Eric Andersen Interview

Summer 2015

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Eric Andersen and his wife Heather live in the Puget Sound area near Seattle, USA. When not writing or consulting, they are avid gardeners and mid-century modern furniture enthusiasts. They maintain a blog, Shoestring Abundance, believing that beauty is available to all, no matter what your budget is. Heather also paints in oils. They are constant students of the mysteries of life. They have published a book to raise awareness and improve people’s attitudes to dementia:

Remember, I Can’t Remember

by Eric and Heather Andersen

It is also the title of their website:

www.remembericantremember.com

 

IRENE: What gave you the idea to write the book?
ERIC ANDERSEN: We took care of my grandmother, who had advanced dementia. We had an amazing experience, because we always entered into her reality, and allowed her to feel that she was in charge of her life, and her decisions. In two and a half years caring for her we had very few conflicts, because we did not discount any of her visions as false. We believed she saw and experienced everything she talked about. In her mind she lived a happy, full life. Who were we to say she didn’t?

IRENE: If you had a magic wand, what would you like your book to achieve?
ERIC ANDERSEN: Our hope is that people will realise that even though your loved one may not remember you, or current events, or even be functioning in our perceived reality, that we can still see them as a vital, contributing human being. They are still here, so there must be something for us all to learn. Our hope is also that readers will begin to understand that this situation is as much about us and our response, as it is about them.

IRENE: Who have you written your book for?
ERIC ANDERSEN: We have written this book for EVERYONE to read, because we will all be affected, and can all help. Our hope is that it helps people to live in the moment, and to let go of what they think is the ‘right way’, or ‘only way’ of dealing with memory loss. We hope to help them to let go of current events, and the limitations of their name and their sense of reality so they can experience life through the eyes of Alzheimer’s, and hopefully find joy and a part of themselves they may not know exists.

IRENE: How did you write your book, and how did you illustrate it?
ERIC ANDERSEN: We kept a daily journal during the two and a half years Grandma Helen lived with us, so when the time came to write the book, the material was already there. We just had to decide what parts to use. We wanted to keep it short and easy to pick up as a reference book. The only illustration is on the front cover. That is Heather’s painting.

IRENE: How long did it take you to write your book?
ERIC ANDERSEN: It took two and a half years of journaling, and then about four weeks to compile it in the form of a guide.

IRENE: What was the most difficult part?
ERIC ANDERSEN: The biggest challenge was deciding what to leave out. We decided to develop it as an easy-to-read practical guide, instead of a personal story.

IRENE: When was your book published, and where?
ERIC ANDERSEN: We originally printed it in 2010 through a great local reprographics company, Sound Reprographics. We then went with a self-publishing company, Infinity Publishing. Unfortunately, that ended up being a long and difficult process. Our little 62-page book took close to a year to complete.

IRENE: How are you reaching the people you have written the book for?
ERIC ANDERSEN: We give talks and facilitate care discussions whenever the opportunity arises. When we first published our book in 2010 it was sold through our local book store, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, WA, who continue to be our greatest supporter. Awareness of the book also spreads by word of mouth. Now it is available through all the standard distributors like Amazon, and Independent bookstores. There are print, eBook and audio editions. We have a blog remembericantremember.blogspot.com (http://www.remembericantremember.blogspot.com) , and a website remembericantremember.com https://www.remembericantremember.com) as well as Twitter and a Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Remember-I-Cant-Remember/244089289114177) page.

IRENE: What further plans do you have for your book, or future books?
ERIC ANDERSEN: We are thinking of another book that would deal with issues of communication in our daily lives. Working with Grandma Helen taught us a lot about letting go, being in the moment, and meeting others where they are. With our current book we will continue to work to reach as wide an audience as possible. Our belief is that if everyone knows even just a little bit about the Dementia/Alzheimer’s caregiving experience, those with the condition will be much better off.

IRENE: Absolutely! And how can we work together to raise children’s awareness of dementia?
ERIC ANDERSEN: We have found that kids and animals are the two things which seem to open and access a part of the person with dementia’s brain differently from others. Children seem to bring them joy. It is so important for children to be around people with Alzheimer’s because often children look past what others may see as a disability. They see through to the person instead. By watching children interact with people with Alzheimer’s it helps us all to recognise that the basic human being is still there, and present. Maybe not in our exact reality, but they are very present in their own world. Children seem to have a knack for bringing out the best in all of us. Bringing children’s daycare groups to visit care facilities or personal homes helps kids to see people with dementia as vital parts in our lives.

IRENE: Thank you for telling me about your book and your work to change attitudes to people with dementia Eric. Good luck, and I look forward to our cooperation.

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