Ann Arbor author shares journey caring for loved one with Alzheimer’s disease
Author and former Tecumseh resident Pam McCombs is living the experiences she writes about in her book, A Walk with Boppa — A Portrait of Early Stage Alzheimer’s. When her father was diagnosed with the disease in 2004, McCombs and her family experienced a host of emotions and challenges. Her philosophy in writing the book, she says, was to juxtapose light humor against the stark realism of factual information and the honesty of personal journal entries, while also utilizing her love for photography to juxtapose the beauty of nature and her father’s love of birds against the distortion of Alzheimer’s that she saw taking place in her dad.
McCombs presented details from the book at a special gathering Tuesday evening at the Tecumseh Community Center. Tecumseh Place provided refreshments for the event. She said her own journey — and that of her sisters, and brother — involved learning as much as possible about the disease while taking steps that had to be taken to help her father, whose condition was clearly deteriorating, especially after the family discovered his erratic behavior in entering a number of sweepstakes and actually sending money to claim prizes he supposedly had won. Those steps involved getting a medical evaluation,
bringing him north from Florida, and settling him into an independent living community.
In the book, McCombs uses photographs of her father, walking with her Yorkie, Toby, with little quips on the pages. There are bits of information, that include key planning considerations, and tips on “how to speak Alzheimer’s.” Following the presentation, those present began to share their own experiences, picking up helpful information from each other. McCombs said she learned from another family member that when her dad gets argumentative and can’t seem to pull away from it, it might be helpful to just ask him if he wants a cup of coffee. Having to respond to the question helps break the cycle. Another woman said she and her mother go to K-Mart a lot, because that’s something that seems to make her mother happy and helps take her mind off what’s bothering her.
McComb’s sisters, Laura, from Ann Arbor, and Colleen, from Tecumseh, also were present, sharing their stories. Colleen pointed out how important it is for those who have Alzheimer’s to continue to see family members on a regular basis, and even to receive phone calls.
“My hope in writing the book is to give others strength, determination and the resilience to meet the challenges of caring for early stage Alzheimer’s patients,” said McCombs, who also holds a master of Arts degree in Children’s Literature from Eastern Michigan University. A Walk with Boppa may be purchased from Amazon.com.