We talked to Robert Hershberger, the author of Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver about his experiences as a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s and the process of writing their story to inform others.
Q: Will you please give us a brief description of your book?
A: The book (diary) provides an up close and personal view of Deanna (Dee) Hershberger’s four-and-a-half year journey through Alzheimer’s disease, from its first manifestations to her death.
Q: What is the goal of your book?
A: The goal is to make others aware of and better prepared to deal with what might happen to them or a loved one if either one should contract the disease.
Q: What motivated you to write the book?
A: I began to keep a record of changes in Dee’s disease to answer questions from medical personnel about the course of the disease. When changes began to occur rather rapidly I began to record them on the computer several times a week. As the disease progressed I recorded the happenings of each day late in the evening after Dee fell asleep. It became a kind of diary recorded on my laptop computer. It also allowed me to unload the emotional toll of the day so I could get some sleep…an important unplanned benefit of keeping the diary.
A year or two after Dee passed I reviewed the diary entries and realized things had happened to us that other’s could profit from should they ever find themselves in a similar situation. That is what really motivated me to make the diary into a book.
Q: What surprised you most about what you and Dee experienced?
A: There were so many surprises this is a hard question to answer. I guess the most surprising was how unprepared I was to deal with the situation. We thought we were “bullet proof” and would go on living until someday in the far future we would die. It certainly never occurred to me that Dee would contract such a horrible disease and die while still relatively young. She had always been a model of health in every way.
Q: What advice do you have for someone at the beginning of their journey with Alzheimer’s or Alzheimer’s caregiving?
A: Currently there is nothing much the person with Alzheimer’s can do once they know they have it. The disease has already progressed to the point where nothing will change its inevitable course toward death. On the other hand, the primary caregiver (usually the husband, the wife, or one of the children) will suddenly be thrust into the role without any preparation. In this case I recommend reading the Diary…for a possible “worst case” scenario, The 36 Hour Day for practical caregiving advice, Still Alice (or the movie) for what might happen early on, and, perhaps, In Love for an alternative that may work for some people. It is urgent that the caregiver read these and other books right away because it won’t be long before they will not have time or energy to do so. Also get your financial affairs in order very early on when your loved one can still agree to needed changes.
You can get 30% off Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver and any other Purdue University Press book by ordering from our website and using the code PURDUE30 at checkout.