A Kansas farm woman's life turns upside down when her husband suffers a debilitating stroke. Tender, gritty, and uproariously funny, Madelyn's letters to her daughter deal with the grim realities of aging, illness, and long-term caregiving, and prove that a person can grow mentally and spiritually, even when a loved-one's life is not ending easily.
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In 1993 my father, Quentin Kubin, who appeared to be as healthy and robust as any seventy-five-year-old man on the planet, experienced a debilitating stroke, and my mother, Madelyn, became his primary caregiver. Mom was suffering with macular degeneration, osteoporosis, congestive heart failure, restless leg syndrome, and severe hearing loss.
In order to cope with her isolation, loneliness, and frustration, she often went to her computer, disengaged her emotional monitor and wrote letters to me in which she described everything she was experiencing and exactly how she felt about it.
I have often compared her letters to the classic television series M*A*S*H. In each one there was something that made me laugh, something that made me cry, and something that made me believe the human spirit can survive and even rise above tragedy and loss.
In 2004 I was asked to speak at our church on Mother's Day about mother-daughter relationships. I wanted people to know who my mother had really been, so I went out to the garage and took down a cardboard moving box my husband had labeled, "Letters from Madelyn." I found one letter that I thought was particularly poignant, as well as being very, very funny. At church I read excerpts from the letter and shared a few stories. Afterward, people came up to me and exclaimed, "You have to write a book!"
I knew they were right, and I started on it the next day. When I finished the book, I couldn't find a publisher. I was told that caregiving was depressing and no one would buy a book on that topic. I felt compelled to share my mother's story, so I self-published the first edition of "Letters from Madelyn," in 2007.
It didn't take me long to realize that if I ever hoped to see my basement floor again, I would have to figure out a way to sell the books. I started speaking to service organizations, book clubs, and small caregiver support groups. Word spread, and my speaking business grew.
On the way home from a speaking engagement in 2011, the man seated next to me on the plane asked me what I did for a living. When I told him, he said, "If I was a caregiver and I went to your website at 3:00 o'clock in the morning in desperate need of help to get through the night, would I find the support I needed on your website?"
I felt like I'd been sucker-punched. I shook my head and said, "No. You wouldn't. You would find information about my book and about me as a speaker."
The next day I told my husband I wanted to created an online, video-based caregiver support program. He said, "That sounds like a lot of work!" I said, "We can do it in six months."
Four years later, my dream was realized. CaregiverHelp.com finally evolved into a resource for people like my mother who find themselves in need of information, support, encouragement, and a few laughs to get them through a difficult day or a sleepless night.
I know my mother would be amazed and humbled beyond words to know that her experiences inspired me to edit her letters in a book, create a website, and develop a new speaking career.
I know from her experience, as well as my own, that caregiving is one of the most difficult and generous acts of love any of us will ever perform on behalf of another. It is often a long and lonely road. If you are a caregiver, trust that you will get through it. When it's over and you look back on it, I am quite certain you will realize that you were smarter, kinder, stronger, and more generous than anyone could have possibly asked you to be. On reflection, you will know that it was hard, and you did the best you could; and someday you will see that even in the moments when you felt isolated, alone, and boxed in, like Madelyn, you were growing in unexpected and beautiful ways.
Elaine K Sanchez is an author, speaker and co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, an online caregiver support program. Her keynotes and workshops are based on her unflinching honest and surprisingly funny book, "Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver."
Together with her husband, Dr. Alex Sanchez, Elaine developed the curriculum for "Gero-407-Caregiving," which was taught at Western Oregon University. The couple has also created a number of online continuing education courses for nurses, long-term care administrators, and mental health professionals. Elaine writes the blog, Caregiver Help Word of the Day, which is carried on her website, CaregiverHelp.com, as well as numerous free-lance articles for magazines and other online publications.
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Book Description Beautiful America Publishing, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0898027772
Book Description Beautiful America Publishing, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0898027772
Book Description Beautiful America Publishing, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110898027772
Book Description Beautiful America Publishing. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0898027772 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0500559