Interview with Iris Waichler, Author of Role Reversal, How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents

Chances are if that if you have aging parents, you’ll need to learn how to best care for them as their age increases and their needs change.

Role Reversal
With the increasing number of adults living beyond their 70’s, their middle-aged adult children are often left to navigate the challenging role of care provider.

Today, author Iris Waichler talks about her past experience caring for her aging father and the lessons learned and  shared in her book Role Reversal, How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents.

Welcome, Iris!


Q&A

Was there a pivotal moment when You knew you must write Role Reversal?

Yes. One day I realized that countless people around me had been talking about their struggles around health crisis their parents were having. The recurring theme was they were uncertain about what to do and overwhelmed. I have been a medical social worker for 40 years.
My father was ninety and I quickly noticed something was wrong, his balance and memory were off. I took him to the doctor right away and we learned he had a brain hemorrhage. He had surgery and made a full recovery. It got me thinking that if people knew what to look for they could be proactive and mange care challenges in more productive ways. I decided to use my dad’s story as a springboard to help others.

You have written 2 other books. One of them won multiple awards. How did the process differ when writing this book? What difference was working with a hybrid publisher like She Writes Press?

This book was very challenging because I was writing my father’s life story and the story of
my family. It was very personal. I wanted people to see that sometimes people can appear
ordinary by society standards and do extraordinary things. I also wanted to make sure my
siblings were OK with my sharing our family experience.

I love the hybrid publishing model. It has been a perfect fit for me. She Writes Press offers the expertise of
traditional publishing with high quality design team and distribution options. Brooke Warner,
SWP publisher, is very hands on. She guides her authors through every step of the process. I also
really enjoy the opportunity to share ideas, successes, and resources with my talented colleagues.
You don’t find that in other publishing models.

 

iris
Author Iris Waichler

What chapter was the most challenging to write?

The most difficult chapter for me to write was called “No Mas” which means no more in
Spanish. It is the story of letting go of my father and facing his death. He used to say no mas
when he was eating and didn’t want any more food. He had a swallowing problem because of his medical condition. It was so painful to even think about. I could not begin to write it until a
couple of months after his death.

 

What are the top 3 tips you share with readers in Role Reversal? What was the most difficult
you to follow as you cared for your father?

One of the most difficult things for people to do is estate planning. Nobody wants to think about
death or talk about it. If you know what your parents wishes are regarding health directives, and
what insurance and assets they have, that information can guide you as a caregiver. I interview an
estate planning expert who shared his recommendations.

A very challenging aspect of caregiving is identifying caregiver roles and sharing responsibilities
with siblings or other family. This can cause so many problems and can dissolve relationships. I
explain how to approach this challenge and to build a support team with family.

As a social worker I am interested in grief, loss, and relationships. This ultimate role reversal
where adult children parent their parents comes with a lot of emotional baggage from the past. I
reveal how these past relationships impact your current caregiver relationship and how to
incorporate this in your caregiver plan.

I am incredibly lucky. My relationships with my father and my siblings were very good. My dad
trusted me. We discussed his wishes about health directives, his financial situation, and he made
me executor and gave me power of attorney. When decisions needed to be made and I had to set
up his care and arrange his funeral, he gave me everything I needed. It was such a gift to me and
my siblings. I didn’t have any of the challenges of those 3 tips.

How can readers best connect with you?

My website is iriswaichler.wpengine.com I also offer lots of resource information on my
Facebook page @ RoleReversal1

Iris Waichler is the author of Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire

 

A Different Kind of Same/Author Interview with Kelley Clink

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’m pleased to have mental health advocate and author Kelley Clink as my guest.

Author Kelley Clink
Author Kelley Clink

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime. In my immediate little family, all three of us are impacted.

Maybe that’s why I so connected with Kelley Clink’s memoir, A Different Kind of Same, a book selected by BookSparks’  #Speak Out Campaign to raise awareness and funds for an agency dealing with suicide. Her book also won the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year. More than a book about her brother’s suicide, Kelley’s memoir describes her relationship with her brother and with mental illness.  “For better or worse,” she writes in it,”Matt’s life shaped mine. Knowing him, being a sister to him, made me who I was. Losing him has made me who I am.”

Welcome, Kelley!


Q&A

Your book openly discusses your own battle with serious depression and a suicide attempt before your brother’s eventual suicide, a devastating blow just as your own life had taken shape. How did you gain enough emotional distance to be able to write such a powerful memoir?

Time was a big factor. I waited two years before I started, and in all it was ten years before the book was published. I tackled subjects when I felt ready for them, and sometimes I misjudged and had to walk away from the project for a while. It was extremely painful for many years.

But eventually, the more I worked on it, the less attached I became. Participating in a workshop made a huge difference. Focusing on craft helped me distance myself from my narrative. This made the writing process easier, but also prepared me for sharing my book with the world. Criticism feels a lot less personal when you’ve had a lot of practice.

A Different Kind of SameThrough your writing and experiences, I’m sure you’ve met many loved ones of those experiencing mental illness. What advice have you for them to be the best advocate for their loved one while not losing their own mind?

One of the most important things you can do for anyone going through a difficult time is to listen to them, without trying to fix or change how they feel. You can encourage your loved one to seek help from a professional. You can ask her pointed and specific questions about what she is doing to take care of herself, and whether she is thinking about harming herself.

But I think the last part of this question is the most important—helping someone through a mental health crisis can be scary and confusing. There’s only so much you can do. At the end of the day, if your loved one is an adult, she is responsible for her own care. Only you know what your limits are, and where you need to set boundaries.

What has been the best part about the process of sharing your story with the world?

Honestly, the best part was writing the book itself. It was so, so difficult, but it was the only way I knew to heal, and in the process I walked away with a new understanding of myself, my past, and my depression. I feel so lucky that I am able to share the story with others, and I hope it has helped those in similar situations. But even if no one ever read a single word, it would still have been worth writing it.

How are you introducing your child to the uncle he didn’t get to meet?  What will you teach him one day about mental illness and how to support someone who experiences it?

Oh my goodness, this is such a great question, and I really want to have an answer, but I’m not sure I do yet! My son is 18 months old, and I’ve only recently started wondering how I’m going to tell him about my brother. I plan on putting some family photographs on the walls of our house, ones that include my brother, so that he can see him and learn his name.

Beyond that, I am hoping that I’ll learn the most age appropriate ways to discuss my brother’s death with my son as we go. I’m hoping that talking with him openly about my own experiences with depression, and focusing on emotional literacy in general, will help him be aware of his own mental health and the mental wellbeing of others.

A Different Kind of Same is available at kelleyclink.com or on Amazon.

For more information about mental illness, check out the National Alliance for Mental Illness at www.nami.org.