As a caregiver, Martha Stettinius, often felt invisible. “Family members, co-workers, and society in general don’t know what we do all day long,” she says. She also felt overwhelmed when her mother, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, moved in with Martha and her family. “I quickly realized I needed outside support,” Martha says.
Writing the Worries Away
Writing her thoughts on scraps of paper helped her clear her head and face her day. She began attending a group that focused on “writing through the rough spots.” The group provided a safe venue for detailing her changing relationship with her mom.
“When I read my stories aloud to the group, so many people related to my situation,” Martha says. “It was comforting to share my feelings and hear that people identified with me.” That group was a catalyst for Martha; she began writing about her journey with her mother, creating a moving story called “Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir.”
Reaching Out and Strengthening Self
Martha also reached out to support groups and elder care counselors.
“We’re all vulnerable,” she says. “Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s a sign of being human.” Martha and her mother were both fiercely independent. When they let go of past conflicts and understood that they needed each other, they experienced a deep love that was very healing. As part of her goal to stay connected with her mom, Martha practiced slowing down and being in the moment. She learned to appreciate the simple pleasures: looking at flowers together, listening to music, making eye contact and communicating without words. She’s also realized that aging is about connecting with others. “Hopefully, we can all create networks and friendships that will sustain us as we age,” she says. “Aging well means not only staying active but remaining accepted and valued members of the community.”
For more information on Martha, please visit: http://www.insidedementia.com/ Here’s a review I wrote of her wonderful book: Reading Inside the Dementia Epidemic is like taking a fascinating journey with an insightful friend. Martha Stettinius captures the intense emotions, the wild confusion and uncertainty, the flashes of anger and worry, the spills of humor inherent in the family caregiving experience. She also describes the unfolding personal growth and deepening connection she experiences with her mom. This is a love story to her mom and to all those who are on the caregiving journey. As I read Martha’s meaningful book, I felt enriched, connected and informed. I highly recommend her book for any reader.