Three AlzAuthors Featured in Chicken Soup for Soul Book

Chicken Soup for the Soul Navigating Eldercare and Dementia

By Marianne Sciucco

AlzAuthors is thrilled that three of our authors were selected to contribute essays to the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book Navigating Eldercare and Dementia. Susan Cushman, Renee Harmon, MD, and Lauren Dykovitz all have work featured in this important anthology that offers useful, meaningful information to caregivers and others interested in dementia. Here they each tell us their reasons for writing and submitting their essays and what it means to have been included in such an influential book.

Susan CushmanSusan Cushman

I’ve always loved the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and when a friend and fellow author emailed me about their eldercare volume and suggested I send in an essay, it was an easy decision. What a great way for my story from Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s, to reach a new audience! I also saw it as an opportunity to promote the wonderful books and authors in the AlzAuthors group to more readers.

As I thought back about the decade during which I wrote the sixty blog posts that would become the book, Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s, I realized that the most important message I wanted to share was forgiveness. I had worked hard to forgive my mother for most of my life, but it came as a gift from God as Alzheimer’s softened her personality and she began to treat me with so much love. As I said in my essay, Alzheimer’s gave me “A New Mother,” even if it was very late in her life. I love this quote, which the editors at Chicken Soup added to the top of my essay:

“Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.”—Desmond Tutu

It showed me how much the editors were paying attention to the essays they were publishing, and it reminded me that yes, I was given the chance to make a new beginning with my mother. I remember when we were coloring a picture of some flowers in a coloring book together, as I mention in my book and in this essay, and suddenly she looked at me and said, “You did such a good job! I’m so proud of you!” And my kindergarten self, the one who didn’t receive praise fifty years earlier, burst into tears, so thankful for a new beginning.

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Harmon, ReneeRenee Harmon, MD

“That’s a blast from the past, Mom! You’ve come full circle.”

That was my daughters’ reactions on hearing the news that a story I had submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul had been selected for publication. My daughters both have fond memories of reading Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul, a book I had purchased for them as an enticement to read more. They would have read that volume just a few years before their father, my husband Harvey, was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I wrote my story, “You Are Here,” soon after the events in it had occurred, right at the time of Harvey’s diagnosis in 2010. It’s the story of visiting colleges with our oldest daughter—without a map or reliable GPS—and how that trip framed what I was feeling about my husband’s painful new diagnosis at the time. I was desperately longing for a roadmap or a guide that would tell me what to expect going forward. But I laid the story aside, too caught up in all the items that required my attention at home and at our medical practice.

In the summer of 2020, just prior to the publication of my teaching memoir, Surfing the Waves of Alzheimer’s, I was looking to submit shorter pieces to magazines and anthologies. When I researched the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise, I knew that my college tour story would fit well in an upcoming volume entitled Navigating Eldercare and Dementia. Buried deep in my computer, I found my story, dusted it off, polished it a bit, sent it off, then promptly forgot about it. Nine months later, when I received the email telling me my story had been selected, I didn’t even remember submitting it, and I had to search my records to find out exactly what I had sent. Once I realized that it was my “You Are Here” story, I smiled to myself knowing that the first piece I had ever written about our family’s experience was going to be published in a family favorite.

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Lauren DykovitzLauren Dykovitz, Chicken Sop for the SOul Navigating Elder Care and Dementia

I initially wrote this story for a different volume of Chicken Soup for the Soul back in 2018 after Marianne Sciucco shared a call for submissions with the members of AlzAuthors. After several months of not hearing from the publisher, I realized that my story had not been selected. I was disappointed to say the least. I never submitted the story elsewhere for fear that it was not good enough to be published.

Fast forward three years and in the spring of 2021, I was contacted by Chicken Soup for the Soul to inform me that my story had been selected for an upcoming volume entitled Navigating Eldercare & Dementia, for which it was certainly a much better fit. I was elated, especially since the first anniversary of my mom’s death was approaching at the time and I just knew she had something to do with it. Sometimes a setback is really just a set-up for the future.

I was inspired to write this particular story because the question I was always asked the most was, “Does your mom still know who you are?” I decided to share the story of the very first time my mom looked at me and didn’t recognize me. I was devastated at the time, but over many years I came to realize that my mom still knew me on another level—a much deeper level. My mom may not have remembered my name or known that I was her daughter, but she knew the sound of my voice and the feel of my touch. She may not have recognized my face, but she recognized my heart and soul. She knew me better than anyone else ever could.

I felt it was important to share that perspective and how I learned that there were far worse things about Alzheimer’s than my mom not knowing who I was. My mom lost every memory and every ability she ever had over the ten years she battled the disease. Although it was heartbreaking to witness her decline, I wouldn’t be the woman or the writer I am today without having experienced it. My mom taught me to smile in the face of adversity and I will be forever grateful.

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Chicken Soup for the Soul - Navigating Elder Care and Dementia

Purchase Navigating Elder Care and Dementia on Amazon

About the Authors

Tangles and Plaques, A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer's by Susan CushmanIn addition to Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s, Susan Cushman is the author of two novels, John and Mary Margaret, 2021 (coming to AlzAuthors October 20th) and Cherry Bomb, 2017, and editor of two anthologies—A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be, 2017, and Southern Writers on Writing, 2018. Her essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a regular workshop leader and conference speaker. Susan has three grown children, four granddaughters, and fifteen Godchildren in the Orthodox Church of which she is a member. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, she has lived in Memphis since 1988.

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Surfing the Waves of Alzheimer'sRenée Brown Harmon, MD, is a recently retired family physician in Birmingham, Alabama. After eighteen years of sharing a thriving medical practice, her husband, Harvey, was forced to retire after a diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Harmon cared for her husband for the eight years of his illness while maintaining their medical practice and rearing their two teenage daughters. The challenges of caregiving while working and parenting full-time led her to a deep appreciation for all caregivers. She is the author of Surfing the Waves of Alzheimer’s.

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Learning to Weather the Storm: A Story of Life, Love, and Alzheimer's, Lauren DykovitzLauren Dykovitz is a writer and author who lives in New Jersey with her husband and two black labs. Lauren’s mom was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s in July 2010 at the age of 62. Lauren was only 25 years old at the time. She quit her full-time job and became a caregiver for her mom at age 28. She started the Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s blog and social media pages to document her journey and share her experience as a caregiver. She self-published her first book Learning to Weather the Storm: A Story of Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s in 2017 and her second book When Only Love Remains: Surviving My Mom’s Battle with Early Onset Alzheimer’s in 2021 (coming to AlzAuthors October 6th). Lauren is also a contributor for  Although her mom passed in April 2020, it is Lauren’s mission to help others on their Alzheimer’s journey by sharing stories and lessons from her personal experience. In many ways, she feels like she is just getting started!

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