Author Archive


Carol Mithers captures the “singularity” of the old and the love and grief of caregiving in “Suddenly, They’re All Gone” (NYT 3/22/13). She talks about “drowning. . . as endless crises unspooled.” That same feeling of going-under inspired the title of my Alzheimer’s caregiving story, SWIMMING SOLO.


March in Missouri: daffodils barely peek up, a touch of bright green. Wind whips snow flurries around. Great indoor weather for spring cleaning, reading, writing, and planning the garden. Pat Summitt’s new book on her own early-onset Alzheimer’s disease beckons. And with Collin Tong of Seattle, I continue editing a collection of Alzheimer’s caregiver stories which we’re tentatively calling PORTRAITS IN CAREGIVING.


A shared online caregivers calendar–practical and helpful idea explored by Olivia Judson on the Op-Ed page, NYT, 1/23/13. When distance or other factors separate caregivers, Hudson proposes keeping in touch with brief notations on a shared calendar. She and her brother did that as their father–who lived alone–declined. Caregivers for aging friends or family–especially those with Alzheimer’s–need status updates. Information helps with adapting and fine-tuning care so the elderly can remain as safe and independent as possible. I kept notes on my own calendar as my father and mother declined with Alzheimer’s. Those notes eventually became part of SWIMMING SOLO, my family caregiving memoir. And some jots about my mother and her Siamese cat are part of my piece in the forthcoming PORTRAITS IN CAREGIVING, an anthology that Collin Tong and and I are editing.


A long quiet spell of family happenings punctuated by two different autumn SWIMMING SOLO gigs: one at a women’s luncheon, one at a Washington University graduate social work class. In both places, questions and comments poured out. At lunch the women were old enough to have spouses, friends, even themselves becoming forgetful. “Is it Alzheimer’s?” was underlying all their concerns. At the Social Work School, the 2nd year students tried to picture themselves running a family decision-making meeting and keeping fur from flying. Everyone at every event wonders whether caregiving or Alzheimer’s disease itself is the more daunting to contemplate.


Thomas L. Friedman and Bruce Feiler highlight personal caregiving experience and policy caregiving issues as boomers age. See the Sunday NYT (7/29/12). Feiler signals the downward progression of aging parents. Friedman points out the policy spin-off of growing demands for elder care, especially for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
For a caregiving story, my memoir SWIMMING SOLO tells our family’s experiences with 4 aging parents. It begins and ends with warm family gatherings on the shores of Lake Michigan: a good summer read with a lived perspective on caregiving.


Two big days as the National Plan To Address Alzheimer’s Disease is released on 5/15/12 and as a clinical drug trial for Early-Onset Alzheimer’s is tested on an extended family in Colombia. We’re pushing forward with 2025 as a goal for prevention and treatment of AD.


This weekend I discovered a remarkable narrated ballet called “A Life Unhappening,” presented by the Alzheimer’s Association of St. Louis. This world premiere of Adam Stone’s work shows dancers representing three generations plus spoken narration. Together dancers and voices tell the story of how Alzheimer’s affects victim, family, and caregiver. The one-act show was warm, engaging, and surprising as Alzheimer’s makes its mark on the arts.

GET MOVING To Decrease Alzheimer’s Risk

Physical activity helps protect against cognitive decline as in Alzheimer’s, says “Regimens” in the NYT Science Section (5/1/12). In the NYT Review (4/29/12) Gretchen Reynolds finds “aerobic workouts. . .improve brain power.” Gentle aerobic workouts for seniors. But we need to get up and get moving.


Watch for a forthcoming new work on Alzheimer’s caregiving edited by Collin Tong, freelance journalist in Seattle, and co-edited by Susan Rava, author of SWIMMING SOLO. PROFILES IN CAREGIVING: JOURNEYS WITH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE collects helpful and moving contributions from a wide variety of Alzheimer’s caregivers. It will be a gift for future caregivers as they set out on their own journeys.


I am soon on my way to Seattle to present my new piece, “God & Alzheimer’s,” at the Seattle University Search for Meaning Book Festival on Sat., Feb. 4 at 1 p. m. ( This terrific trip gives me a chance to visit with new Alzheimer’s Association and Senior Services colleagues and to catch up with friends of SWIMMING SOLO ( As an added bonus, I get to visit with 2 of my children and spouses, and to see grandchildren including a drummer in his band concert and one playing basketball.