After writing about her own personal journey with caregiving, Coon Rapids’ Nancy Poland is now helping share the stories of others.
Poland’s new book, “Remarkable Caregiving: The Care of Family and Friends,” tells the story of six different caregivers. Each portion of the book features a person put into an unplanned circumstance, discussing how they dealt with their situation and emerged through it with different lessons in caregiving to offer to others.
Poland previously wrote about her experience in caregiving in her first book “Dancing With Lewy,” which detailed her family’s and her relationship with her father before and after he developed Lewy body dementia.
“As I was finishing up my first book, ‘Dancing With Lewy,’ I thought about all the other caregivers in the world, and the stories they could tell,” Poland said. “I thought I would start with interviewing someone I knew, and that went so well, I expanded it to others.”
All of the caregiving stories have similarities, yet also unique elements to their own lived experiences.
“I interviewed six people, plus a paid caregiver,” Poland said. “Three are stories about elderly parents, each with a different twist. Two of the interviewees had children with disabilities. The other story is about a man with a good friend with Parkinson’s disease, and how he stuck with him to the end. I wanted a variety of people, in a variety of situations.”
Poland wrote the book a year ago, interviewing most of the caregivers over video. The process began with initial notes, crafting the story, then repeating the process over to give accurate, detailed accounts of each experience.
“This book continues on the theme of caregiving, and how people cope when thrust into unpredictable situations. Like ‘Dancing With Lewy,’ ‘Remarkable Caregiving’ also includes practical suggestions for caregivers. New in this book are discussion questions that can be used by book clubs, community groups or church groups.
“It was much easier to write the second book. First, I knew the process: write, have it proofed, correct it, get it professionally edited, submit it to the publisher to review. Because the people are anonymous, I couldn’t use any real pictures, but I wanted the ‘feel’ of the people. I hired a sketch artist, Nancy Mullner, to sketch pictures that are representative of the people in the book. Second, it is much easier to write about other people than myself, as I did in my first book. It was difficult to sort out what to say, how much to reveal and if I truly wanted my raw emotions out there in the public domain.”
All of the names in the stories are kept anonymous for privacy reasons.
“Writing other people’s stories, especially anonymously, is not nearly so difficult,” Poland said. “The caregivers were open, honest and freely told their stories. They all have a desire to have their experiences to help other caregivers. Many of the emotions of a caregiver are common, sometimes passion, sometimes self-doubt, but always unconditional love. I owe them all such a debt of gratitude.”
While the book wasn’t an entirely new experience for Poland, it did reinforce several of the key elements she believes are important in caregiving, such as preparation before difficult times arise and utilizing the support of others.
“It re-emphasized for me how important it is to, one, have the legal paperwork in place for your loved ones and yourself. The first story describes a legal disaster for a family who did not have a health care directive in place for the mom. Two, tap into all the resources you can find to help you. The family who took the dad into their home for four years described how home care and respite care helped them cope. (And) three, people are amazingly resilient. Taking care of an aging parent is one situation; there is an end in sight someday. Having a child with special needs is another whole level of caregiving. How do you help your child thrive, even when they have challenges? What do you do when they become adults and can’t live on their own? We all love our children and are fiercely protective of them, but these parents are truly remarkable in their desire for their kids to have as normal a life as possible.”
Poland would like to put together more books in the future and also releases a monthly newsletter titled “Caring for the Caregiver.” She has been on several podcasts recently and volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association as well.
“I hope people develop a deeper sense of compassion for both caregivers and their loved ones,” Poland said. “I hope caregivers can read the book and have their feelings validated. Also, there is so much work to be done in society to build acceptance and accessibility for people with all sorts of disabilities and needs. Maybe I can make a dent in awareness of those needs.”
For more information on the book and Poland’s newsletter, visit www.nancyrpoland.com.