By Megan Carnarius
Ms. Carnarius will join expert and innovative dementia specialists at Discovery 2016. Learn more and register today.
I never viewed myself as a writer, but after a thirteen-year journey, my long-awaited book was picked up for publication. I found it helpful to tell stories from my experiences as a caregiver both at home and at work, so really my journey began in 1990.
Starting in 1990, I began providing lectures and trainings for caregivers involved in the area of Alzheimer’s and dementia care and received many suggestions that I capture in A Deeper Perspective on Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Practical Tools with Spiritual Insights. To work on it I had to create space to completely get away. Sometimes life events got in the way but I kept persevering.
My preparation for work in this field started right out of high school, studying and working in a program utilizing Waldorf training with special needs children in The Camphill Community system in the United States and in Europe. My junior year was spent abroad in Norway, England then Scotland as the last destination. That’s where I heard about Findhorn, an unusual community focused on sustainable communal living and growing amazing gardens. I really wanted to visit it but unfortunately was too poor and too busy to make that happen.
I continued my education and eventually it lead me to memory care, or rather I would say that elders with dementia found me, and never let go. When I had what I thought was a book, I discovered it needed more work, so I found an experienced editor to help me pull it together. As luck would have it, the editor I found was connected to Findhorn, and presented the manuscript to them. So 34 years after wanting to visit, Findhorn Press became my publisher! This was such an extraordinary turn of events that I wanted to do something really special about it. So I invited my sister Cathy to join me for a visit to Scotland.
In exploring ‘walking tours’, I found Findhorn sat at the juncture of two trails making it possible to visit there half way through our walk. Our hike would cover 70 miles in six days.
We stayed in Bed & Breakfasts, sending our baggage ahead to the next stop each morning, then walked the 8 to 14 miles a day, stopping to enjoy our bagged lunch and hot thermos of tea while looking out over amazing vistas. We started on an old railway bed passing through woods and farms, and over the stark and beautiful moors. When we got to Findhorn, we learned more about what made this place so special. We attended a meditation, had a wonderful lunch, toured their beautiful gardens and heard more about their current work in sustainable communal living. I got to see my book for the first time on a bookstore shelf, and shed happy tears! What a great full- circle moment.
After stopping at Findhorn, we walked along the coast enjoying views of the ocean from cliffs, sand dunes, and beaches. We passed through fishing villages and historic landmarks along the way. It turned out that May was the perfect month to go: long days of sunlight meant we didn’t have to rush. The sun was out more than we expected, so we only had to don our rain gear twice, and then we had rainbows to bless our way. We went on with the rest of our two week trip seeing other parts of Scotland, but for both my sister and I, our favorite part was the walk.
In the thirty years I’ve worked in the memory care field, things have really changed. In the early days people were so distressed by this problem that they shied away from even talking about it. But in our tour of Scotland, people would want to know about us and would find out what I did for a living. Everyone had a story to share: someone in their immediate family or a friend they knew who was dealing with the challenge of dementia. Discussing this topic has become unfortunately more familiar to us all and more urgent.
I think it’s important as a caregiver to find ways to refresh myself. Being outdoors and traveling have always helped me, so it was a wonderful experience to finish the book, have it published, and then to take a such an incredible trip with my dear sister. Refreshing doesn’t really capture it!
Meet Megan Carnarius at Discovery 2016. Workshops with Ms. Carnarius include: Communication that Works, Is the Moon Full or is the Sun Going Down? An overview of human behavior related to dementia, and Companions on the Journey: Stages of Dementia. Her book, A Deeper Perspective on Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Practical Tools with Spiritual Insights will be available for purchase during a special book signing.