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WritingAfterDark

Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Alzheimer’s article BC Magazine Editors’ Pick

My article “Alzheimer’s: Tips on Understanding the Disease and its Limitations” has made the news again.

Each week the BlogCritic editors choose top story picks for each section of news. My article made BC Magazine Editors’ Picks: Febrary 5 through February 11 in the Culture section of the magazine.

Here's what Editor Diana Hartman had to say.

CULTURE
From Culture Editor Diana Hartman:

The title says it all. In Alzheimer's: Tips on Understanding the Disease and its Limitations Joanne D. Kiggins compassionately reveals the often ignored side of Alzheimer's (the caretakers) to those who may have overlooked the intensity and demands of caring for others.

Thank you Diana for picking my article as a feature for the week.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Tribute to My Significant Other Two Feather

Last week I went grocery shopping. My Significant Other, Two Feather, who always helps me with mundane chores, carried more than a dozen grocery bags into my mom’s house for me, and waited patiently while I hurriedly unpacked the bags and placed the groceries where they belong.

He’s such a patient and understanding man to live separate from me, alone in my house, while I live with Mom in hers as her caregiver. We have few hours together each week, yet he hasn’t complained that those few hours are spent helping me with the everyday needs like shopping, taking Mom’s dog to the groomer, picking up her medication, and having only an hour left to spend quality time together.

Every day he travels through the woods, through all types of weather. He shovels the snow from the sidewalk, plows the driveway, gets the mail and paper, fixes things around the house, takes the garbage to the end of the driveway every week, and does everything that needs done. All this from a man who has no vested interest except love and respect—to make sure that my mother and I are well, and that there will be something left of me, for him, when my days of care giving are complete.

I mention these things not only because Two Feather is my rock and my foundation, but because he said something to me that day that I wish others could see in me as well. Others, who should see it and should know it, but can’t see past their contempt for me.

He said, “What you’re doing is an honorable thing, Joanne. You’re a good, caring and loving person. People who can’t see the kindness, love, and unselfishness you have in your heart, are not worth your stress.”

He’s right, of course, my daughters have told me the same thing. But there’s that part of me that WAS unwilling to give up. That “STUPID” part of my brain and heart that tells me to keep trying—to try and make people realize I’m not the person they think so lowly of.

It wasn’t until Two Feather said this, that I realized I need to quit trying. It’s not my job to conciliate or placate others to help them understand me. It’s not worth my time to try, and then end up belittled, scorned, or hung up on when I’m trying to speak from my heart. It’s not worth the heartache and stress.

So, I’m going to cherish those who do understand me, those who do make an effort, and those who do know me for who I am. And I’m going to cherish the time I have with my mom and ensure that whatever time she has left on this earth will be filled with the love I have to offer, selflessly. The least I can do for a woman who gave me life is to give it back, day by day, and know in my heart that I’m doing what is best for the safety, welfare, and dignity of a woman who has selflessly shared so much with her children.

I know, even though she may not remember, I’m doing what she requested. And though he’s gone, I know my dad would be proud of me for giving selflessly of myself as they did for us.

So on this very special day, I honor my SO, Two Feather, for all the love, compassion, patience, and selflessness he has shown Mom and me and the two elderly neighbors on the road to my mom’s house. He is truly a blessing to us all and it is with utmost respect and love I say “thank you” for everything you’ve done, said, and kept to yourself, during this difficult time we share.

I cherish each moment I get to spend with you and pray we have many more moments and years together. I love you, Two. Thank you for being you, and for being there for me. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Happy Valentine’s Day to My Daughters

I know that Valentine’s Day is for sweethearts, but I can’t let this day go by without saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day” to my dear sweet daughters, Angel and Stacey. They are sweethearts in every sense of the word. I’m very proud to be their mother and even more proud to have such wonderful, caring, thoughtful, and loving daughters in my life.

Thank you for being you, and being there for me.

I love you both.

Mom

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Friends and Heartfelt Thoughts

Every now and then I take time to read blogs by my friends and I’ll comment on their messages for the day or week. Today was one of those “now and then” times and what I found was tear jerking.

My dear friend, Ray, normally posts about writing and publishing and games, quizzes, or fun things he’s found on the Internet. Today, I found his post about me. It brought tears to my eyes to read his words. Thank you, Ray, for being a friend and expressing such heartfelt thoughts. I’m blessed to have friends like you!

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No Mickey Mouse Operation Here! Counting My Steps.




This morning, at 10 a.m., I opened a box of Rice Krispies and found a Mickey Mouse pedometer (step counter) inside. I decided to give it a try and see if it recorded the number of steps accurately. I slipped in onto the waistband of my pants and walked up the 13 steps to my room. It recorded 13 steps, exactly.

I proceeded to gather the trash around the house, wash the morning dishes, threw a load of laundry in the washer, looked for something Mom had misplaced, fed the dog and cat, put the gathered trash on the sun porch, moved the clothes from the washer to the dryer and put another load in the washer, let the dog outside and back in (twice), and walked from whatever room I was in to whatever room Mom called me from.

It’s now 1:15 p.m. and the little Mickey Mouse step counter reveals 1,235 steps in just a tad more than three hours.

No, there’s no Mickey Mouse operation here, but the step counter certainly showed me why I’m exhausted by the end of the day. Can’t wait to see how many steps I’ve taken by 6 p.m. How active are you? Buy Rice Krispies and find out. :)

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Book Review: Journey Back by Dan Martin



Journey Back
By Dan Martin
American Book Publishing, Bedside Books
May 22, 2006
180 pp. Paperback
Fiction/Psychological suspense
ISBN: 1-58982-277-3
Amazon Price: $18.00

One day it dawned on me that I had to leave and I had to do it quickly because they knew where I was and how to find me.I don’t know how I knew, but it didn’t matter. (1)


We first meet paranoid schizophrenic and recovering drug addict Richard Jones after he escapes from an institution for the criminally insane. However, the story begins in the first person POV of Mitch James, Jones’s new identity. The next chapter jumps to a third person narrative by Jones about Jones. Throughout the book James and Jones tell the story in alternating chapters.

Confusing? I’m sure.

As an attorney and psychotherapist Dan Martin probably had some wonderful material to make his psychological suspense debut novel Journey Back believable. He simply didn’t use the material in a coherent, consistent, or convincing manner.

After a mental breakdown in his freshman year in high school, Jones was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and was believed to be controlling his symptoms with medication throughout high school and college. He decided he would be a writer.

Several professors had told Jones that his fiction lacked emotional depth, and that his characters, particularly the women, were flat and one dimensional. (28)


Jones thought his medications might be dulling his creative ability. That theory in mind, and that he was jobless and unable to pay for his medication, Jones decided to not refill his prescription. It didn’t take long for the psychosis to set in. This is when he ends up slapped into the asylum because he attacked a man with a baseball bat when he finds his equally sex obsessed and disturbed young girlfriend Anna with the other man.

Richard Jones’s paranoia comes across as believable, but a paranoid schizophrenic’s ability to drive from New York to California in less than 48 hours, change his identity, and land a job writing for an alternative weekly newspaper using a fraudulent resume, is not.

While fudging through stories in his newly found job, Jones hears of “something big going on” and decides this story could give him an advantage, both with the newspaper and possibly with his own drug using and skeletons of the past. He knew just where to go to get the inside information. Joseph.

His seedy, old hippie drug addict friend Joseph was one of only two visitors Jones had in the four months he was in the asylum.



It’s been nearly two years since they’d seen each other when all the trouble with Anna and Frankie happened, so Jones was surprised when Joseph showed up unannounced one Sunday afternoon at Quiet Manor, acting like it was no big deal for his friend to be in a mental institution. (63)


Jones knew that Joseph had moved to the Bay area so he calls on him to get the “inside” scoop for the opportunity to write about a secret experiment with a drug called BNG. BNG was said to be beneficial to alcoholics and drug addicts. Its effects allow the users to re-experience traumatic events from their lives and reprocess the memories to help them come to terms with incidents from the past.

But the only way he can convince the underground community leader Raoul to let him write the story is to be part of the testing program, Jones agreed

Raoul discovered the marijuana-looking plant on one of his trips through Africa and South America in 1997. He named it “Bangor” after his home town. Bangor was the central ingredient in the new wonder drug.

Jones suspected that Raoul had given him a small dose of the “green tea” as he skimmed through the loose-leaf binder containing the biographies of the founders, the history of mind-altering substances, and the science behind the Bangor project and the drug, but he wasn’t even aware it had affected him.

During his expected using/testing of BNG, Jones said “it seemed to magically transform just about everyone who used it” and “hardened scumbags within two or three weeks become pleasant, cooperative people

Part of it may have been that I was using the drug myself…so I may have been a little more inclined than usual to see the positive side of things and of people. But I know for sure that it was more than that. The trips themselves were wild, always different, sometimes a little frightening, but invariably worthwhile in some way. (154)


Raoul had been pushing him to get the story finished. Then Jones hit a snag with BNG. The trip from the drug left him so spooked he’d stayed in his room for three days and nights not able to think, let alone write.

When Raoul came to his room, Jones showed him the progress he’d made on the story and Raoul suggested he take a break and get “outside” to clear his mind. Had it not been for Jones hearing about the drug bust on his car radio he would have been one of the forty people arrested in an ongoing police investigation.

Maybe it was the author’s objective to have the reader jump into the mind of paranoid schizophrenic Richard Jones who speaks in the first person POV and then hurdle readers into the mind of his new identity Mitch James who speaks in italicized third person POV telling Jones’s story.

Or was it Richard Jones speaking in the third person about himself and this reader presumed that Mitch James was telling the story?

Either way, it didn’t matter at the beginning or end of the book.

And then one day it dawned on me that it was time to go home. I don’t know how I knew, but it didn’t matter. (179)


Martin does a fine job portraying Jones as a drug addict and the descriptions of the “trips” while on drugs were believable. This reviewer can see how Journey Back might be “used as a sidebar to articles on the War on Drugs, or the ‘new wave’ of mind-altering substances,” as was stated in a press release.

As for it being billed as a psychological suspense, though Journey Back is a quick read under 200 pages, it didn’t have this reader sitting on the edge of her seat, and the only thing that had my head spinning was the jumping POV.

Click HERE to purchase Journey Back.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Alzheimer's Article Requested for Use by the Alzheimer's Resource Center

Just a note for those who may be interested: The Alzheimer's Association Resource Center has requested permission to print my article, "Alzheimer's: Tips on Understanding the Disease and its Limitations," and distribute it as a handout at their educational meetings and support groups. The Alzheimer's Resource Center has also posted a link to my article on their website in their "Daily News."

I'm happy they found my article to be informative and helpful, and I'm thrilled that it may help families wordwide with loved ones stricken with Alzheimer's.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Alzheimer’s: Tips on Understanding the Disease and its Limitations.

“Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease (AD) at home is a difficult task and can become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. Research has shown that caregivers themselves often are at increased risk for depression and illness, especially if they do not receive adequate support from family, friends, and the community.” This statement can be found on the Alzheimer’s Association website.

The above paragraph is quoted with hope that family members everywhere, who have a loved one with AD, will take time to understand what is involved in caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.

One of the most challenging things caregivers are confronted with is dealing with fluctuating moods and difficult behaviors of the person they are caring for. The simple activities of daily life become burdensome to the person with AD. Dressing, bathing, eating, visiting, walking, and even talking can be tiresome and agitating, and often need to be addressed differently from one day to the next. Mood swings, from happiness to sadness to anger, can result for no apparent reason.

A single word, tone of voice, or suggestion can send the person with AD into a mood that results in difficult and aggressive behavior.

Anyone who has been a caregiver for a person with AD, and those informed and helpful advisors from the Alzheimer’s Association, will tell you that it is extremely important to keep the person with AD on a regular schedule. It is advised that you plan that schedule to what is comfortable for both the person with AD and the caregiver. Devising that plan is important for getting through each day and it helps both the person with AD and the caregiver cope with difficult behaviors and stressful situations.

If you do not help with the care of the person with Alzheimer’s, don’t criticize the plan that works for the patient and the caregiver.

Caregivers need help, encouragement, and support to deal with, and make, each day easier to handle the tasks they have taken the responsibility to do. They do not need to hear criticism from a sibling or family member who only “checks in” with the loved one once every four to six weeks. If you think your loved one should be more active, you should take an active part in the care, rather than offer unreasonable suggestions to the person who is responsible and is actively doing what should be done.

The last thing caregivers need to hear is a sibling or family member scolding them on Christmas morning, or anytime, because they didn’t return your call promptly enough to suit you; especially after that caregiver has just spent three hours cleaning the elderly parent, the bed sheets and carpet resulting from a problem with incontinence.

Others, who do not deal with the everyday needs of the Alzheimer’s patient, can thwart even the best of plans.

For those who live a long distance from their loved one who has Alzheimer’s, and for those who have little, or nothing, to do with the care of the person with AD, please take time to learn about the disease, its drawbacks, its inconsistencies, its varied moods, and the effects it has on the person with AD and the caregiver.

People with Alzheimer’s are not always aware of their surroundings, even if they are in their own home. Their mood can change drastically from one moment to the next. They may not be capable of controlling their bodily functions. They may not realize the movie on the television is just a movie; those characters may in their mind become “real people” in their living room.

The person with Alzheimer’s won’t remember it is your birthday, or how old you are, or for that matter, they may not even realize you are a family member. They may not be capable of keeping up with a conversation and they do forget that they repeated the same thing several times in your half hour visit, or the ten minutes you spend with them on the phone. And when your visit or phone call is over, they may not remember you have visited or called. But, the person with Alzheimer’s might remember one thing from that visit or phone call, and that one thing could result in what will become a difficult behavior or situation that the caregiver will need to respond to.

If you are a family member who is unable to help with the care of your loved one due to time constraints, lifestyle, or distance, there are ways in which you can help without being involved in the actual day-to-day care.

Listed below are a few tips that could help family members understand the person with Alzheimer’s and could aid the caregiver in his or her job.

· Following a regular routine is important in caring for a person with Alzheimer’s. If the routine is altered or interrupted, it can lead to agitation.
· When you’ve been informed of the routine, don’t make suggestions to the person with AD that might hinder or alter the routine.

Many people with AD become restless, agitated, or irritable in the early evening hours. This is referred to as “sundowning” syndrome. Even when a person with AD is not experiencing agitation from sundowning, getting the person to go to bed and stay there can be a challenge and requires time and patience.

It is important that the caregiver develops a routine for everything; that includes a bedtime routine. The bedtime should be consistent every evening.

· Be considerate to the person with AD and the caregiver.
· If you know the person with AD is a late sleeper, don’t call before the person’s normal waking hours.
· If the caregiver has stated the routine bedtime, don’t call during or after that time or suggest to the person with AD that they alter that time. It is not a good idea to suggest a 9:00 p.m. movie on television when you know he or she is routinely in bed before that.

When visiting or communicating:
· Plan your visits and phone calls during the hours suggested by the caregiver.
· Remember that the person with AD cannot always understand or keep up with conversations.
· Use simple words and short sentences when speaking.
· Never insult or belittle the person with AD because they don’t remember.
· Discussing memories can be beneficial, but don’t ask, “do you remember when…?” or say, “I can’t believe you don’t remember…!”
· Help the person focus on you and what you are saying. Don’t distract the conversation by turning on the television or radio. Keep the visiting atmosphere quiet and free of distractions.
· Always use a gentle and calm tone of voice.
· Don’t talk about the person as if he or she weren’t there.
· Don’t become angry because the person doesn’t remember something.
· If they seem agitated or angry about something, distract them to a different topic of conversation.
· Don’t criticize, correct, or argue with what they say or do.

The person with AD may not be able to distinguish television performances from reality. Turn off the television if a program contains violence, arguing, or disturbing content that may agitate the person with AD.

Avoid crowds, changes in routine, and strange surroundings that may cause confusion or agitation. A person with AD is easily agitated when placed in distracting or agitating surroundings. A room full of activity and noise can result in difficult behavior.

The number of visitors at one time should be limited, and those wishing to visit should work with the caregiver to schedule visits during the time of day when the person is at his or her best.

The caregiver is the person who handles the duties the needs and moods of the person with AD on a daily basis. It is important for caregivers to ensure that the loved one feels supported, comfortable, is living a full life, and it’s equally important that the caregiver take whatever steps are necessary to preserve their own well-being as well. If you are not able to help with the daily care of the Alzheimer’s patient, the least you can do to help the day run smoothly is follow the caregiver’s guidelines.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease go to the Alzheimer’s Association website.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It’s About Time

I know it’s about time! But do you?

This post is for all those who have sent e-mails, personal messages, letters, and cards. I thank you. All of you have questioned what I’ve been doing, where I’ve been, and why I haven’t posted. You all know my days are spent taking care of my mom, yet you still click on my blog each day, or week, hoping I might have posted anything new. For that, I thank you, as well.

So, yes, it’s about time. It’s about time I listen to all the well-wishers and writing-nudgers and write something. It’s difficult to write new and fresh ideas or update a blog each day or week when there’s nothing new and fresh to speak about.

Yesterday, I spoke about that ticking of the clock: Time. Time that each of us either wish we had more of, or wish would move more quickly.

Today was no different than yesterday. I spend the days with my mom, reading the newspaper and her friend’s letter to her because she can no longer read the small print. I prepare the meals, clean the house, wash the laundry, and do the dishes. And in between the cooking and cleaning, I reread the letter Mom’s forgotten I’ve read, show her a dozen times where her writing paper and stamps can be found, and reread the letter again.

Mom’s thoughts flash from moment to moment, and what we read, or watched, or spoke, or did two minutes ago, become new each moment. I’ve learned to live moment by moment, over and over. After nearly eight hours of repeating what’s been said and done, from morning until early evening, Mom’s too tired to talk, or listen, or think. And so am I.

Each evening I sit and reflect on the day, and when my body aches, my mind is tired, and I’m too exhausted to think, I glance at the clock, place my long list of writing projects on my desk, crawl beneath the covers, and pray that I’m given one more day with her, no matter what that day will bring.

It’s about time. Time to spare. Time to share.

This morning when I placed my feet on the floor, I tiptoed down the stairs as I do every morning. I peeked into my mom’s room and watched for the covers to slowly rise and fall, and when they did, I smiled. We both were given one more day. For that, I am thankful, too.

So, as you read, you wonder: Why is she dwelling on time? And I answer, “Because time is all I have.”

It’s all about time. It was time for me to regroup. And thanks to all of you, over the past several months, I’m happy to say; I’ve begun writing again. Or at least something close to writing. So, in the evening, after Mom’s tucked in bed, I take a few moments for myself—to write. A moment here, and a moment there, add up to hours, and hours turn into days, and for the past month, I’ve been editing, and rewriting, moment by moment, line by line, my novel, Time Goes On.

It is about time that I write that proposal.

It is about time I submit.

It’s all about TIME.

And. . .

Time Goes On!

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Happy Birthday, Angel!

Just dropping in to wish my oldest daughter, Angel a

Happy Birthday!

I love you!

Mom

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Time--A Trace of Me

Time goes on. Here it is the fourth of February and I sit wondering where time has gone. Time passes so slowly each day, but when I get ambitious and begin working on all the projects I have to accomplish, I see that time has slipped away. And once again, three months have sped by without a trace of me anywhere.

It’s sad when I think about it. I sit in an upstairs bedroom every evening wishing I had more time. More time to write, more time to read—more time for everything. And by the time I make it to that room at night, I’m too exhausted to do much of anything.

So I sit and either work on my writing and write longhand, read books for review, or exhausted from the day, sit idly staring at the clock ticking away time—and wondering where time has gone. Lately, I’ve had the ambition to do nothing. When ambition strikes, there is no time. When there is time, I’ve no ambition.

It’s funny to think that moments pass into hours, hours into days, and days into months. And soon those months have suddenly become years. When I think of the years that have passed, I cherish them, keep the memories close to my heart, and wish time had slowed down just a bit, to treasure special moments a while longer. Yet, at the same time, I wish some past moments had moved more quickly; to be rid of them, sweep them under a rug—to be forgotten in time.

Today, and all its 24 hours, was no different than any other day. Minutes turned into hours, and here I sit, in that upstairs bedroom. Instead of reading or watching the clock ticking away time, I’m typing my thoughts, recording them—to keep time. Close. Here. To leave a trace of me—as time goes on.

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