I’d say out of all my books Open A Window (Alzheimer’s Caregiver Handbook) ISBN 1438244991 is the one I am most proud to have written. At the nursing home, I’d been approached by resident families with questions. Not realizing the awful twists and turns Alzheimer’s takes, family members were caught off guard. They needed education.
The thought came to me that I should write an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Handbook to help educate people who have loved ones in the nursing home. I made a list of all the symptoms and behaviors that went with Alzheimer’s disease. While I was working, I watched for examples to use in this book. Each example, I wrote down right away when I got home so I wouldn’t forget any of the details. Eventually, I had enough information to make a book.
The program – Lotus – came with my IBM computer in 1999. I know that program has been outdated for a long time, but I like using it for documents. I’m used to it. The program has a booklet maker which came in handy back in the day when I had to make hard copy. The book pages are printed from the middle of the book back to the front on even pages. Turn the pages over and print the odd pages. This wasn’t a perfect system. I had to start over several times, because of printer errors.
Finally, I had a completed manuscript. After some consumer shopping, I found a Print shop to make my books. I wanted two staples to hold the book together on 100 books. That must have been a time consuming job that the workers weren’t crazy about doing. The woman at the counter tried to talk me into using the spiral plastic or perfect binding. I didn’t want my book to look like a telephone book, and perfect binding was expensive. This special book should look as much like any other book as possible so I was determined to use staples.
I designed the cover myself. A simple window with tie back curtains in purple, because that is the Alzheimer’s Association color. That cover didn’t suit the printer. They had to use one of their clip art windows. It’s been awhile, but I think the reasoning was I had too many shades of purple in my curtain plus the brown window. Thinking back on that explanation, it seems to me that no matter what the cover colors, the printer should have been able to print them. Anyway, I paid the extra $25.00 for the cover. The discussion about the staples and the cover kept up over a couple of weeks while they held up my printing job. By that time I was anxious to get my books done before the Printer found some other problem. The window turned out to be a good choice for the cover after all.
The nursing home administrator helped with book sales since many prospective book buyers that needed educating went through her office. People read the book and sent me complimentary comments. They were relieved to at last understand in layman terms what happens to a person who has Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2000, I started an Alzheimer’s support group at the nursing home. Open A Window came in handy as an ice breaker. I read a chapter. That was enough to get people started talking about what has happened with their loved ones. You would think that the many people in this support group over the eight years I facilitated it would be book buyers. In some cases, that was true. More times than not, someone would get me aside, with tears in their eyes, to whisper about a particularly hard situation they had at home. Always, I could say I knew how these people felt, because I had been there while taking care of my father. I offered advise from my experiences but I wanted to do more. I gave them a copy of my book. At the December meeting, I always came up with some small gift for the members. One year, it was a copy of my book. Since I hadn’t meant for this to be a profit making adventure, all I wanted was enough money to cover the printing cost.
Most of the books I sold went to audiences I spoke to on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association. I was asked to speak at a training session for new employees at a Cedar Rapids Nursing Home. I left one of my books and mentioned reading from the book worked well for a support group. Soon after that, the social worker asked me to come to her support group meeting to speak. I sold several of my books as a result of that meeting.
The nursing home gives a inservice each month to educate the staff on various topics. One time, Jolene Brackey, a well known Alzheimer’s speaker and author, was invited to talk. At that time she lived at Polk City, Iowa. Since then she has moved to Montana. To find out more about her, her website is http://www.enhancedmoments.com This young woman gives a very dynamic speech that has her audiences laughing one minute and close to tears the next. Jolene asked if we had a support group she could talk to after the inservice. My group met at night, but I put out the word and had an afternoon meeting.
What I didn’t know was the administrator had sent Jolene my Open A Window book. After she read Jolene’s Creating Moments Of Joy book, she told her there was an author at our nursing home. She sent me a note to let me know how much she liked what I had written. One day, I received a call from Jolene. She was writing her latest book Creating Moments Of Joy the third revised edition. Jolene asked me if she could use some of my stories in her book. I was thrilled. That was the first of my writing to get published. Jolene said I was more descriptive than she was. That was quite a compliment from a woman who writes as well as she does.
When my supply of books ran out, I wanted to order another 100. By then I had come up with more examples so I had to do a new hard copy. Then I set to work on the cover. I didn’t want to pay another $25.00 so I scanned the window on the cover. For the new cover, I enlarged the window and the title. I bought stock paper and printed my covers to be stapled on the books. The old question of did I really want staples came up again. I held my ground and got what I wanted.
Under the window on the cover, I put By Fay Risner CNA. The idea of using CNA was to give my book some credence as help in a complicated disease. I got the idea while I attended an Alzheimer’s annual conference in Cedar Rapids. A speaker was listing who would be talking that day. One topic was about therapy dogs. The speaker said the dog used in the session was so well trained, he had more alphabet soup behind his name than she did. It occurred to me that I had alphabet soup behind my name. Granted I was way down on the health care totem pole, but still I should use what I have.
In 2002, I had mentioned to the Alzheimer’s Association director that CNAs aren’t getting enough training about Alzheimer’s before they start work. An evening session was started that year for CNAs to coincide with the evening session for family members. I was asked to be the first speaker. One woman in the audience is a social worker. She bought a book. Months later, I received a call from her. She was taking books to a social worker conference in Ames. Would I like to give her a box of my books to put out for sale? I was thrilled. She sold them all. The next year, the social worker took another box. A social worker at the conference took her book back to Grinnell. Loaned it to an nurse training CNAs and that nurse ordered three more to use for her training sessions.
Now I have Open A Window published. This is one of the books sold at the Lemstone Christian Bookstore in Cedar Rapids at Collins Road Plaza across from Linndale Mall. On the back cover of my book is a review from Jolene Brackey. Below that is as many of the reader reviews that I could fit on the page. I’ll talk more about the importance of reviews one of these days.
Mom tells me you haven’t fed her all day.
Dad keeps asking me the same question over and over.
Aunt Mable wants me to take her to her parents house. Her parents passed away years ago.