A Friend Asks About Our Odyssey Through Alzheimer's

“It took me a long time to ahhh…well, you don’t get into a rhythm with something like Alzheimer’s,” I said after a long pause. “Because as soon as you think you’re making a little progress, or things are stabilized, things can fall right out from under you.”

I was answering a question from my friend Bob Andelman, who was interviewing me for his Mr. Media website. Alzheimer’s can be erratic and fearful, as you may know from personal experience or from reading my blog posts or my book A Path Revealed.  

Bob’s questions revealed fresh insights into our family’s 17-year odyssey, as have other interviews, such as the one last month with the Tampa Bay Times. As you probably know by now, my wife Martha was diagnosed in 1997 with Alzheimer’s at age 50.  

Bob and I go back three decades. (He’s aged well). He freelanced often for our business magazine. In his spare time he authored or co-authored 16 books. He began a Mr. Media syndicated newspaper column in 1994, which eventually morphed into these video podcasts. Bob has interviewed more than 1,200 media figures of one stripe or another. Among his high profile interviewees (in addition to me of course—cough, cough) are Kirk Douglas, Raquel Welch, Billy Bob Thornton, and TV chef Emeril Lagasse. Mr. Media today is uploaded to 30 podcast sites and gets more than 100,000 hits a year.

This Mr. Media interview runs 39 minutes. If you’re like me, you probably don’t have time to listen in one sitting. I’ve therefore time-marked Bob’s questions below so you can go wherever you want to on the video. To listen to my responses, just open to the segment you’re interested in. All comments and questions are Bob’s, unless otherwise noted.

Click the video below to start. (You can skip the opening ad after a couple of seconds.)

The interview:

First 3 minutes…Bob’s introduction and question: “Martha and Carlen and their family were forced to deal with Alzheimer’s for 17 years. But I can’t imagine what you went through as you wrote and rewrote your book. Can you talk about that?”

5:10: How long did Martha live at home?

5:50: What is the average life expectancy for someone with Alzheimer’s? It seems like 17 years is a long time.

9:05: I knew Martha, but for those listening who did not, can you describe her?

15:15: In A Path Revealed, you wrote a very specific story about your experience in dealing with a family member with Alzheimer’s. It’s not a what-to-do book, it’s a spiritual journey…it’s a very religious journey. I’m curious as to what happened from your experience that led you down that path?

20:25…Carlen Maddux: After getting hit with the diagnosis, the one person Martha wanted to tell was Rev. Lacy Harwell, a Presbyterian minister. He was a good friend, he’d married us and baptized two of our children. When Lacy came, he urged us to visit a friend of his in Kentucky, a Catholic nun with the Sisters of Loretto. We did go, and that’s where, in hindsight, this path began to open up.   

Carlen Maddux excerpt: "I was like a sponge. Anything that could help us...I wanted to get Martha out of this. Even though the medical community said they had not been able to find anything (to cure or treat Alzheimer's disease), I still was hopeful we would stumble across something." (22:20)

30:20: I’m thinking one of the major turning points in this whole journey is when you had to make the decision—which I’m sure you agonized over—that it was time for Martha to go into a nursing home.  

34:00: Just to bring things back around full circle, it’s been about three years since Martha passed. You’ve been in journalism and publishing a long time, and you’ve been writing the book the past couple of years. Did it take longer to write and was it harder than you imagined when you started?

35:00: Since Martha was stricken in ’97, your children have been to college and are out. They’re grown and two are married with kids. I think we need to be reminded sometimes that life does go on. You’ve obviously gotten your book out. You’ve got grandchildren now. How are you spending your time these days?

Carlen Maddux excerpt: “Talking about the kids…I would tell you that our three children probably are closer today than they would have been. They really have each other’s back and are sensitive. That’s a great thing to see.” (36:50)


Thank you for taking the time to check out our interview.

P.S. An online friend, Carol Bradley Bursack, publishes a daily blog for caregivers working with elder care issues. Her website is Minding Our Elders. You may find her recent post of interest: Driving and Memory Loss: Tips to Help Elders Give Up Driving.

P.P.S. In case you missed this, my publisher Paraclete Press is giving away 3 copies of my book, A Path Revealed, on Goodreads. If interested, click here to sign up. Their offer is good through January 31. If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, you can follow a step-by-step, sign-up procedure by clicking on my post from last September. Email me if you have any questions. Good luck.

P.P.P.S. If you’d like to sign up for my blog, it’s free. Just click here.