Interview with "Angie Swetland
After graduating from Luther College with a degree in Sociology and Religion, Angie's first job was as an Activity Director in a small-town nursing home. Over 40 years later, she retired from her position as Corporate Director of Customer Relations at Presbyterian Homes and Services (PHS). PHS is a not-for-profit organization which serves 27,000 elders annually. PHS operates in three states and offers over 50 senior living campuses, and community services such as home care and meals on wheels. During her time at PHS, she developed curricula for Dementia Care services and worked with teams at each site to assure that care protocols were in place. In addition, she assisted in the development of a Dementia Care Specialist certification program offered jointly by the Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota and North Dakota, and served on its faculty.
Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors of Our Lady of Peace Hospice and Home and facilitates a Dementia Caregiver Support Group at Easter Lutheran Church.
Angie enjoys public speaking and has spoken at the annual Meetings of LeadingAge of Minnesota, LeadingAge (national), and at the Alzheimer's Association National Dementia Care Conference. In addition, she was on the faculty of the Housing with Services Management Certificate program offered through LeadingAge of Minnesota. She has spoken to area churches about Dementia Care.
How did the idea for your book come about?
Over the course of a forty-year career in service to older adults, I had the opportunity to develop training for dementia caregivers. I learned that sharing case histories was one of the most effective learning tools. During the training, caregivers were asked to bring forward stories of their own. Then students worked together to problem solve. Many, many times I was told: “You have to write these stories down!” The book began as a simple compilation of true tales of caregiver challenges and success stories. Later, after officially retiring, I began to lead a caregiver support group for family caregivers. This helped me to understand the most common challenges faced by those providing direct care to their loved ones.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered when writing your book?
I learned that it is easier for me to talk and teach than it is to write.
What do you consider your target audience?
Family caregivers are the primary target, and professional caregivers are a secondary market.
What is the key theme or message in your book?
Caregiving can be isolating. People feel that the challenges they face are unique. Some days they feel that they are doing everything wrong. This book intends to convey the message that no matter what kind of caregiver you are, there are others out there just like you. The challenges you are facing are not unusual in the context of the disease. In short: you are not alone. An underlying additional premise is that the life of the individual with dementia has value and is deserving of respect.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I address the most common questions that I have been asked by both family and professional caregivers over the course of forty years. There is a lot of practical and medical information in the book. I try to intersperse dry information with stories. Some stories are entertaining, some funny, and some are touching. Each vignette teaches something about dementia. Recognizing that caregivers have many demands made on them and are pressed for time, I kept the book short.
I Know You by Heart: Navigating the Dementia Journey
In the U.S. today, over 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementia. Each of these individuals has a story. And each one has caregivers, with stories of their own.
You have questions – so many questions about what is happening now, and what is to come. How do I cope with this new manifestation of the disease? How do I prepare for an uncertain future?
This is especially true when just navigating your way through each day can be overwhelming.
Contained within these pages are answers to some of your questions as well as strategies for your future. In navigating this journey, it is important to remember two essential truths. The first is that the body may fail, and the mind may wander, but the spirit – the person inside - remains intact. The caregiver’s role is to maximize the remaining strengths of the person they care for.
The second is that you are not alone. Caregiving is often an isolating experience.
Stories from the lives of others let us know that our experiences are not unique. Be assured that many have gone before, and others are walking the same road today.