December 22, 2011

Guest Author Debra Stang

Jodi and Robyn, those amazing ladies from WOW, have done it again.  They are stopping by with another incredible female author.  I have the honor today to introduce you to Ms. Debra Stang!!

In addition to her parents and two sister, Debra's family includes four cats. The current crew includes a grouchy nine-year-old named Achilles; and orange tabby and alpha male named, appropriately enough, Alexander; and a black and white long-haired cat with attitude named Leroux. Then there's the foster cat named Pumpkin. Of course, it all started with a three-month-old brown-and-gray tabby named Calypso who had strong feelings about most people. And not warm fuzzy feelings. Calypso even had the dubious honor of being banned by not one, but two vets.

When not caring for cats or writing, Debra spent many years as a social worker. She worked with AIDS patients, emergency room patients, and those with Alzheimer's. Her final years as a social worker were spent with hospice patients. Although some would view that as a depressing job, Debra chose to view herself as a catalyst helping people make their final hopes and dreams come true. Sometimes it was making up with a family member after a decades long feud or leaving behind the stress of the office to reconnect with another aspect of their personality.

Debra took a clue from her patients and recently decided her writing--for years a part-time career--couldn't wait any longer. Worried she would become one of those people who would one day say, "I wish I had..." she handed in her resignation and is now living her dream as a full time writer.
You can visit Debra at her website or blog

Is It Alzheimer’s or Is It Dementia? Probably, It’s Both
By Debra L. Stang (author of HOSPICE TAILS)

I spent four years of my social work career working in a facility for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. During that time, I ran into a lot of confusion about the condition. Many family members would say things to me like, “Mom doesn’t have Alzheimer’s; she just has a touch of dementia,” or “Dad does not have dementia—the doctor said it was Alzheimer’s.”

I understand that words like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are bone-chilling to many family members. If it’s easier for them to use one term or the other, that’s not a problem. But for people who are genuinely confused, this article explains why Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably.

First, let’s start with a quick definition. Dementia is a cluster of cognitive symptoms including short and/or long term memory loss, impaired judgment and decision making, difficulty understanding and completing simple tasks, and confusion in time and space. In its later stages, it may also affect a person’s ability to speak and understand speech.

A great many conditions can cause dementia. Some, such as medication side effects, depression, poor diet, or acute infections are reversible. Others, like Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Pick’s disease are not reversible or curable.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia symptoms, accounting for about half of all diagnosed cases with dementia. It is a disorder which causes protein deposits or neurofibrillary tangles and plaques to form in the brain, permanently and progressively destroying brain tissue. Alzheimer’s disease is not curable, but there are certain medications that can slow its progression.

One of the reasons Alzheimer’s disease is such a hard diagnosis for patients and families to swallow is that there is no definitive way to test for it. It can only be confirmed through a brain biopsy which takes place after the patient has died. It is often called a “rule out” diagnosis, because once other testable causes of dementia have been ruled out, Alzheimer’s disease is the most likely culprit.

Alzheimer’s is a diagnosis no doctor likes to give, and it is certainly one that no patient or family member wants to hear. Early diagnosis is important, however, for several reasons. First, it gives the person with Alzheimer’s and his or her family time to put plans such as a medical and/or financial durable power of attorney in place. Second, it gives the patient and family time to learn about Alzheimer’s and to try various treatments that might slow disease progression. Finally, understanding that the person with Alzheimer’s is truly ill, and not just deliberately behaving in ways that are annoying, can help family members respond with caring and compassion.

If you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, I am truly sorry. I know you are on a difficult path. Please know, however, that while Alzheimer’s can steal memories, it cannot take away tiny pleasures like the smell of a favorite meal cooking, the touch of a loved one’s hand, or the warm belly of a sleepy puppy. True, these moments will be forgotten, but when they occur, they are precious and should be savored for the gifts that they are. I wish you all the joy and peace in the world during this holiday season.

Hospice Tails shares the stories of those without voices. This books tells the stories of fourteen pets and the role they played when their loved one was ill or dying. The stories range from sad to touching to downright hysterical. There was King, who had the hospice nurses very nervous. Until they realized he was a lap dog in a pit bull’s body. Jasper and Jackie, Amazon parrots who put on a daily concert for their owner, even on the last day of his life. As an Alzheimer’s patient’s world shrunk Washington, a golden retriever, became the only “person” he recognized. This book is ideal for animal lovers as well as those who are caretakers—either as a profession or for a loved one.
See my review below.


I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me,
in exchange for my honest review.
No items that I receive
are ever sold...they are kept by me,
or given to family and/or friends.


Vicki said...

Great post! Very informative! My son in law's grandmother is going through this and it's very scary for everyone!