Wednesday, August 16, 2017

AlzAuthors: Susan Kiser Scarff and Ann Kiser Zultner, authors of Dementia: The Journey Ahead - A Practical Guide for In-Home Caregivers

by Susan Kiser Scarff


Within a year of my husband receiving his dementia diagnosis, I had a classic case of caregiver burnout. I couldn't concentrate at work and most of my time was taken up with worrying about my husband's uncharacteristic and impulsive behavior. I was petrified and intimidated about the future…overwhelmed with basic day-to-day activities. Further, I was apprehensive about making the transition from wife to protector, nurse, and mother.

At the suggestion of a health professional, I began documenting the daily struggles of caregiving. After my husband passed away, I realized my daily journaling could be modified and turned into a valuable and timely resource for other caregivers in similar situations. Writing the book, and in turn helping others in similar situations, helped me to feel that my husband’s illness and my own caregiving struggles were not in vain. Something positive was able to come from the horrific disease called Dementia. Hopefully, the book, written with the help of my sister, Ann Kiser Zultner, will help fill in the huge gap between medical and in-home care for dementia patients.

Our book is intentionally designed as a practical guide for dementia caregivers. It begins with the diagnosis, and then moves into dealing with behavioral issues, managing daily living, safety concerns and late-stage. It also includes an assortment of caregiver tools and an extensive list of caregiver resources carers can use to find additional information on a variety of topics. Finally, the paperback version of the book (as opposed to the Kindle version) includes an Index that readers can use to go straight to any topic. I felt this was important since caregivers do not have time to sit down and read anything from start to finish, let alone spend hours researching. Every section also includes how I resolved many of the daily issues while caring for my husband…honestly, I learned everything by trial and error.
My husband, Red, proved to me that patience is a prerequisite, laughter is the best medicine, and a smile is worth a thousand words.

Purchase Dementia: The Journey Ahead - A Practical Guide for In-Home Caregivers, available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. 

About the Authors

Susan Kiser Scarff, left, Ann Kiser Zultner, right
Susan Kiser Scarff

I was born and raised a California girl. I live and thrive in Phoenix, Arizona since 1974. I graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1973 with a BS in secondary education with four and ½ years’ experience as a generational hippy and flower child. I come from a lineage of doctors, psychiatrists, and nurses. Our Father and Brother were both diagnosed with debilitating disorders shortly after I graduated from high school. I believe the culmination of our/my life experiences and family dynamics prepared me for the imminent role in life as a caregiver, aka, mother of all. I just can’t help it. My collective societal roles range from flipping burgers at the San Diego Zoo, multimedia artist and business owner, coaching junior’s tennis, tennis coordinator, volunteer and staff member at Desert Botanical Garden and last but most challenging …caring for my husband, diagnosed with FTD, for roughly 15 years in our home. It was a very long and difficult labor of love. Candidly, high school lesson plans, country club newsletters, botanical garden training manuals, several magazine articles, and one book sums up my prolific writing expertise. I believe our text is a wonderful starter book for novice dementia caregivers. If you have been a caregiver for a number of years...you can undoubtedly write your own book by now or already have. 

Ann Kiser Zultner

I learned about dementia and caregiving through my sister, Susan, and her husband, Red. After Red’s dementia diagnosis, Susan and I would have weekly telephone conversations where she would describe Red’s new behaviors as the disease progressed and her ingenious ways of managing and coping with the resulting chaos and stress. Dementia: The Journey Ahead is designed to be a reference guide for dementia caregivers providing helpful and creative ideas on how to manage daily living. The book also includes some humor since that is the way our family seems to deal with just about everything. (Thanks, Mom.) 

Follow Susan Kiser Scarff & Ann Kiser Zultner

Our Facebook page, Dementia: The Journey Ahead caregiving 101, provides caregivers with much needed advice, support, and guidance, to help prepare and take charge of the challenging and demanding journey ahead. 




Monday, August 14, 2017

My YA Sports Novel "Swim Season" is Now Available in Audiobook!

photo by stokkete via Adobe Stock

I love audiobooks, so much so that all of my books and short stories find their way to Audible. Today I am thrilled to announce that Swim Season finally landed on its own Audible bookshelf. 

Quick blurb: Swim Season is the fast-paced, drama driven story of Olympic hopeful Aerin Keane, starting senior year in her third high school and trying NOT to win. But can she hide her natural talent and competitive streak? Especially with a 50,000-dollar scholarship on the line?

Narrated and produced by the talented Evelyn Eibhlin through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), it clocks in at 14 hours and 43 minutes of action and drama. With a cast of almost 20 active characters, Evelyn had a big task on her hands, but I suspected she was up to it, and did she ever deliver! She's given each of the main characters their own distinctive voices and infused the story with the emotions and tensions I imagined when I wrote it. If she sounds familiar, you may have listened to her on books 1 and 2 in my Daisy Hunter series, also on Audible. I have an interview with her at the end of this post. 

For those interested in reviewing the audiobook I have free download codes, courtesy of ACX. Please email me at mariannesciucco@gmail.com and I'll send you one asap.  

Find Swim Season on Audible (on sale right now for 7.49) and Amazon (free with an Audible trial.) It's Whispersync for Voice enabled, allowing you to switch seamlessly from reading with your Kindle app or tablet to listening. And the Kindle version is just 99 cents right now in my Back to School/Back to the Pool eBook sale. Regular price: 2.99. Get it here.

And now, Evelyn Eibhlin:

Hi Evelyn. I was thrilled when you said "yes" to Swim Season. What was it about the story that motivated you to narrate/produce the audiobook? 

I found Aerin's choice to deny her natural competitive instinct and suppress her significant talent intriguing. I also liked how she learned to open herself up to other people and make real friends, as well as come to terms with what happened between her parents.


Did you have any favorite characters?

I thought Justin was a great guy - who wouldn't fall for him? Handsome, athletic, dedicated, and loyal. He was also a strong person who didn't hide from his feelings.

There are a lot of characters with speaking roles. Describe what it was like developing each of the girls' voices. 

The way the author described each character really helped provide the context I needed to create each girl's voice - their cadence and pitch came from a sense of their personality: sharper, bitter, and a little nasal for Jordan; deeper, gruffer, more jovial for Erica, etc.

Any favorite scenes?

I really enjoyed the banter between the friends, so the scenes where they are all joking with each other, encouraging each other - those were fun to do.

Any special challenges? 

I wasn't expecting a priest with a Haitian accent! Or an au pair who spoke French. For the Haitian accent, I relied on phonetic skills I picked up from a dialect coach in college and researched the French sentences and phrases and listened to them spoken by a variety of French speakers as a way to practice.

Have you ever been a competitive swimmer or athlete?

I played on the varsity soccer team in high school and was on the women's rugby league in college.

How long have you been narrating/producing audiobooks?

About a year and a half now, my first project was actually Marianne's Collection, the first Daisy Hunter story!

How many books have you done? 

I am currently working on my sixth project. I don't produce audiobooks full-time and am limited to the number of projects I take on, so I've had to pass on a few offers that have come my way.

Do you have any other relevant experience you bring to audiobooks?

I have a B.A. with a double major in English and Theatre, was a stage actress, and taught high school English, Theatre, and Speech. I also directed plays and coached speech team, so I've got lots of experience with vocal skills and characterization.

What's up next? 

I'm excited to be producing a YA Romantic Thriller that won the RWA (Romance Writers of America) RITA Award for Best First Book in 2015! The author is doing a re-release of the book which comes out August 15th and the audio version will be available later this fall.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

AlzAuthors: Brian Wiggins and the Beautiful Novel "Autumn Imago"

WIGGINS_AutumnImago_NewCover copy
By Bryan Wiggins
No one I know has Alzheimer’s disease. My parents have entered their eighties with their sharp minds intact. Only one of my four grandparents suffered any kind of dementia, and Granny’s wasn’t that severe. So when I forget a name, lose my car keys, or question what the heck I’m doing standing in the basement after clomping down the stairs, I shrug my shoulders and carry on. I could still get Alzheimer’s, of course, but with no family history of it behind me, I find other things to worry about.
But when I decided to write a novel with a protagonist whose mother was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, my lack of firsthand experience with the disease threatened to damage the one thing most critical to building the fictive world that readers love to lose themselves within: character credibility. So I set out to do the research that could show me what my own experience had failed to teach me. I went to a talk by a nationally known Alzheimer’s expert at my local memory care center. I dove deep into the web. I read Still Alice to see how someone far more qualified than me—a neuroscientist with a Harvard Ph.D. and a grandmother who had died from the disease—built a book that rang true for the readers I was most concerned about pleasing: those who either suffered from the disease or loved someone who did.
Somewhere between my worries about getting things right and penning the final lines of Autumn Imago, I created Mara, the 70-year old mother of my story’s hero, park ranger Paul Strand. Mara’s condition compels Paul to bring Mara and the rest of the family he’s abandoned to his remote Maine campground for a tempestuous ten-day reunion. After the book was published, I was honored to receive letters from a few family members of Alzheimer victims who shared how moved they’d been by my tale. That response inspired me to go back to examine how the largely intuitive process that guided my writing had worked to shape the woman who became the moral center of my story. What I discovered was that I’d built Mara less from an examination of her disease than of the impact she and it had on the family that surrounded her.
For Paul, the kitchen fire Mara starts in the home she shares with Paul’s sister, Kim and her family is the warning shot that brings him back to his family again. It signals the limited time he has to heal the breach between himself and his mother before she finally slips away. Every conversation with his mother becomes a struggle over whether to share the feelings he’s buried from their past or the compassion that can comfort her as she faces a frightening future. For Kim, Mara’s caregiver, Mara becomes the test of selfless giving mandated by her calling as a pastor. Kim struggles to live up to that divine ideal while battling the all-too-human emotions of anger and frustration experienced by anyone whose attended to an Alzheimer’s victim’s long term care.  Kim’s husband, Robert, exploits Mara’s condition, as he challenges her failing memory when her instincts get her too close to the secrets he keeps from his wife and family.
Kim and Robert’s fiery teenage daughter, Aida, lashes out at everyone except Mara, revealing the compassionate heart that beats beneath an angry and conflicted girl. Aida’s tubby, shy, and brilliant 13-year-old brother, Aaron, may be the one who sees Mara, and her situation, most clearly. He diagnoses both the early stage of his grandmother’s disease and the mental acuity that still illuminates her while others can see only the dark shadows of things to come. Finally, Paul’s younger brother Tommy, a recently-recovered drug addict, provides the true litmus test for Mara’s competency. When Mara’s slight-of-hand provides Tommy with protection from the prosecution of a crime Paul believes Tommy should pay for, Paul later learns that his brother deserved the second chance his mother afforded him.
Mara, of course, is defined less by how these family members see her than how she sees herself. She possesses a wisdom and will that become more apparent as the story unfolds. And though the progression of her disease escalates the rate at which she breaks her connection to both her family and her world, that loss of every person and place that she loves is, in the end, one we all must surrender to. If writing Mara taught me anything, it’s how much I have to learn from those with Alzheimer’s Disease. They and their families are people who cherish the core component of our identity that I take so blithely for granted. My discovery of a character struggling to hold both herself and her family together before both slipped away reminded me that every day—and every memory we make in it—is a gift.
For me, that’s a lesson to remember.
Wiggins Headshot_1.2
About the Author
BRYAN WIGGINS is a Maine-based author whose works have been published in The Maine Review, Canoe & Kayak, and Sea Kayaker magazines. For the past nine years he has been the host of the Pine Cone Writers’ Den, a Maine novelists’ collective, and a regular speaker on the New England writing circuit. By day Bryan works as an advertising agency brand strategist and copywriter. For the past thirty-four years, he has made annual pilgrimages to explore the rugged mountain landscape of Baxter State Park that is the setting for his second novel, Autumn Imago. That recently published story of family and natural drama was one of only three books selected to launch Harper Legend, a new HarperCollins imprint of “visionary fiction.” Bryan is currently at work on 48, the second book in his “Imago Trilogy.” This latest novel is a cautionary tale of personal ambition that follows its protagonist’s lifelong pursuit of hiking New Hampshire’s 48 4000 foot+ peaks. You can learn more about Bryan and his work at wigginscreative.com

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Oh, The Places You'll Go! Giveaway Hop



After more than 16 years of back to school shopping, I thought I was done with the annual pilgrimage to the big box stores for school supplies. But no, I raced to the supermarket last week at the first sound of a major sale on pens, pencils, markers, paper, and glue sticks and stocked up. True, my daughter graduated from college in May, but as she is now a graduate student in early childhood education and Head Teacher at a preschool, the need for deeply discounted classroom essentials lives on. I suppose this will be an annual excursion for a lifetime.

But we've still got a few weeks of summer left, so before stressing over the whole back-to-school madness let's celebrate them with The 2nd Annual Oh The Places You’ll Go Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Mommy Island and The Kids Did It! Starts today! Visit all of the blogs in the linky at the bottom of this post and discover over 100 bloggers and all kinds of great prizes. Don't delay! The Giveaways end August  23rd at 11:59 pm. 


What's in my giveaway? A $10 Walmart gift card to help one lucky winner with that back-to-school shopping! Enter here. 


Here's the linky for the rest of the giveaways!



Sunday, August 6, 2017

What I Read on My Summer Vacation


Summer is my favorite season, and my favorite activity during summer is catching up on my reading. This time, I have an extra large stack of books to get through because I picked up 25 additional titles at Book Con, some of my favorite authors recently published, and a number of titles about Alzheimer's and dementia are on my list because I'm an administrator for the AlzAuthors website. Here I'll share a few of the books that made me think, made me laugh, and /or made me wish that I had written them. 

Lewy, Mom, and Me: A Caregiver's Story by Peggy Bushy

Blurb: In her seventies, Peggy Bushy’s mother, Francesca, started telling unbelievable stories. She claimed that people were invading her home and trying to kill her. She also became anxious and reclusive. For several discouraging years, Bushy searched in vain for a reason for her mother’s behavior. Finally, Francesca was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. Although it’s the third-most-common cause of dementia, Bushy was unable to find much information on the disease, and the medical community was frustratingly unhelpful. Lewy, Mom, and Me is the book that Bushy wished had been available when her mother was first diagnosed. It details her personal journey of discovery, with all its challenges and revelations, and is written in a compassionate, empathetic style that will comfort any reader dealing with a parent’s decline. Bushy explains how she learned to accept the changes in her mother and to support Francesca emotionally as she grappled with her frightening illness. She also describes what was involved in caring for her mother first at home, then in long-term care, and finally in hospice. Part memoir and part survival guide, this compelling testimony offers support and information for family caregivers of aging parents.

Lewy Body Dementia is not one of the more common or better known dementias, but its impact on those stricken and their families is as devastating and profound as Alzheimer's. In Lewy, Mom, and Me, Peggy Bushy shares the story of her mother's slow descent into the disease, the frightening hallucinations, the difficulties and disappointments with physicians and healthcare professionals who failed to give a proper diagnosis or proper care, and her mother's stubborn denial that anything was wrong at all. This memoir is courageous, raw, and heartbreaking, but also  one of deep, dedicated love. Peggy's strength in finding the source of her mother's strange behaviors and providing care for her long distance, then in her own home, and finally in assisted care with hospice is inspiring. Lewy, Mom, and Me is an excellent addition to a caregiver's library, and belongs on the bookshelves of assisted living and long term care facilities. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Peggy early this summer as we were both selected to present our books to the book club at Harbor Point at Centerville, the first residential assisted living community on Cape Cod exclusively dedicated to serving the needs of individuals with memory loss. She is a lovely Italian woman with a big heart. On July 5, she was featured on the AlzAuthors blog. You can read her post here.

Take a look at Lewy, Mom, and Me on Amazon.

Follow Peggy on Twitter and on her website.

***

Jaybird's Song by Kathy Wilson Florence

Blurb: Affectionately called “Jaybird” by the father she adores, Josie Flint’s idyllic childhood in 1960s Atlanta is defined by her role as the oldest of the three Flint sisters and crowned with the presence of her grandmother, Annie Jo— the maypole that centers the Flint family. Surrounding their world, however, is the turbulent South as Jim Crow laws come to an end. As Josie’s school desegregates and the country meanders through new ideas brought about by the Civil Rights movement, a personal tragedy breaches Josie’s world and shatters that perfect childhood. Josie’s story is told from her early teenage years and 35 years later when her beloved grandmother dies. And when a long-kept secret unfolds for the Flint family, a new kind of heartache begins.

I received a review copy of this debut novel after meeting the author's publicist at Book Con. The book's premise put it at the top of my to-be-read list. I'm a sucker for southern writers and southern novels. While I enjoyed the story of the Flint sisters and their turbulent childhoods, I felt the book did not live up to its premise as a story of desegregation, Jim Crow, and the racial tensions of the 1960's. These were major themes in the book, but the story tended to meander randomly around other themes: grandmother Annie Jo, Jaybird's teenage years, her sexual awakening, her father's extramarital affair and his death. This, however, did not stop me from enjoying the story. It's rich with turmoil, emotion, and lustrous detail. The characters leap off the pages and the details of life in the 1960's captivated me. It's a great book for those interested in savoring a good read on a hot summer day, in the shade, of course, with a large glass of iced sweet tea. 

Take a look at Jaybird's Song on Amazon.

***

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

Blurb: Identical twin sisters who couldn't look more alike...or live more differently.


Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She's inherited her father's rundown house on Martha's Vineyard, but she can't hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking. 

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She's also inherited her mother's questionable parenting skills--Tabitha's teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode--and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion. 

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands--and lives--to save what's left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they'd outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

How could I get through summer without reading the latest Elin Hilderbrand novel? And this one is not only about Nantucket Island, but Martha's Vineyard as well! This was a stay-up-too-late page-turner of a novel that had me at page one, because it starts off with Nantucket, my favorite of the two islands (sorry MV!) Hilderbrands's skill at creating three dimensional characters and bringing their inner turmoils to life with just a few words is in great form here. Of course I loved the descriptions of the islands, having been to many of these places, but I wasn't too crazy about the constant namedropping of local businesses, restaurants, dishes, etc. Sometimes it seemed like Hilderbrand tried too hard to include these promotional details. Maybe it bugged me because I know most of these places really exist. Other readers may not, and they do  add a richness to the story. Great story arcs all around, from Harper, to Tabitha, to Ainsley, and even to Eleanor. The Identicals is perfect for the beach or poolside. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

AlzAuthors: Mary Ann Drummond, Meet Me Where I Am - an Alzheimer's Care Guide


By Mary Ann Drummond, RN 

When I was a young girl, I dreamed I would grow up and become a nurse. I seldom left home without my nurse’s kit filled with band-aides, cotton balls, and gum drop pills just in case my services were needed. 

It seemed so simple in those days to comfort and to heal, or at least that is what my Grandmother led me to believe each time she let me practice my skills on her.

If only caregiving were that easy! The reality is there are wounds a band aide cannot heal, diseases medication cannot cure, and hearts so burdened by the weight of caregiving, comfort cannot be found.

I was motivated to write Meet Me Where I Am – An Alzheimer’s Care Guide to share what I have learned from the greatest teachers of all…those who I have had the pleasure of knowing and caring for along life’s journey who have dementias such as Alzheimer’s.

Serving many years as an executive in the assisted living industry, my passion for dementia care grew stronger as I continued to see how the application of key concepts created beautiful success stories for the residents, the care givers and their loved ones!

I began to teach my care concepts in support groups, public health seminars, and caregiver symposiums. I would often hear from attendees afterward how helpful the information had been and would be asked if I had ever considered writing a book? With this prompting, the seeds to write the book were planted.

Meet Me Where I Am – An Alzheimer’s Care Guide was published in 2014. Writing this book has been a life changing experience. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease requires an abundance of knowledge, patience, and love. My goal was to give caregivers a tool that would teach, enlighten, and comfort while preparing them for the journey ahead. I was humbled to hear from the many readers how beneficial they found the book to be. When you have someone bring your book to you with the pages coffee stained, dog eared, passages highlighted, and they tell you it was given to them by a friend of a friend, and the same person is wiping tears from their eyes as they thank you for writing the book that has helped them so much, you say a prayer of thanks for being able to be there when you were needed.

Dr. Lisa Verges of MemoryCare Asheville, North Carolina refers to the book as providing “…useful strategies for navigating this journey with grace. It is an excellent and meaningful book and I highly recommend it.” Dr. Kathleen Hayden of Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Duke University, states, “This book will help caregivers and family members understand dementia from the patients’ perspective. Meet Me Where I Am is a must-read for caregivers of all kinds.”

About the Author
Mary Ann Drummond, RN, is the author of Meet Me Where I Am – An Alzheimer’s Care Guide and I Choose to Remember. As the CEO of Angel Tree Consulting, Drummond has a passion for presenting innovative and successful strategies in both caregiver and provider settings to assist individuals with dementia to “live their best” each day. With over thirty years of nursing experience and sixteen years as a VP in the assisted living industry developing programs for dementia care, she credits much of her expert knowledge to the greatest teachers of all, those who live daily with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Meet Me Where I Am has entered a third print and has won three IPPY awards including: 2015 Silver Medalist Living Now Book Award for Caregiving, 2016 1st Place Gold Medalist Beverly Hills Book Award for Caregiving, and 2015 CIPA EVVYY 1st Place Book Award for Health and Diet. Ms. Drummond enjoys working with organizations across the country to increase successful outcomes in dementia care.



Connect with Mary Ann Drummond

Friday, July 28, 2017

Happy 90th Birthday Mom! And a Free EBook in Your Honor


I'm getting ready for a BIG party on Saturday - my mom's 90th birthday celebration! All birthdays are reasons to celebrate, but reaching 90? Becoming a nonagenarian? Now that's something special, isn't it? Everyone is super-excited, but no one more than Mom, because she never dreamed she'd live this long. We are all blessed.

Here's Mom and me playing our favorite game.


To share this special day with my readers, I'm offering a free Kindle copy of my latest release Birthday Party, 2nd in my Daisy Hunter Series. 

Blurb: It's Suzanne's 13th birthday, and Daisy is shocked and saddened to learn that she's never had a birthday party. So she sets out to give her one, complete with a cake, ice cream, soda, and balloons. But when Suzanne's mother shows up, the party's over. A poignant coming of age story where good will and alcoholism collide.

The Daisy Hunter stories are important to me because they're loosely based on my childhood experiences and inspired by my mom, Margaret Kasica Clairmont. You see, a family like the Donnelly's lived in my neighborhood, and my mother did look after the children, sharing from our meager kitchen because they were hungry and couldn't rely on their own parents to feed them. And my mother did throw a birthday party for the elder daughter, and her mother was livid when she found out. But that never stopped my mom. She loves everyone, and will give whatever she has to someone in want. Could that be the source of her longevity?

Please download a free copy of Birthday Party on Amazon July 28-30. If you prefer to read on another device send me an email and I'll send you a link where you can download a PDF or EPUB version. And, if you prefer audiobooks, stay tuned, because Birthday Party will be out on Audible any day now and I will have free download codes for my readers.

This is a new release and in need of reviews, so if you enjoy the story please post your comments. 

Now off to the party! And you can bet there'll be plenty of cake, ice cream, soda, and balloons!