Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Writing, Caregiving, & Detours

"If you’re not currently involved with caring for your parents on some level, chances are you will be in the future." --Author Candy Arrington, on her book When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, releasing today.

In a guest post, Candy tells us of her journey and writing. What makes a writer and lover of fiction turn to nonfiction? And what truths has she learned about writing amid crisis?

My first brush with caregiving came when my father received a cancer diagnosis. Over the next five months, I quickly learned the intricacies of role reversal as I watch my strong, capable father wither and weaken. I helped with his personal care, yet tried to allow him to maintain independence in some form, when possible. Daddy had always been the person I turned to for wisdom and support. Suddenly, he was looking to me to for help with everyday activities and decisions he’d previously made with skill and decisiveness. On the day Daddy died, I climbed up on the bed with him, held his hand, and said good-bye. This caregiving journey was short; the grieving process longer.

My current caregiving role has been a slow ascent up the ladder to the high wire that is my current balancing act. Four years ago, Mama called and asked me to take her to the grocery store. I was surprised because until then she’d been totally independent. She never drove again after that day, and my new caregiving journey began.

Last year, Mama fell and fractured a vertebra. I was teaching at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference when I got the message to come home. Over the next five months, Mama had surgery, almost died, and was in and out of the hospital and rehab. My life as a caregiver moved into a different and more complicated phase.

At the time, I was in the process of writing When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life, although the working title at that time was Balancing Act. I’m thankful for my coauthor, Kim Atchley, because caregiving so overwhelmed my life at that point I’m not sure I could have met the deadline on my own. My editor jokingly said I got to “field test” the topic. Indeed, I added content to the book during revisions and again with final edits based on additional situations I encountered and things I learned during the months after the manuscript deadline.

I tell you all this to stress two things about the writing life:

1. You can write even during crisis situations. I wrote several chapters sitting by Mama’s hospital bed that I don’t even remember writing.

2. God never wastes difficult circumstances. You may not be able to discern at the time, but once the crisis is over nuggets rise to the surface.

Caring for my mother has changed the direction I had in mind for my writing. Now, at 89, Mama depends on me for everything from finances to meals to help with bathing. I had plans to write a novel, and I still have that goal, but for this season of my writing life God has me tackling some tough topics via nonfiction. I could be frustrated, but I know from the interest I’ve already received for When Your Aging Parent Needs Care that this book has a huge audience. The book provides support, encouragement, spiritual nourishment, and practical answers to aid those navigating this stage of life.

If you’re dealing with a life issue that slows your writing plans, make notes on your current circumstances. See what the Lord reveals to you. And if you’re writing fiction, you may find God takes you down a nonfiction path for a season.

Enjoy the journey!

-- Candy Arrington

Order When Your Aging Parent Needs Care from Amazon.


Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

This book could have been written by me as I have gone through the similar experience ending with my father's death, my husband's and then my mother's over a short period of time. I swore I'd never write again, but through the grieving process there were a bounty of blessings and lessons and God is using them in my writing.

Thanks again for sharing this post as a reminder to me that He uses every life experience to help us help others.

Mocha with Linda said...

Looks like a great book and one I can relate to as I cared for my mom up until her death, and I'm the Care Ministry Coordinator at our church and we are about to have an explosion of caregiving-for-parents issues in the next 5-10 years at our church.

Lynette Eason said...

Awesome post, Candy! I don't need this book yet, but know the time is coming when I might. Glad to know it's there for reference.


Candy Arrington said...

Hi All,
Thanks for your comments and blessings on those who have already traveled the caregiving path.

Sheila Deeth said...

I'm so lucky that my mother still travels and will be visiting me this Christmas. Skype is great, but it's not the same as being together.

Crystal Laine Miller said...

Candy, what great insight into something that affects so many people. Having gone through it yourself, it does cause us to trust what you have in your book. Thank you so much for availing yourself to God's plans, even if you wouldn't want to choose it.

And thanks, Brandilyn, for hosting Candy in a guest blog. You give so much.

LaShaunda said...


I’m like the others, I could have written this post. I just went through a tough period of being a caregiver; my mother was in a coma for a week. It was the second hardest time in my life; however this time was different. I leaned on the Lord and he carried me through.

I’ve been a caregiver for six years and the journey has taught me a lot. Thank you for writing this book, I will definitely pick up a copy.

I do agree that you can write during these periods. Sometimes the Lord will give you the words for ideas just to take your mind to another place. As my mother was in a coma, I planned an online conference. It was the only thing that kept me going. If I focused on my mother and her situation, I know I would have been in tears all the time. I turned my worries over to the Lord and worked on the conference. It was huge success, the best part. My mother came out of the coma the day the conference began. The Lord is good.

My mother is in rehab right now and we’re praying for her strength to return. For those who are caregivers, hold on to the Lord’s hand. Yes it can be hard sometimes, but it’s worth the journey.

Candy Arrington said...

Thank, Crystal, and I echo your thanks to Brandilyn for allowing me to post on this blog.

May the Lord bless you on your caregiving journey. I believe one of the best things about writing When Your Aging Parent Needs Care is it allows me to connect with others who are traveling the same path. We need each other.
Love, Candy