BookView Interview with Author Nancie Wiseman Attwater

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed author Nancie Wiseman Attwater, about her writing and her recently released, A Caregiver’s Love Story and Reference Guide. a valuable guide for both caregivers and those who walk alongside them. (Read the review here .)

Nancie Wiseman Attwater is a retired critical care nurse, nationally known needlework teacher, author of fourteen books, and a caregiver to her husband Bill. Her nursing education and training as well as compassion for the terminally ill have created this reference guide for caregivers. It is a long and loving look at caring for her husband as he progresses through his illness, many hospitalizations, and entry into hospice care.

She has shared her personal experiences and coping skills to create a book full of down-to-earth guidance when one is faced with the death of a loved one. With humor and empathy, she expertly discusses all aspects of the diagnosis of a terminal illness to planning the funeral and dying with dignity all while giving advice on keeping one’s own soundness of mind.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I started writing A Caregiver’s Love Story with no research in mind. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go since I was really writing it as a journal or memoir for myself. I do that a lot with writing. I just write for the sheer joy of it and then it often turns into something that requires research.

I read a lot and have many resources in my own library, but the internet plays a big part in my research when it is required. If I needed more information about aging and the process and what people are feeling as they age all I had to do is ask my neighbors since I live in a retirement community with everyone aged 55 or older.

A Caregiver’s Love Story seems to represent a pivot in your writing repertoire. Who and what ultimately inspired you to write about your experiences in A Caregiver’s Love Story?

Everyone will be a caregiver at some point in their life. Babies and children as well as aging relatives seem to enter everyone’s life at some point, especially as you age. Your very first experience might be caring for a pet or as a babysitter, but you are a caregiver nonetheless.

Writing for myself is usually where I start a book. I don’t always intend to publish until I’m almost done and can see that there is a worthy subject in the book that might entice someone to read it. I have written many craft/how-to books and another nonfiction book called Jail Journal, Sewing Behind Bars which again is a personal story of my work teaching sewing in a county jail.

I used my nursing experience to try and “teach” the reader how to get or give care. One thing all nurses do is teach. I learned this early in my nursing career. Teaching a patient how to care for themselves is often the safest and easiest way to get a patient to understand the potential outcome of their illness. They often heal and feel better sooner if they care for themselves or have help from a family caregiver. Maintaining one’s dignity while ill is another concept that often needs to be taught. Active participation in one’s own health is essential in today’s health care systems.

The book was meant to help the patient but also the caregiver in understanding emergency room and hospital jargon as well as the ramifications of a diagnosis and some treatments. When you are the only one responsible for another’s health and well-being you need to educate yourself as well. This will help both of you do as well as possible.

I wanted people to know that if you get the call from a doctor such as I got stating, “I don’t think he will survive the surgery,” you still need to work your hardest to keep the doctors and nurses informed of your loved one’s previous illnesses and medications and do everything YOU can to keep them alive.

Did you find that the process of writing A Caregiver’s Love Story was therapeutic?

Writing for me is not only therapeutic; it also keeps me somewhat sane and in the moment, rather than in the “this might happen” or “anticipating the worst” moment. Writing down the facts as they happen and making sense of them as best as I can is the healthiest way for me to approach caring for my husband. This helps me take care of me.

Writing this book has been a form of “caregiving” for me. Putting my thoughts and feelings into words is a way of healing my breaking heart, knowing Bill will be gone sooner rather than later.” Page 243, first paragraph

Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?

This question and the one below has been the hardest for me to answer. I’ve thought about it for a week or so, and still can’t come up with one single chapter that is my favorite or was the most difficult to write.

I’ve done some presentations about the book and cannot read through a chapter without crying. Yet, when I was writing I never shed a tear.

The first chapter about Bill stands out in my mind as well as the chapter about our life together.  Both are happy times and are fond memories of when we were younger, and Bill had good health.

Which scene or chapter was most difficult to write? Why?

Four chapters stand out in my mind as being the most difficult. The chapter about me growing up- Nancie Before Bill, My Brother has Lung Cancer and We Purchased a Niche as well as Anticipatory Grief were probably the most difficult to write. They all have to do with very hard times and decisions, as well as death.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I’m hoping anyone that reads this book gets some help with not only how to be a caregiver, but also how to take care of themselves while they are doing this difficult job. There are many resources for caregivers but finding the time to look for them while every day is filled with worry and wondering what will happen next takes more time than anyone has available. The book includes many of these resources and hopefully is the one place someone can look to for help.

What makes this book important right now?

We are an aging population, and many people need help as illness and age takes its toll. The psychological impact of caring for a dying loved one is very seldom discussed or even considered by the health care team taking care of the individual who is ill. Never is the caregiver asked how they are doing or feeling, only the person with the illness is approached about how they are doing with their diagnosis. It’s a difficult position to place the person who is doing all the caregiving in when it seems no one is concerned about their well-being or health. Hopefully my book gives them insight on caring for themselves as well as the person who is ill.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a new idea for a book to follow this one. Perhaps on aging and how it sneaks up on you when you aren’t prepared, or when you least expect it. What happens to the aging body and mind etc. How things that have happened during your life can affect your aging and life span. I’m not sure about this yet; I need to think about it some more.

I have also had a mystery book in mind based on an incident that happened when we lived on Whidbey Island in Washington State. I should have written it a long time ago when the story was fresh in my mind. I’ve never written a mystery so this would be a big stretch for my aging brain, but it could be fun. Might be just what I need at this time.

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