Tuesday, October 6

Meet Author Rebecca Warner – An Introduction by Janie DeVos

 

                                                              REBECCA WARNER


     Friends, once in a great while, a book comes along that leaves an indelible mark on your heart because the writing of it is so achingly beautiful.  It’s one that causes you to sigh when you finish the last sentence, and each time it catches your eye on the shelf, you sigh again as you remember the emotions it evoked.  This is one of those books, and, for many of you, it will strike a bittersweet cord that resonates deeply.  But, even if the story is not one that you have personally experienced, after reading this novel you will feel as though you have been given an intimate and in-depth look into a world that is complex, difficult, funny and sad, but, above all, rich with love and tireless devotion. 

So, it is with great pleasure that I turn over this edition of my blog to my dear friend and amazing writer, Rebecca Warner, who will give you some wonderful insight into her beautifully crafted new book, MY DAD, MY DOG, which will be debuting in late November.  

Happy reading, everyone!

Janie

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                                                     Rosalynn Carter said it best:


If you’ve never been a caregiver to a loved one yourself, you’ve very likely known someone who has. Either way, you know caregiving is something that takes an extraordinary amount of selflessness.

My Dad My Dog is about a daughter, Rachel Morgan, who moves her Alzheimer’s-afflicted dad from an assisted living facility (ALF) into the home she shares with her husband and elderly dog. It’s unconventional, since it’s normally the other way around—from home to facility. But a reversal in financial fortunes has made it impossible to pay for her dad to remain in the facility. 

This is not my personal story, though it is based on two real characters—my dad, Joe, and my dog, Nick. But the book is fiction, because my dad never lived with me. He was in a lovely assisted living facility for nine years, where he received excellent care from the staff. He passed away in comfort, with loving family and friends around him, in that facility. He suffered from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes, just as Rachel’s dad does in the book. 

Being the Health Care Surrogate to both my parents for fourteen years involved not only making medical decisions on their behalf, but also providing loving emotional support. In their lifetimes, they faced many medical challenges that required being in hospitals, surgical units, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes for rehabilitation. I spent hundreds of days in those facilities, always striving to ensure their best care.

 Dad stayed well enough to avoid being moved to a nursing home, and I had the pleasure of visiting him every day in his private room. Because I bought a wheelchair van, I was able to take him out for lunch, bring him to my home for day visits, and spend holidays with him. I took him to every doctor’s appointment so I could understand his every change and every treatment. To be honest, it was a luxury to return him to the ALF where capable people would tend to his physical needs. 

Then there was the other sweet being who did live under my roof—Nick, my big black Lab. After many years of hiking and swimming and chasing balls, Nick began to slow down. But his valiant heart and love of being with his people and his canine brothers and sisters kept him relatively active. 

As he aged, Nick began showing signs of decline remarkably similar to Dad’s, especially in the last year of their lives. It came as a surprise to me each time I noticed something happening with Dad, such as a change in mobility because of deteriorating muscles and bones, would also be true of Nick. Differences in their cognitive ability, attributable to advancing dementia in each, seemed to track together. Yes, our dogs and cats, who live in safe environments and get veterinary care, can live very long lives—long enough to develop dementia. 

But the most astonishing similarity was their abiding sweet dispositions, and their desire to convince others that they were fine, no matter how negatively their afflictions affected them. 

After both passed away—within two months of each other—I  began to imagine how different my life would have been if, as is true with many caregivers, I had tended to Dad in my home, without a staff of CNAs to facilitate his personal care.

And so, the idea for My Dad My Dog was conceived. 

To broaden my perspective about what in-home care would entail, I reached out to MemoryCare of Asheville, a community-based, charitable organization uniquely focused on serving the whole family—caregivers and patients. And I spoke with many who had been or were caregivers to learn what it was like to take care of a parent or spouse in their homes. 

Much of the purpose in writing the book was to shine light on the enormous responsibilities of caregivers, in both home and facility settings. Over many years of observing certified nursing assistants (CNAs) in facility settings, and hiring them for my parents’ in-home care, I came to understand they did what they did not only out of a sense of duty, but also out of love. CNAs are hard-working, underpaid but invaluable members of the medical community who provide their patients with dignity and comfort under the most difficult circumstances. We owe them our appreciation and respect. 

When I first started querying agents for My Dad My Dog, I would hear different versions of, “It’s a great book, but I don’t think there’s a market for this book. I don’t think I can sell it.” 

But with the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve become more aware of just how important caregivers are. Those who work in assisted living and nursing home facilities face the coronavirus straight on, and many have paid the price. There weren’t enough of them before COVID struck these facilities so viciously, and now that shortage has turned into a crisis. 

As Vice President Biden said, in relation to his economic plan in which he proposes spending $775 billion to expand and improve care for children, the elderly and disabled, “We're trapped in a caregiving crisis within an economic crisis within a healthcare crisis." 

According to the latest report from AARP, the number of adults caring for a loved one has increased from 16.6% in 2015 to 19.2% in 2020. About 53 million Americans provide care without pay to an ailing or aging loved one, and they do so for an average of nearly 24 hours per week. 

Allow me do the math for you. This factors out to 1,272,000,000 (one billion, 272 million) hours per week, and 66,144,000,000 (sixty-six billion, 144 million) hours per year of unpaid caregiving in this country.  Almost one-sixth of the country’s population has taken on the job of caregiving in some capacity. Family caregivers should be paid for their time, and I hope to—through articles, radio, and podcasts—raise awareness for the plight of family caregivers, and the need to compensate them for doing one of the hardest jobs they’ll ever be faced with.  

My Dad My Dog is a heartwarming tale, a story of love and family and hope and trials and triumphs. It’s not a medical tome about dementia, nor about the rudimentary aspects of caregiving, though of course these topics are integral to the story. 

Within its pages are reminders that, as Rosalynn Carter stated so well, we’ll all be involved in caregiving in some capacity in our lifetimes. And what we bring to it, individually and as a nation, will determine the quality and longevity of life for those who mean the most to us. 

Please visit my website to learn more www.rebeccajwarner.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 comments:

  1. Welcome to Word Wranglers. Your book sounds wonderful!

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  2. Thank you Janie DeVos for providing me with this opportunity to be a guest blogger and introduce MY DAD MY DOG to your readers!

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    1. You're so very welcome, friend! Your book is sure to be a bestseller!!!

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  3. I was in a similar position to you Rebecca, in that my mother was well cared for in a nursing home before she passed. We also had an elderly dog (17 years) that we watched age and grow feeble. Neither one was easy to let go. This sounds like an amazing book and I applaud your efforts to bring caregiving into the public eye.

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    1. Thank you so much, Jana. From what you've shared about your experiences, I think you would recognize a lot of the emotions that go with our losses, including how hard it is to let them go.

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  4. A little late, but oh, my, how I loved this book! It's got all the emotion of life with a dementia patient. So proud of you, Rebecca, and I know this book will do well and bring comfort to those who are going through living with and caring for a patient with dementia.

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