NaBloPoMo – A Blog a Day in November

November is a big month for writers. It’s time for NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo – National Blog Posting Month where bloggers set a goal to write a post a day in November. For me that’s a big challenge. I try to post once a month but sometimes the days get away from me and it just doesn’t happen. I’m eager to see how this project works out and what effect it will have on my time management going forward.

NaBloPoMo was inspired by NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month wherein writers are challenged to write a novel in the month of November.  This annual contest has resulted in many published novels and inspired thousands of writers to complete their work in progress even if they didn’t finish by the end of the month. I wish all the novel writers and bloggers starting this challenge good luck and good writing.

Here I go.

panic attack

The first time I had a panic attack I thought I was dying. I woke from a restless sleep with my heart racing and a heavy feeling in my chest. Then my fingers began to tingle and before long that sensation moved up my hand and into my arm.  At first confused and then terrified by what was happening I woke my husband. Call 911, something is very wrong! As I waited for the ambulance to arrive my heart raced faster and faster and each time the speed increased I became more frightened. Cold sweat poured out of me. I’m having a heart attack!

This can’t be happening. I have too much to do. I can’t do this to my family. How could my husband cope with the loss and care for his father? I was not ready to leave my grown children or my grandchildren.  I prayed for the ambulance to arrive in time while Mike paced.

“Your heart is fine, the EMT said after examining me thoroughly. What’s going on in your life that’s causing you so much stress? 

Caregivers know the answer to that.  Constant vigilance. Sleepless nights for days and weeks on end. Second guessing by family members who aren’t there every day like you are.  Loved ones who not only resist but openly fight your efforts to care for them. It all piles up and you take it all in. Swallow it down and start another day. Eventually something has to give and your body sends out an urgent signal. I’m in trouble here. And you are. Left untreated the same stress that leads to panic attacks can result in a heart attack. The good news is there is treatment. The key is to understand what is happening and why.

After that terrible scare I read all I could about what had happened to me. I quickly learned to recognize the onset of a panic attack. When I sensed one coming on I’d go to a quiet room, lie down and take slow deep breaths to calm myself. Over time it became easier and the attacks lessened in intensity and duration. Now they occur rarely and dissipate in minutes. I’m lucky. I can control my panic attacks without medication. For some the attacks are so severe and frequent medical intervention is needed. If that’s the case with you, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor and get treatment. You will feel so much better if you do.


Is it a heart attack or a panic attack? (from

Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that people think they’re having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While it’s important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, or difficulty breathing, it’s often panic that is overlooked as a potential cause—not the other way around.

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems. They may even cause you to withdraw from normal activities. But panic attacks can be cured and the sooner you seek help, the better. With treatment, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic and regain control of your life.

For more information about panic attacks and how to treat them go to

To read more about Bobbi and her experience as a caregiver purchase a copy of her book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver. Blog followers receive a discount when ordering directly.

.Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

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Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book

NaBloPoMo November 2014

Halloween with Rodger


Halloween candy

“What time do the kids come?”

My father-in-law asked that same question every year on Halloween.

“Six o’clock.”

“Good. I eat at four. I’ll have time to get ready.”

I wondered what he did to get ready for when he did come down from his room at precisely 5:45 he looked no different than he had earlier in the day. He’d be wearing the same brown flannel shirt tucked into brown pants along with the black shoes and white sox he’d put on when he got up in the morning. He would have shaved that day so his grey stubble wasn’t as pronounced as the day before, but not because of the holiday. He shaved every three days and had for years. His hair would be slicked back as always and his face would hold the same dour expression that greeted me every day.

“I hope I don’t get too tired. I’m not as strong as I used to be.”

“You don’t have to give out the candy. I can do it,” I said.

“No. I have to. It’s my job,” he insisted.

“Why? I did it before you came to live here. I can do it now if you want to stay in your room.”

“I do it!” he snapped before moving a dining room chair close to the window and peering out to see if any young ghosts or witches were coming.

Seeing the street was still clear of trick-or-treaters he peered into the large wooden bowl full of candy and started to mumble.

“I hope this is enough. She didn’t buy enough. Oh no.”

“I have more. That’s all that will fit in the bowl for now. I can add more as we need it.”

“I can add more. It’s up to me. What time do the kids come?”

“Six o’clock. If you get tired before they stop coming let me know. I’ll pass out the rest.”

“I have to do it. I give them each one piece, right? What time do they come?”

“They should start coming at six o’clock. Give them more than one piece, we have plenty.”

“Two pieces. I give them each two pieces. What time do they stop coming? I hope I don’t get too tired. I’m not strong like I used to be.”

“You don’t have to do this. I can do it if it’s too much for you.”

“I told you, I have to do it. It’s my job”


“Because I’m the oldest and the oldest gives out the candy.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. In his mind that’s the way it should be. Every year, as long as he was able, I let it him pass out the candy. I kept an eye on him and when it was clear he was tiring I made sure the bowl emptied quickly, turned out the light and helped him back to his room. He always slept late in the morning and woke proud that once again he had done his job.

The kids still start coming around six o’clock and the big bowl still stands ready at precisely 5:45. There is plenty more to refresh the bowl at least three times. So many things remain the same. Something very important has changed. Now I’m the oldest and I give out the candy. I miss him.

To read more about Bobbi and Rodger purchase a copy of her book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver. Blog followers receive a discount when ordering directly.

.Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

Caregiver Cover Web

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book

Could I create a likeable, but realistic character who suffered from Alzheimer’s?

Anette Dashofy, author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series shares a bit of her caregiver story and how she created a very special character in her book, Lost Legacy, to honor her father. Welcome Annette.

Bobbi Carducci and I met and bonded many years ago in the hospitality suite of a Pennwriters Conference, commiserating about our roles as caregivers—she for her father-in-law and I for my dad. Sisters in the battle to maintain a real life while providing comfort for not-always-cooperative loved ones.

Of course, being writers, we both chose to share our emotions through the printed word. Her book is a lovely memoir. Mine, a work of fiction. Lost Legacy is the second in my Zoe Chambers mystery series.

This book has been a story of my heart, and as thrilled as I was to get the first one published, this one is special. Lost Legacy is dedicated to the memory of my dad, who—like Harry—Pete Adams’ father in the book, suffered from Alzheimer’s. Harry is NOT my dad. My dad’s illness was dark and ugly and complicated with strokes. Dad couldn’t walk without assistance, but didn’t remember, so he fell. Repeatedly. Loss of independence, combined with the ravaging effects on his mind, made him short-tempered and…well…just plain mean at times. He lost his ability to internally edit or use good judgment. He struck out verbally at those he most loved, reducing my mom to tears on more than one occasion.

Could I take such a hideous disease that reduced my strong, take-charge dad into a wheelchair-bound, helpless and angry man and write a fictional character who didn’t make the reader slam the book closed? Could I create a likeable, but realistic character who suffered from Alzheimer’s? There are a lot of readers out there with family members dealing with this or similar dementia ailments, and I knew they would call me out big time if I didn’t get it right.

But I really wanted to create this character of Harry. I’ve been the caregiver daughter who dreamed of running away. Like Pete, my own loving brother had difficulties watching our father deteriorate—though not as badly as Pete! As writers do, I took those relationships and magnified them. Played the what-if game.

Instead of focusing on the darkest parts of my dad’s illness, I used a lot of his more lovable quirks in creating Harry Adams. Spending time with Harry was like having a little bit of my dad around…the part I remember fondly. His addiction to chocolate milkshakes. The way he called everyone “Sunshine.” His mischievous grin.

I hope I succeeded in creating a real representation of an Alzheimer’s patient and the people around him. I think I did. So far my readers have given me thumbs up for the effort. Harry may have been the biggest challenge of my writing life (so far!), but he’s also become my favorite character. And the one I’m most proud of.

Also, I’m donating a portion of my royalties for Lost Legacy to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of Dad…and of Harry.

Note: Although Annette was unaware of it when she named him, Harry shares his name with my father, the late Harry Simpson. It seems Annette and I are connected in ways that go beyond the love of writing and I am proud to know her.


Was I Crazy?

Crazy lady cartoon for caregiver

“You’re a little bit crazy, you know that?” my father-in-law said.

It wasn’t the first time he’d accused me of being crazy and it sure as hell wasn’t the last. Despite the fact that he’d suffered from mental illness long before age-related dementia set in he was convinced he could take care of himself and I was out of my mind to think otherwise.

Sometimes I agreed with him. About the crazy part anyway. Isn’t it considered crazy to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result?

By that definition we were both nuts.

He figured if he took every opportunity to take off down the hall without his walker whenever my back was turned he’d convince everyone he didn’t need it. After all, he’d only fallen once and it didn’t kill him. I hoped if I kept catching him and leading him back to safety he’d begin to accept the walker and use it without prompting.

When he developed Dysphagia and could no longer swallow regular food and drink, I prepared fresh purees for him every day while doing everything I could to make them healthy and tasty. I learned that a lot of his favorite foods could be prepared that way. It was worth spending a bit of extra time so he could enjoy his own version of whatever meal we were having. Pureed hot dogs and potato salad on the 4th of July. Pureed turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving worked very well. So did the pureed pasta with homemade spaghetti sauce. I’m still proud of the pureed tuna and tomato sandwich and pureed cupcake he often had for lunch. Was I crazy to go to all that extra work instead of ordering prepared purees for him? Hormel makes a line of foods for people with Dysphagia and I did order some of them. But, I didn’t want to rely on them. Eating was one of the few pleasures he had left and I wanted him to experience the flavor of his favorites. He was convinced I was crazy to think food could be dangerous.

“Something’s wrong with her. Food goes in your stomach not your lungs. You can’t get pneumonia from eating,” he’d tell the doctor at every visit. Eventually the doctors tuned him out, not bothering to explain again why he couldn’t have a sandwich or big juicy orange.

Sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder, was I crazy to become a caregiver? Was I crazy to lie awake at night trying to figure out new ways to get through to him? Was I crazy to keep fighting for him and with him when it became clear that no matter what I did or how hard I tried he would continue to fail?

Maybe. But sometimes crazy is what it takes to get the job done and maybe my crazy was just what his crazy needed. I hope so.

For more information about Dysphagia and where to find products for your loved ones click on any of the following links:

caregiver card2




Elder Rage: How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents
By Jacqueline Marcell, Author, ‘Elder Rage’

For eleven years I pleaded with my ‘challenging’ elderly father to allow a caregiver to help him with my ailing mother, but he always insisted on taking care of her himself. Every caregiver I hired soon sighed in exasperation, ‘Jacqueline, I just can’t work with your father. His temper is impossible to handle and he’s not going to accept help until he’s on his knees himself.’

When my father’s inability to continue to care for my mother nearly resulted in her death, I stepped in despite his loud protests. It was heart-breaking as one minute he’d be my loving dad and then some trivial little thing would set him off and he’d call me nasty names and throw me out of the house the next. I took him to several doctors, only to be flabbergasted when he could act completely normal when he needed to.

Finally I stumbled upon a thorough neurologist, specialized in dementia, who put my parents through a battery of blood, neurological, memory tests and P.E.T. scans. After ruling out numerous reversible forms of dementia, such as a B-12 and thyroid deficiency, and evaluating their medications, I was stunned by the diagnosis of Stage One Alzheimer’s in both of my parents–something all their other doctors missed entirely.

What I’d been coping with was the beginning of Alzheimer’s, which starts very intermittently and appears to come and go. I didn’t understand that my father was addicted and trapped in his own engrained bad behavior of a lifetime of screaming and yelling to get his way, but that it was coming out intermittently in inconsistent spurts of irrationality. I also didn’t understand that demented does not mean dumb (a concept not widely appreciated), and that he was still socially adjusted never to show his ‘Hyde’ side to anyone outside the family. Conversely, my mother was as sweet and lovely as she’d always been.

Alzheimer’s makes up 60-80 percent of all dementias and there’s no stopping the progression nor is there yet a cure. However, if identified early there are four FDA medications (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda–and many more in clinical trials) that in most people can mask dementia symptoms and keep the patient in the early independent stage longer.

Once my parents were properly treated for the Alzheimer’s, as well as the often-present depression in dementia patients, and then my father’s aggression, I was able to optimize fluid and nutrition with much less resistance. I was also able to manage the rollercoaster of challenging behaviors. Instead of logic and reason, I learned to use distraction and redirection. I capitalized on their long-term memories and instead of arguing the facts, I lived in their realities of the moment. I also learned to just go-with-the-flow and let hurtful comments roll off. And most importantly, I was able to get my father to accept two wonderful live-in caregivers. Then with the tremendous benefit of adult day health care five days a week for my parents and a support group for me, everything finally started to fall into place.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts more than 5.4 million Americans, but millions go undiagnosed for many years because early warning signs are chalked up to stress and a ‘normal’ part of aging. Since one out of eight is afflicted with Alzheimer’s by age 65, and nearly half by age 85, healthcare professionals of every specialty should know the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and help educate patients and families so everyone can save time, money–and a fortune in Kleenex!



Jacqueline Marcell is the author of ‘Elder Rage’, a Book-of-the-Month Club selection receiving 480+ 5-Star Amazon reviews, 50+ endorsements, is required reading at numerous universities for courses in geriatrics and considered for a film. EXCERPT: She is also an international speaker on Alzheimer’s, as well as breast cancer which she survived after caring for her parents. She also speaks on caregiver stress and illness, and Alzheimer’s now being termed ‘Type 3 Diabetes’, the Obesity Epidemic and Sugar Addiction.

Doctor, can you hear me?

Patient safety

To a doctor schizophrenia is: “A long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.”

For his psychiatrist the treatment for Rodger entailed medication to control his symptoms and regular visits to assess his thoughts and behavior. He was treating the disease. Every three months Rodger would assure him he was taking his medication and he was not experiencing hallucinations or hearing voices.

“She worries too much. Don’t listen to her.”

At home I was dealing with the illness. Despite Rodger’s insistence that everything was fine, I knew it was not. He paced the upstairs hall day and night, muttering and gesturing. I found him on his hands and knees trying to catch something scooting across the floor. Something only he could see. I reported all that and more to his doctors on every visit.

They listened to him. They got tired of hearing from me.

I knew when he was hearing voices. It was evident in a certain tilt of his head as he listened to the silence around him and in the sudden bursts of laughter when he was alone in his room. They goaded him into seething resentment when I insisted he take his medicine resulting in accusations of mistreatment.

“The others are here.” I’d tell myself, bracing for a difficult day. For weeks I watched as his behavior deteriorated. I scheduled appointment after appointment.

“She worries too much. Don’t listen to her.”

The doctor treated the disease the only way he knew how. More medication. It didn’t work. We didn’t know he was hiding it in his cheek and spitting it out.

The others came again and again. Then they stayed. Relentless. Aggressive. Unyielding. He broke. His mind a cyclone of confusion and suspicion.

He arrived at the hospital in the back of police car.

“Why did you wait so long to bring him in?” the admitting doctor asked. “He is in desperate need of treatment,” he added before calling for an orderly to take Rodger to the psychiatric ward.

I’d been telling them that for weeks. I was the one who worried. I was the one they should have listened to. Where they saw only the disease I was living with the illness and he paid the price.
Doctor, please hear me. Listen to the caregivers and heed their concerns. Caregivers see what you do not see. Caregivers hear what you do not hear. Caregivers live with the illness and that is often far more difficult than treating the disease.

Caregivers, do you find it difficult to communicate with your loved one’s doctors?
Do they heed your loved ones when they minimize your concerns?

Have you found a way to communicate with medical personnel that works for you and your loved one? Please share your comments in the space below. I’d love to hear from you and maybe the doctors would too.

Click here for an excellent post on this subject on The Caregiver Space.

caregiver card

I Hope Rodger is Smiling Today

Yesterday I signed a contract with Open Books Press to publish my book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver, A Daughter-in-Law Tells All. I am thrilled that the story of Rodger and me will be made public. I hope that caregivers everywhere will see a bit of themselves in my imperfections and find some comfort in knowing they are not alone in doing the hardest thing that will ever touch them so deeply or teach them so much.

Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver – A Daughter-in-law Tells All, depicts my seven-year commitment to caring for my mentally and physically ill father-in-law. In the words of Alexandra Axel, Media Director, The Caregiver Space,  “Your writing is beautiful, your story is compelling, and the problems you present to the reader are complex. … I’m loving it… From the bottom of my heart, thank you for putting your experience on the page. I can’t wait to keep reading.”




Shall We Dance? Moments in Caregiving.


Image Courtesy of

“I was young once. I remember my mother making polenta before going to church. Later we rolled up the rugs and held dances.”

A smile crossed my father-in-law’s wrinkled face. I pictured him in a room glowing with firelight and dreams. Tango, waltz and foxtrot; somewhere a pretty girl waiting.

Note: This post  was written and inspired by a writing challenge issued by wordpress to tell a story in exactly fifty words. I thank them for bringing this poignant memory to mind. For more on this challenge click here.


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“Fine” Is Not An Answer

“How are things going with Rodger?”

“It must be hard.”
“It’s fine.”

Are you taking care of yourself?”
“I’m fine.”

“How is Mike dealing with all this?”
“He’s fine.”

“Do the two of you get any time away?”
“No, but we’re fine.”

So often when questioned by people, even the most well-meaning, Caregivers say they are fine. It’s time to stop. FINE is not an answer. It’s what we say when the person asking has no real interest in the answer or has already proven that they are too busy, too disconnected, or too frightened to deal with what’s happening.

Saying we are fine when we are not is a social norm that works most of the time. Why bore someone with details of our life when they are busy with their own problems and they only ask about ours to be polite?

How often do we greet friends or acquaintances with the words, “Hello, how are you?” Both parties know full well that we aren’t asking for details and the proper response is, “I’m fine. How are you?”

As a caregiver I was guilty of saying it all the time. When I was so sleep deprived I could barely function I carried on trying to convince everyone, including myself, that I was fine and I’d sleep when the latest crisis had passed. When month after month of stress took a toll and triggered a panic attack, I breathed through it and went on. “I’m fine now,” I’d say once it was over. After a terrible argument with my husband, brought on by the same lack of sleep and buildup of stress, we patched things up and promised not to let it get to us again. We had a solid, loving marriage and we were simply going through a rough patch that would not last forever. We were fine.

Rodger was declining and his need for care was increasing all the time.
Being a caregiver was very hard.
I was not taking care of myself and the stress was taking a big toll on me.
Mike was not fine no matter how hard he tried to pretend he was.
We needed time away and would have given anything for someone to take over even for one day.

I wonder what would have happened if I had responded truthfully.

“How are things going with Rodger?”
“Not good. He is getting weaker all the time. He hates being dependent and it makes him angry. He takes it out on me.”

“It must be hard.”
“It’s very hard. I feel very alone most of the time. I miss spending time with my friends and the people I used to work with.”

“Are you taking care of yourself?
“There’s no time for that. I had to cancel my last three doctor appointments to rush Rodger to the hospital when one of his illnesses worsened. Most days I eat on the run and shower so fast I barely get wet before I have to dry off and tend to his needs.”

“How is Mike dealing with all this?”
“He is doing the best he can to be there for both Rodger and me and go to work every day. On the weekends he does all the shopping and runs all the errands that need to be done. He helps with Rodger in the evenings. There is no rest for him either.”

“Do the two of you get any time away?
“No. We need a rest but we don’t know where to turn for help.”

Would anyone have offered help and a bit of respite if I had not kept reassuring people that I was fine? I will never know. You can find out. If anyone asks how things are going, I hope you remember that fine is not an answer and give them a chance to respond to the truth. I’ll be very interested in learning how it goes.

Note: Caregivers with little or no outside support often suffer from depression. Click here to read an article about caregiver depression at, Coping with Depression: Signs You Might be in Trouble

caregiver card

Don’t Make Me Take Away Dr. Phil!

Contributor Post by Madison Hill

As a kid, I was never particularly fond of showering, but I was forced to do it (usually against my little, stubborn will). My mom possessed the perfect mix of power and patience—coercing me into bathing without too many tears or casualties. Despite my rough, early relationship with cleanliness, by the time I was in middle school I had embraced showering with open arms (after all, I had boys to impress, and I wanted to put my freshest foot forward), and in an ironic turn of events, my parents usually had to kick me out of the bathroom before I used all of the hot water.
Flash forward a few decades, and my how the tables have turned. I battled my children with bathing (naturally—it’s the circle of life) but I never thought I’d encounter the same struggle with my own mom. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s that is gradually swallowing her memories, my mother has developed an aversion (fear? loathing? resistance?) to showering or bathing. Most of the time, she just adamantly refuses my “shower time” suggestions, and instead insists that she has already showered. Or that she doesn’t need to shower. Or that she will shower later (in this case, later=never).

You…can’t…make…me!You can't make me dog in bath (Image Credit)
For the sake of maintaining the peace, I tried every trick that had worked for my kids. I gave her the option of bathing now, or in five minutes. She chose neither. I felt weird threatening her with taking away her treasured time with “Dr. Phil,” but I tried it anyway. Not only did it not work, but the resulting meltdown that occurred was not worth a million showers. I (briefly, but almost seriously) thought about putting some sort of a toy or something in there that she would enjoy (this worked well for one of my daughters) but eventually dismissed the idea. Instead, I put a chair in the tub, so that she would feel as comfortable as possible. And still—no cooperation. Not even a drop. I can’t tell you how many times I cried, yelled, and doubted my sanity—over bath time!

unahppy wet puppy(Image Credit)
I think this pretty much sums it up…

One morning, I started the shower with the intent to let the water warm before I got in. Per the usual, I got distracted by a piece that the Today show was doing about in-home caregivers (coincidence? I felt not). I’ve often thought that maybe I should hire a professional to help me care for mom—I’m clearly not an expert (the shower ordeal is only one of many) and I’m so far from perfect that I often wonder if I’m even being effective. I grabbed my laptop and began doing research on the right questions to ask potential caregivers when I heard mom ask me why the shower was running. My response was absentminded at best (and perhaps a bit sarcastic)—“I started it because you told me that you wanted to shower, so I got it warmed up like you asked.”
Mom looked at me and simply said “Oh, yes—that’s right.” I’ll never know why I said that, but I do know that what happened next made me wonder if I had finally, completely, lost my mind. I watched my mom walk calmly towards the bathroom, shut the door, and eventually get in the shower. I’m pretty sure I dropped my computer and tiptoed (I guess I was afraid to disturb the miracle) over to the shower. I cracked the door, peeked in, and sure enough—my mom was showering! I almost squealed and cried at the same time—finally—a solution that would forever end our mother-daughter Civil War!
More often than not, I feel like I’m doing all of this wrong—and maybe I am. But small victories (like a war-zone free bath time) give me hope that maybe, sometimes, I’m doing something right.

Madison Hill (2)

Madison Hill is a freelance writer with a croquet obsession. When she’s not making homemade kreplach with her mother, you can find her playing the piano and scrapbooking.

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