It has been said that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. However, for families with a loved one experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, “a memory is a terrible thing to lose.”
Carol McDonough, a resident at a Franklin Park Memory Care Center, and her family understand this all too well. Carol’s family began noticing changes in her in 2012 and in 2014, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her husband, James, became a full-time caregiver to his wife as her disease progressed and memory failed.
Before Carol became a resident at Franklin Park in 2017, she and her husband spent hours each week watching the buzzards that flew and lived nearby. Carol had become fascinated with their flight patterns, and to honor his wife, James developed the idea for “The Urban Life of Barney Buzzard: An Alzheimer’s Story.” The storybook was designed to help children and families understand some of the behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s patients. And they made it a family affair. The book was written by James and illustrated by their daughter, Beth Bonham.
James spent five years as the primary caregiver to Carol, and the slow progression of the disease took an emotional toll on him. He understands the conflict within families to make the difficult decision to place a loved one in a memory care center, even with the recommendation of a physician.
Much like Uncle Billie in the book, Carol has no recollection of those she once loved and laughed with. For a while, Barney Buzzard saw small glimpses of his Uncle Billie, but as time progressed, so did the disease and the changes in his Uncle Billie. Like in the book, James had to come to terms with the reality that his wife is existing, not truly living. And that is often harder for family to understand and live with than the patient impacted by the disease.
James wrote this book because he wants families caring for a loved one with memory loss to know that as hard and as frustrating as it might become, they are not alone.
“You must continue to socialize to ease stress and live your life the best way possible,” James said. “Without you, the care plan for your loved one fails and falls apart.”
To learn more about Barney Buzzard or to purchase a copy, please visit barneybuzzardbooks.org or Amazon. Net proceeds from the sales of the book aid in providing Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. To make a direct donation, please visit alz.org/donate.
If you have questions and concerns for a loved one related to memory loss, and are seeking a memory care program, please visit franklinpark.org/memory-care-services.