What’s Happening to Grandpa? By Maria Shriver – Book Review

What’s Happening to Grandpa?

By Maria Shriver

Little, Brown, Warner Books, 1271 Avenue of Americas, New York, NY 10020, 0316001015, $ 15.95, 2004,

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Deeply Moved – Valuable Insight into the Dread Disease Dementia and Alzheimer’s

I am a grandfather. My wife has Alzheimer’s disease. I can only wish I had read Maia Shriver’s book “What’s Happening to Grandpa?” when it was first published in 2004. I watched as our children and grandchildren struggled through questions I hadn’t resolved myself.

Shriver’s insights into the mind of a child and understanding of the process of aging, dementia, and Alzheimer’s capture the emotions of the victim of Alzheimer’s, their primary caregiver, and the entire family impacted by the disease.

I was deeply moved by Shriver’s warmth and sensitivity. The unique use of the voice and viewpoint of Kate, a child, make this a valuable educational resource for children, K – 5th grade. The book can also serve to open conversations with older children.

The obvious love and patience Kate develops with her grandfather as she works through her feelings of hurt, sadness, and loss bear evidence of understanding as she takes on the project of savoring and saving Grandpa’s stories by making a photo album to insure that these stories live on as Grandpa’s memory continues to decline.

Sandra Speidel’s soft colored illustrations add a rich sense that creates the same warm feelings through Shriver’s word pictures and give an extra dimension of reality to the story.

“What’s Happening to Grandpa?”  is a wonderful tool for Alzheimer’s awareness, family comfort, and childhood education. Highly recommended.


Book Review: If I Walked in Her Shoes by Susan Salach – A book Review


Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Caregiving Relationships – Two Perspectives


“If I Walked in her Shoes” is a dramatic novel which captures the essence of struggle faced by families today as a result of an aging population. Susan Salach has carefully created a composite of characters made up with the needs and characteristics of real people she has connected with through bother her personal and professional experiences.Salah’s characters are easy to identify with as they exemplify the dynamics of aging parents and the underlying love that reinforce these relationships common to thousands of families today.

The story begins by introducing Sara, corporate executive in the midst of a flourishing  career, a happily married, mother of two, who suddenly becomes caregiver for her elderly mother, Rose.

A recent widow and independent Rose lived in the family home of over 50 years until a serious fall required hip surgery. Her slow recovery and waning health sound evolved into a progressive reliance on Sara.


Rose and Sara represent a typical relationship created by the needs of the elderly parent and the nature of a dutiful daughter trying to meet the numerous demands of caregiving, a growing family, and a successful career. A sense of guilt, self-reproach, and a lack of sleep frustrated Sara as she attempted to accomplish all minutia of detail at work and at home until she is overwhelmed until she feels her world is crumbling around her. Severe pain, loss of autonomy, and self-sufficiency with no social outlet turn Rose from a sparkling individual to a dejected, resentful, and demanding outsider.


“If I Walked in her Shoes” covers one day detailing the two perspectives, Rose, discontented, aggressive, and lonely, vying for Sara’s attention, while she feels inundated, defensive, and self-protective. Individually Rose and Sara become aware of the other’s situation. They try to see a perspective from the other’s viewpoint and ask the question: “What is it like to be in the others shoes?” or What If, I Walked in Her Shoes?”


Susan Salach helps her characters come to grips with the meaning and basis of family love as the foundation for an ongoing bonding relationship in times of calamity and shifting roles.

Susan Salach’s writing is articulate, her characters genuine and believable, and her plot is engaging. Insightful, enlightening, and heart searching describe this remarkable tribute to caregivers everywhere.



xulon Press, 978-1606476130

As reviewed for Midwest Book Review submitted by Richard R. Blake












Our Journey with Alzheimer’s by Richard R. Blake

Our Journey Alzheimer’s – Journal Entry, October 11 2016

My heart is very heavy today, for Thelma, for Robert, and for our entire family.

Yesterday I tried to explain to Thelma about Robert’s accident. Saturday he was working on his Moped. While doing a test run on Kaiser Road, only a short distance from home, the bike swerved and went off the road. Robert was thrown from the bike directly into a fence post – head on.

The amazingly beautiful October afternoon was shattered when I received the news of Robert’s   accident. A passing motorist witnessed the accident and immediately contacted emergency services. Robert was taken by ambulance to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph.

Because of the extent of his injuries, Robert was airlifted to the trauma center at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. That evening physicians performed surgery to relieve the pressure of the swelling on his brain.

Robert was heavily sedated and in an induced coma when I visited him on Sunday. It was reassuring to know that Robert was being well cared for by a dedicated staff.

As I tried to assimilate the seriousness of the situation, I felt very strongly that it was important for me to attempt to communicate this information to Thelma, even though she is in a state of severe cognitive decline.  Step by step I softly related my concern for Robert, our youngest son.

I don’t think Thelma assimilated the seriousness of what I was trying to relate. However, as I continued to visit with Thelma, dear friends from the Woodland Terrace staff, aware of the situation and concerned for our needs, stopped by Thelma’s room to offer their support.

As I briefly updated these staff members on the details of the accident and Robert’s current status, I tried to include Thelma in the conversation, looking directly into her face as though speaking only to her. Knowing of their Christian faith, I asked Nora to pray. Throughout the prayer Thelma held my hand, strong and steady. My heart was lifted and I truly felt that Thelma understood and was being reassured that the Lord will strengthen us throughout the days ahead.

In preparation for this journal entry, I visited the website Agingcare.com and found this beautiful poem. The words of the poem help me realize the importance of my regular visit to my sweetheart, the love of my life, Thelma.

To make me understand.

Let me rest and know you’re with me.

Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I’m confused beyond your concept.

I am sad and sick and lost.

All I know is that I need you

To be with me at all cost.

Do not lose your patience with me.

Do not scold or curse or cry.

I can’t help the way I’m acting,

Can’t be different though I try.

Just remember that I need you,

That the best of me is gone.

Please don’t fail to stand beside me,

Love me til my life is done.

Author Unknown




Our Journey with Alzheimer’s – Notes from my Journal – June 28, 2016

“God usually answers our prayer so much more according to the measure of His own magnificence than our asking that we do not recognize His benefits to those for which we sought Him.”              Coventry Patmore


On April 1, 2007 I made this note in my Caregiver’s Journal.

“Today I became a writer.  I had an epiphany – an “aha” moment for me.  I hurried to the car to find a pen. I scribbled a note on the back of my Target sales receipt.  I didn’t want to lose my nugget of wisdom.  Later in the day I grabbed a pen while shaving.  I didn’t want to lose another gem, a perfect descriptive phrase.”

Over nine years have passed since my remarkable epiphany. Two years later in the fall of 2009 I had another epiphany of sorts. I’ll describe it this way: in an excerpt from an assignment in a writing workshop series sponsored by the Bridgman Library, I wrote:

I have a great idea. I know what I’m working on. I just need a push in the right direction and some guidance through the inevitable pitfalls along the way.

 I naively completed a questionnaire stating my premise of writing A Caregiver’s Journey – One Man’s Commitment to Caregiving. I then prepared a time line of weekly goals I needed to achieve in order to write a rough draft of from 35,000 to 60,000 words. I had set a goal finishing the rough draft ready for my first edit.

A lot has happened in the nearly seven years since then. The manuscript was not completed as planned.

The story is still in the making.  Today is a new beginning of another chapter on an unknown story of our journey; a day at a time in a walk of faith with Thelma, an amazing lady.

“…so walk…just as you were instructed…overflowing with gratitude.”   From the writing of the Apostle Paul in a letter to the Colossians.











From my Caregiver’s Journal – A Tribute to Caregivers – Friends, Family, and Community

From my Caregiver’s Journal

November 9, 2015

I am blessed and I speak for Thelma too.

We rely on a group of individuals, caregivers, whom I have come to think of as friends. These friends provide Thelma’s physical needs with a tender touch, a warm smile, and a genuine sense of sacrificial service and love.

Twenty-four hours, seven days each week, they help Thelma through her confusion, comfort her when she is lonely, and tenderly encourage her through her times of edginess, as well as her stubborn moments. They demonstrate compassionate care while monitoring her meals, bathing her, dressing her, making sure her colors don’t clash, brushing her hair, applying makeup, and attending to those inevitable “messy” unmentionables. They show their affectionate concern for Thelma’s comfort.

These acts of thoughtfulness and kindness do not go unnoticed. These friends specifically refer to the faithful team of caregivers on the Woodland Terrace – Magnolia staff.

There are others we think of as friends of Thelma, and friends of Magnolia Court. These are the other residents; some who hover over Thelma in a motherly way, comforting, touching, and affirming; others, as sisters, chatting, laughing, or exasperated, but always loving. There are also the family members of other residents, who, while visiting their loved ones, shower Thelma with smiles, love, and warm acts of kindness.

A core of healthcare professionals, therapists, hospice caregivers, and Woodland Terrace Administrative staff, while regularly serving other residents, offer Thelma, a smile a touch, or a word of encouragement.

I treasure each of these deeds of thoughtfulness as acts of love and friendship beyond what I can extend to Thelma by myself.

I also benefit from many of these same “friends” as they extend, to me, words of encouragement, as they express concern for my welfare, my physical health, and emotional needs.

I am blessed. I am also blessed with a community of friends who demonstrate concern and care. These include our church family, my Alzheimer’s support group, the Bridgman “Writer’s Group” and the many acquaintances who greet us with smiles and conversation while shopping, or eating with friends at nearby restaurants, and many others.

And lastly, my family, my four sons, Rick, Ken, Jim and Rob and their precious families; our extended family, those of my brothers and sisters, and their offspring, Thelma’s aunts, uncles, and cousins and their offspring.

And there is a friend that is closer than a brother; that friend is Jesus. We are truly blessed.

Jan’s Story – A Book Review

Jan’s Story

By: Barry Peterson

Behler Publications, LLC

Lake Forest, California

978-1933016443, $ 15.95, 2010, 206 Pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake, richard330@yahoo.com


The Devastating Effect of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease


Award winning news correspondent Barry Petersen tells “Jan’s Story” and of their journey together in a story of excitement, passion, and of love lost to the long goodbye of Alzheimer’s. Step by step and chapter by chapter he takes the reader through Jan’s journey into each of the “Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.”


Petersen is open and candid in talking about his feelings of devastation, anger and grief as the brain altering disease Early Onset Alzheimer’s takes control and dominates every area of life in a downward spiral unpredictable and all consuming. He tells of the private agony of loneliness, overwhelming feelings of depression, and the ongoing battle with exhaustion.


The pages are filled with personal experiences, correspondence with family and friends, advice from medical professionals, fellow travelers, and well-meaning acquaintances. In this dramatic story Peterson provides the reader valuable information and helpful hints for fellow travelers on their journey with Alzheimer’s.


I personal gained:


  • New perspectives on the reality of day to day life and the growing sense of loss, a sense of discovery into the little windows of the Disease and the realization of being increasingly alone.
  • Help to cope with the sense of isolation, loneliness, denial and the delusion of normalcy or improvement.
  • The dangers of ignoring a growing awareness of the results of Caregiver stress.
  • How to deal with times when it seems that all dreams are ending.
  • The relief of distraction.
  • And the realization that I am not alone in this journey.


There were times in my reading when my tears blurred the print or when I just stopped reading to reflect on our own journey with Alzheimer’s. Reflective moments recalling cherished memories of those days that pre-date the realization that building memories for “us” was in reality building memories for me.


Resource suggestions and discussion questions are provided for further reading, personal contemplation or for group discussion, ideal for use in a reader’s or support group.


A beautiful story, of love, trauma, renewal, and hope.

Jans Story

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti – A Book Review

All My BelongingsAll My Belongings
By: Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon Press
P O Box 801
Nashville, TN 37202
978-1426749728, $ 14.99, 2014, 335 Pages
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake, richard330@yahoo.com

A New Name, A New Start, A New Challenge

The shame and humiliation that follows the widely publicized court case and resultant imprisonment of her father for the euthanasia of her terminally ill mother left Jayne Dennegee devastated.

In an effort to escape the mounting pressure and trauma of community bias and unfounded judgment Jayne took on a new identity, as Becca Morrow. She legally changed her name and accepted a position as nurse and companion to an incurable elderly woman in California, two thousand miles from her home in Iowa.

Cynthia Ruchti skillfully challenges the reader to come to grips with the reality of the dilemma faced by caregivers dealing with loved ones suffering with a terminal illness or incapacitated by dementia.

Ruchti has a lyrical writing style that is compelling, using a combination of the elements of good story telling, building a plot providing an ample balance of suspense, humor, and heartwarming pathos. Her characters are strong, well developed, and believable. She used the medium of the novel to bring a message of the results of the poison of prejudice, the entrapment of deception, the reward of revealing truth, and the healing of forgiveness.

“All My Belongings” will resonate with readers in the midst of the role and trauma of providing long term care to a loved one. A timely must read for counselors, pastors, hospice workers, and extended care facilitators.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.



Christmas Party Woodland Terrace 2013

Last evening Woodland Terrace sponsored a Christmas Party for all of their residents and their families.

There were 15 of us that joined Thelma for the Christmas Dinner they had prepared for all of us. There was a spirit

of excitement and celebration in the air. Festive decorations, Christmas sweaters, and bright colored clothes added

a touch to the gala occasion. The picture above gathered around the Christmas tree for a picture with Santa Claus,

Mrs. Claus, and one of their faithful elves after they had delivered toys to the Sinai, Kate, Tane, and Lucy. Jack

was too small to take part, however note that he’s included in the picture in Seth’s arms, just above Meredith’s

Thelma enjoyed every minute, she wanted to stop time, and savor the moments.


It is time like this that alert us to the gift of family, the bond of love, and the innocence of children. May we hold

on to these moments as we join together to celebrate together the birth of Jesus, our Savior, the promised Messiah,

and coming King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

Alzheimer’s 911 – Help, Hope, Helaing for the Caregiver by Frena Gray-Davidson – A Book Review

Alzheimers 911Alzheimer’s 911; Help, Hope, and Healing for the Caregiver

By Frena Gray-Davidson

Robert D. Reed Publishers, P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Or 97411, 78-1934759141, $ 16.95, 2009, 192 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Fresh Perspectives on Caring for Individuals with   Dementia Behavior Patterns

Frena Gray-Davidson sheds light on the plight of anyone dealing with dementia and the devastating frustration and hopelessness that accompany the victims and caregivers impacted by the disease. In her book Alzheimer’s 911; Help, Hope, and Healing for the Caregiver, Davidson describes the behaviors of dementia in an effort to help the reader understand and interpret their own observations of a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Davidson sheds fresh perspectives on caregiving, the importance of flexibility, developing patience, nurturing compassion, and living in the present moment. She uses humorous personal anecdotes, spiritual insights, and practical pointers to encourage and empower the reader to successfully navigate the uncharted course in their journey through Dementia. Each chapter ends with a feature called A Life in Alzheimer’s Land which provides a unique glimpse into the mind of the person with Dementia.

I now have a better understanding of the components of a support system, the need for interdependence on others: family, friends, the church, and the community.

I found the chapter titled Forgiveness and Acceptance especially  helpful as it enabled me to look within myself to establish a new kind of relationship with my spouse; by recognizing the reality that I have a choice of accepting our situation or being trapped in a toxic attitude of pity and regret.

Alzheimer’s 911 is a must read for Dementia caregivers, family members and medical professionals. I plan to apply the principles, personally, add the book to my permanent library, make it available to my family members, and to re-read it often.


Every Minute – One Day at a Time

BirdA Page from my Journal

        February 16, 2013

In her book “Beautiful Battlefields” Bo Stern, teaching pastor at Westside Church in Bend, Oregon, relates the following expression of extreme anxiety the day following learning that Steve, her 45 year old husband, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Broken and sobbing she cried out to God. He gave her an answer in two words, “every minute.” As she pondered these words, she received additional insight into God’s message for her. She was given a new sense of God’s love and presence as the eternal truth of God’s promise became clear. “I have already been to every minute you will ever face. I have been to your future and back, and I have built provisions in every minute where you will need it. You won’t see it now, but it will be there when you get there.”

The uncertainty of the future is something that we all face. Jesus admonished us to “Take no thought for tomorrow” and goes on to assure us of God’s care. Today as I look out on the a snow covered lawn, I see two small birds feeding and another huddled in a corner on our deck, protected from the wind, fed and protected by a loving, caring, heavenly Father.

This same heavenly Father that spoke to Bo Stern in Oregon, and is caring for the small birds on my deck has given me a new assurance that He wants me to trust him for my every minute of my future, one minute, hour, and day at a time.

Observe and consider the ravens; for they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn; and [yet] God feeds them. Of how much more worth are you than the birds!  Luke 12:24