syndromes. Living in D.C., she answered a personal ad in the Washington Post, and within three weeks met the love of her life and future husband, Dale. She married him four months later and they moved to Aiken, SC. Within six months, they became caregivers for Sandi’s mother, Helen. Sandi kept journals and notes of her time as a caregiver, which eventually provided her with the events and stories that led to her book, Dear Clueless: A Daughter’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s Caregiving. Now retired, she is an Author, Speaker, Humorist and Crusader for Caregivers.

Connect with Sandra:

Instagram: sandra.savell
Twitter: SLSavell60

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