Elizabeth Lonseth is the author of “A Gradual Disappearance” a warm, personal and concise guide for people who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It contains a blend of practical advice and personal anecdotes from the author’s experiences as caregiver.
As a writer of Christian fiction, Elizabeth Lonseth never planned to write a book for caregivers. She was absorbed in telling the story of her character Luke, the young protagonist of her novels. But Lonseth and her family were deeply affected by memory loss: Both of Lonseth’s parents and both of her parents-in-law were afflicted with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, and she was more than familiar with the role of family caregiver.
Late one night inspiration struck and Elizabeth understood that she had something useful to share:
“Unable to sleep after taking our new puppy, Emma outside at two a.m., I lay on the kitchen nook couch and prayed about the upcoming family support group for family members of those with memory disease. Despite Emma’s snoring, the thought came clear and direct, coaxing me to write a book about my experiences with dementia and Alzheimer’s. … iPad in hand, I worked until eight thirty.”
When Lonseth finished her work, she had produced an eminently readable booklet that has guided many families through the difficult time of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“A Gradual Disappearance” is clearly a book by a family caregiver for family caregivers. The book largely draws on the author’s experiences providing care for her in-laws and also for her own mother. Being a caregiver herself, Lonseth was aware that most caregivers don’t necessarily have time to read lengthy guides to Alzheimer’s like “The 36 Hour Day“. Lonseth consciously kept her book short out of respect for caregiver’s ever limited time. At a breezy 50 pages, it’s a fast read — but it packs a punch that is in no way light on information.
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Wrapped up in Lonseth’s touching and often amusing stories is a wealth of information for the new Alzheimer’s caregiver. The fact that the information is encapsulated within real-life stories helps it to sink in in a way that no pamphlet from the doctor’s office ever could.
“A Gradual Disappearance” is carefully organized to walk someone new to the caregiving role through the process. Think of it as basic orientation for the Alzheimer’s caregiver; each chapter addresses a particular aspect of caregiving. There are individual chapters focused on specific concerns such as handling the initial diagnosis, difficult behaviors, finances, finding care and driving.
One important chapter called “Coming Alongside” reminds those new to Alzheimer’s caregiving that it is alright to tell white lies and placate loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. “Our parents taught us not to lie. Well, now is the time to break that rule,” she writes. It’s certainly preferable to the alternative, which can cause our loved ones to “spiral into aggressive” behavior.
“A Gradual Disappearance” conveys this essential, need-to-know information to caregivers while keeping the reader’s attention with fluid and engaging anecdotes based on her real life experiences. For example, in a chapter about the fatigue and mental fog that can come with caregiving, Lonseth relates the “great peanut butter incident”:
“Every week I would shop at three different grocery stores for three different households. Sometimes I would pause in the grocery aisle and remind myself where I was and who I was shopping for. With the use of extensive lists that I compiled while on the plane, things seemed to be under control until we needed peanut butter. For those three weeks in a row I bought peanut butter. At the end of those three weeks, Mom had three and a half jars but our California home and our boat in Seattle didn’t have any. I knew one of the places needed peanut butter but I could not remember which one. I even asked my doctor if I had early-onset Alzheimer’s. She assured me it was the result of my hectic life.”
Stories like this are peppered throughout the book and keep the pages turning. An Alzheimer’s caregiver who has read “A Gradual Disappearance” will certainly have a leg up understanding and addressing their loved one’s needs.
Lonseth wasn’t content to merely write a book and call it a day. In her effort to reach out to caregivers, she has immersed herself in the world of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving. She has been speaking at community centers and senior communities across the country for over a year and half. Her speaking engagements involve a 40 minute presentation followed by a 20 minute question and answer session. Lonseth says that the emotional content of the question and answer sessions can be so intense that it almost turns into a impromptu support group.
In addition to “A Gradual Disappearance” Elizabeth Lonseth is the author of author of a pair of Christian fiction novels set in the Pacific Northwest, “Leave it With Him” and “Cares of This World“. You can learn more about Lonseth’s life and work, or inquire about speaking engagements, at her website www.elizabethlonsethnovels.com.
“A Gradual Disappearance” is available on Amazon.com as a paperback ($9.44) and in the Kindle ebook format ($3.29)