Helping those who help those who forget
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Freelance writer, Colleen Davis, launched a Facebook site, "Between the Pond and the Woods-Help for the weary caregiver", to create a sense of camaraderie for caregivers of dementia patients.
"Between the Pond and the Woods" is both the name of a forthcoming book by Colleen Davis of Albrightsville, and the title of a Facebook site that she developed to create a sense of camaraderie for caregivers of dementia patients.
It describes the third character in her art-follows-life story, her home in the Pocono Mountains, on a parcel straddling a wooded forest and Henning Pond, an almost magical place until just a few months ago.
Five years ago, at the age of 67, Colleen's mother, Janet, retired from a career as a competent and hardworking executive assistant to several successive presidents of a financial corporation. Her family had noticed a deterioration in her memory, and hoped that it was related to the stress of the job, and she would improve following her retirement.
"But it got worse," Colleen said. She sought medical and alternative treatments, but at best, her family's efforts may have slowed the memory loss. Janet fought to gain control over her descent into oblivion until finally, overwhelmed with stress, she surrendered-and accepted the relief of giving up control.
"When she gave herself over, she became so light hearted," Colleen said. "She has a child's sense of delight. My friends' six-year-old and her love to color together." She loves to chat with friends, and they enjoy being with her, except she doesn't know who they are."
Last fall, when the time changed, Janet became disoriented. She was attending senior day care at Palmerton Hospital five days a week. After the time change in the fall, things seemed all the more confusing in the darkness. She didn't recognize her house when the bus took her home.
"Mom had episodes of wandering," Colleen said. "She went out by herself. The creek is nearby. It's just a short distance from the woods to the pond."
So, after a year and a half of caring for her mother, the family reluctantly decided to move her to a care facility.
Meanwhile, Colleen had developed empathy overload. The combined energy, attention and lack of support had drained her battery and had her soul running near empty. As a writer, she turned to what she knew best, writing, and she began her first full length journal, "Between the Pond and the Woods", a story of the love of a mother, the daughter who cares for her, and their moments together in the magic Pocono Mountains.
In October 2011, Colleen met with a publisher who suggested that she launch a web site to share her experiences with other dementia caregivers.
"I went to the Alzheimer's chat room and posted information about the site," she said. "People started visiting to the Facebook page. All of a sudden, people were writing all these deeply personal experiences on the Facebook page. Some were very sad. For others, it was a transformational experience.
"It is an isolating thing when you take care of someone who's so sick. People are sympathetic but the only people who really understand are the people who do it. It is so nice to feel connected with all these people all over the country who have shared this kind of experience. It's really rewarding."
A woman from Oregon wrote that she had been taking care of her mom for almost 20 years. Her mother passed but she was having a problem dealing with the loss and looking for ideas to help.
A woman from the Virgin Islands started exchanging stories with her.
"This was so magical. One is in Oregon; one is in the Virgin Islands, and they were dealing with the problem," she said.
Freelance writer, Davis, develops communications for corporations and nonprofits. She hopes to publish her book, Between the Pond and the Woods, in the coming year. Her Facebook site, Between the Pond and the Woods-Help for the weary caregiver, is at: betweenthepondandthewoods.com.