Ken Abraham is an author or co-author of more than 80 books. Regularly appearing on the New York Times best-selling author lists, Ken is known as a master collaborator. He writes with public figures ranging from One Soldier’s Story with Bob Dole to Let’s Roll with Lisa Beamer. Ken and his wife are also good personal friends. His latest book When Your Parent Becomes Your Child is a deviation because instead of writing someone else’s story, Ken writes about his mother’s dementia, and its effect on the family. This moving story is one that will stay with you and give you a better understanding of what millions of families go through as they fight this disease.
Ken, this book is simply beautiful. I may never have met your mom in person, but after reading this book, I most definitely know her. What was it like writing such a personal story as opposed to helping tell someone else’s?
Of all the books I’ve written, When Your Parent Becomes Your Child was the most emotionally difficult book to write, yet oddly enough, it was also the easiest book I’ve ever written. The difficulty stemmed from the subject matter. Watching my mom make the journey through dementia was a heart-wrenching experience. But because I was simply sharing my own thoughts and feeling with readers, the words poured out easily.
In a real sense, I felt that I wasn’t merely writing about my mom, but I was expressing the emotions, questions, and concerns of many other people who could share similar stories, who might say, “That sounds exactly like what I have experienced with Mom or Dad.” My hope is that this book will stimulate conversations within families and encourage hope within the heart of every person who is now grappling with the myriad changes that take place When Your Parent Becomes Your Child.
Your mom suffered with dementia. Let me turn first to a few questions many ask about dementia. Is Alzheimer’s the same as dementia?
It’s not exactly a “chicken and egg” situation, and the lines do get blurry when we begin talking about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Technically, dementia is more of a “catch all” term; there are all sorts of dementias, the most familiar of which is Alzheimer’s.
Vascular dementia, with which my mom suffered, is the second most widely reported form of the disease. The symptoms of both Alzheimer’s and dementia are similar: memory loss, hallucinations, unusual fear, irritability, or suspicions. Hoarding, uncharacteristic use of profanity, inability to follow a conversation or a story, losing track of possessions, confusion over days, dates, or sadly, even diminishing ability to recognize friends or family members. All these can be indications that a loved one is developing dementia.
In my mom’s case, although I’m reluctant to admit it, part of the reason I wasn’t alarmed at her memory lapses was that I was clueless about the possible warning signs of Alzheimer’s. I just thought she was displaying the natural symptoms of aging as she moved into her mid-eighties. Even after she was diagnosed, I remained in denial for several months until my own research convinced me that what her doctor was describing was accurate.