Instruction Specialist Writes
A Book About Alzheimer'sPosted by Josh Flory on 12/6/2018
Paula Sarver’s job is all about helping students succeed. But in her role as a published author, she’s bringing that passion for supporting others to a new audience.
Sarver is a KCS specialist in the Response To Instruction and Intervention program, a state initiative also known as RTI² that aims to identify students’ learning needs, and to provide targeted help for them.
Last month she published her first book, a memoir about her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s called “An Introspective Journey.” Published by WordCrafts Press, the book was ranked by Amazon as the #1 new release in its subcategory this week.
Sarver’s goal in writing the book was to encourage other families who are caring for relatives with Alzheimer’s, which she said often causes people to “just sort of disappear” from society.
“People are afraid to talk about it and people don’t know where to get help,” she said. “So I felt like I had a way to help others, to encourage others to get help.”
“An Introspective Journey” traces the story of Sarver’s mother, Beverly Mire, who had relatives on both the maternal and paternal branches of her family who suffered from the disease. In fact, Mire was a caregiver for her parents when she first began noticing signs of her own memory loss.
She never talked about her own diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. But when Mire moved into a nursing home, Sarver began reading her journals and realized that as far back as 2000, her mother was beginning to fear that she was seeing the first signs of the disease.
“Through her journals she said, ‘I don’t want to be pitied, I want to live my life to the fullest,’” Sarver said. “And if she (spoke about Alzheimer’s) out loud, I think she thought that that was giving into it, and she didn’t want to give in to it. She fought to live as prosperous and productive a life as she could.”
Sarver said her mother was a strong and strong-willed woman, and as the disease progressed she would sometimes become angry or speak harshly to others. But she was also self-aware enough to sense when she had caused strain in a relationship, and would ask Sarver if she had done something to give offense.
“Sometimes she had, and sometimes she hadn’t,” Sarver recalled. “And she didn’t know, she honestly didn’t know if she had said or done anything, but she could feel it, that it wasn’t right.”
One coping strategy Sarver learned over the years was that distraction was sometimes the most effective way of caring.
More than once her father would call or text for help, saying he and her mother had gone out to run errands and, when they returned, her mother wouldn’t go back in the house because she didn’t recognize it.
“So I would call on the house phone, and he would go out and say, ‘Hey, Paula’s on the phone for you,’ and she’d say okay, and she came in.”
Sarver said writing a book was therapeutic, and grew out of reading her mother’s journals. “It was taking all these emotions that I didn’t know what to do with, and listening to her words helped me understand what she was going through,” she said. “And then for me, I started writing in response to her words as a therapeutic way to get through it myself.”
Sarver said her mother is now in hospice care, and her father visits three times a day to feed her, push her in a wheelchair and be present in her life.
And while the journey through Alzheimer’s has been deeply painful, Sarver said it’s given her insight into the suffering of others.
“The more I’ve gotten into this the more I realize how many people struggle with this, with family members and loved ones, and that you don’t realize what other people are going through,” she said. “A lot of people are touched by different forms of dementia, and it’s just not talked about.”
Are you a KCS employee who is caring for a family member, struggling with grief, or facing conflict in a relationship? If you participate in a KCS health plan, you’re eligible for the State of Tennessee’s Employee Assistance Program, which provides confidential counseling and other services. Find out more information at http://www.Here4TN.com or call 855-437-3486.