Changing the story of the elderly among us: Aging Family We Love

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My Grandpa Joe and me at my wedding in 1995.

My Grandpa Joe and me at my wedding in 1995.

In February, 2012, my Grandpa Joe, a month shy of 95, suffered a fall which ultimately led to his death approximately ten days later. During his hospitalization, his short-term memory was poor, but his long-term memory was strong. Sitting with him and simply listening to his stories without trying to correct him or argue when he got little facts and names wrong over the course of those 10 days proved to be a precious healing and grace-covered time. 

As a nurse, I frequently care for elderly patients who are fading. The challenges surrounding end-of-life care and elderly loved ones is daunting for everyone involved, and I detail much of that struggle in my recent article at More to Life Magazine: Final Chapters. Many of these patients have dementia or Alzheimer’s, which compounds the exhaustion and distress of caregivers and friends. According to the Alzheimer’s Association more than 10 million Americans face the task of caring for a family member with dementia. This means that chances are, this sort of situation touches you or someone you love. 

But the elderly among us are more than their diagnoses.

Indeed, many have stories left to tell.

In Final Chapters, I write: 

We can re-write these stories for ourselves and our loved ones. First, we need to raise awareness of the magnitude of the plight of our aging brothers and sisters and the loved ones close to emotional and physical collapse trying to care for them. Then, we need to listen to their stories, for it is through story—yours, mine, and theirs—that we live.”

While we often cannot change the progression of age and age-related crises, one of the most significant realizations besides capturing the stories within our loved ones is that we don’t have to go through these times alone. In fact, many organizations exist to help learn ways to cope, such as the Alzheimer’s Association  and A Place for Mom.

Community matters in end-of-life and elderly care.

We need to start sharing our stories.

We need to start sharing their stories.

Will you join in the conversation?

There’s a new space I started on Facebook for people to come, post photos of their loved ones, tell their own stories and gather for encouragement, called Aging Family We Love.

In addition, we’re making space for people like you to post pictures and stories on social media sites like twitter and Pinterest by using the hashtag #AgingFamilyWeLove.

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Do you have a story to tell about an aging loved one?

Write a post on your own blog and link to it in the comments below.

And/or, help start the conversation by clicking one of the links below to tweet:

Tweet: Do you care for an aging family or friend? Share your story. #AgingFamilyWeLove http://ctt.ec/fbRfJ+

or

Tweet: I’m helping change the way my loved one’s story ends, and you can too. #AgingFamilyWeLove http://ctt.ec/V6GyI+

or

Tweet: My loved one has a story beyond #Alzheimers that needs to be told. #AgingFamilyWeLove http://ctt.ec/w55R2+

or

Tweet: My loved one’s story doesn’t end with #dementia. Share your story. #AgingFamilyWeLove http://ctt.ec/1448s+

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Here’s a picture of my Grandpa Joe, my Grandma Mary Jane, and my dad from the 1940’s. Grandpa Joe was the inspiration behind my new novel, Then Sings My Soul.

What will your loved one inspire you or someone else to do?

Say, can my teenage daughter read your book?

My novel has officially been released for a week now, and one of the most fascinating and enjoyable parts is hearing all the different reactions to the story. Aspects of the story emerge which I’d never considered while writing it, such as quotes and character quirks and even whole themes. One of those I’m most thrilled about has been arriving in my inbox as a question:

“Is this something my teenage daughter could read?”

After all, two of the main characters are teens: Anniston is 13, quirky and precocious, though somewhat of a loner because of the lies and turmoil brewing in her family. Her best friend, Jed, is a teenage boy from the wrong side of the tracks, but with a heart of gold.

While I defer to the parents to ultimately make that decision, my personal answer is unequivocally

YES.

A small part of me might have been hesitant about this, initially. After all, the book, set in 1980, is a modern-day allegory of the rape and subsequent murders which occurred between King David’s children, in II Samuel 13. Though not graphically or gratuitously depicted in any way within my novel, it is obvious that these things do occur within the story.

However, 

…consider that Scholastic targets 11-13 year olds for the Hunger Games series.

…consider the frightening statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice about the horrors teens are experiencing in their daily lives.

…consider even more statistics, of which teens are largely impacted, from RAINN, one of the most highly respected organizations focusing on the prevention of seal assault and abuse.

…consider the number of teens in our schools and churches you probably already know who are dealing with things like cutting, domestic violence, sexual abuse.

Now, think about where these teens can find hope.

How Sweet the Sound is a novel written to give readers hope.

Hope that God is in the midst of pain.

Hope that the wounded can recover.

Hope that someone will believe in us when we can’t believe in ourselves.

Hope that beauty comes from within, no matter how scarred and ruined we may feel.

And hope that love wins.

So yeah, I’d say your teenage daughter can read this book.

I dare say, considering all the other forms of media vying for her attention, that she should.

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“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young…” I Timothy 4:12

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“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young…” I Timothy 4:12

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How Sweet the Sound character preview: Jed Manon

A rebel.

Maybe he has a cause.

Maybe he doesn’t.

Maybe his role in the story is to find one.

Unannounced and unexpected, Jed Manon arrives bigger than life in Bay Spring, bringing with him secrets of his own.

Will he and Anniston face the dangers lurking in Jed’s life, a life markedly different from her own?

Together, what will they learn about trust?

Pain?

Even, and perhaps, love?

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How Sweet the Sound: A Novel

Available for preorder now at your favorite online, national, or local bookstore.

Arrives on bookshelves March 1, 2014

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Boy rolling a cigarette. Kentucky, 1964. William Gedney Photographs and Writings Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/

Boy rolling a cigarette. Kentucky, 1964. William Gedney Photographs and Writings Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/