How to care for caregivers

Some 39% of adults serve as full- or part-time caregivers to a loved one struggling with a disease or disability. You almost certainly know one of them. But do you know what kind of strain they are under? And are you making any effort to support them?

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‘He may be naked, but I’m only looking at his wrinkles’

Friends can confer dignity upon dementia patients
It's the best expression of our humanity

As a culture we seem overly concerned, at least the baby boomers among us, with wrinkle prevention. We have the soft approach: creams, scrubs and lotions. We have the serious stuff: lasers, botox, fillers, surgery and some ominous sounding choices, like carboxytherapy, which might not raise eyebrows if listed among the service items of an auto repair shop. While I’m not criticizing or holding myself aloft from this obsession, I had an insight recently about wrinkles and how they might contribute to dignity.

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR ⎮November 10, 2015 

Caring caretakers

Sincere thanks to Mary McDaniel Cail for her excellent Nov. 8 column, ‘He may be naked, but I’m only looking at his wrinkles.’

Both of my parents developed dementia at the end of their lives, and over my years in ordained ministry, I have called on many parishioners who whipped off their clothes as soon as someone covered them up. That has never been a problem for me—dignity is a lot deeper than being covered. So now, being the older generation, I have some concerns for my own care when I can’t hold it together anymore.

The one thing for which I pray is to be cared for by caring people, as I’ve seen too many less-than-caring caretakers. I trust that part of their caring will be recognizing my dignity—clothed or unclothed.

I’ve never read a more professional and compassionate article on a sensitive and totally human subject.




Providing Support When a Caregiver Requires Care

Abstract: If you're putting in 168 hours of on-call time per week tending a person who is unable to manage without you, you're probably too drained to take the initiative to call a friend, and you're worried about coming across as too pessimistic or inviting a storm of unwanted advice if you do.   

Lifestyle, page 5


THE HUFFINGTON POST ⎮Articles & Related Links

'Invisible' Purple Communities

Mary McDaniel Cail | Posted 10.28.2014 | Fifty

Read More: Walk-to-End-Alzheimer'sAlzheimer's Disease, February 26 2014 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Dementia, Francis Collins, Alzheimer's Association, Health and Human Resources, Seth Rogen, Fifty News

What a different world it would be for people whose lives have been upended by Alzheimer's disease if they felt the support of everyone, friends and strangers alike.

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Solace With the Solstice

Mary McDaniel Cail | August 20, 2014 | Healthy Living

Read More: Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's Disease, Awareness, Comfort, Disease, Healthy Living,Solstice, Summer Solstice, Healthy Living News

We need months and days when we are faced with the reality of a hardship we might not share or fully understand. A few friends who join forces and give increments of time steadily can bring about meaningful relief in a situation that may provide little chance for it otherwise.

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(Most of these are reprinted in the blog rolls of and


What Can a Person With Late Stage Dementia Offer to a Friend?

I was giving a presentation on dementia and friendship last spring at one of the assisted living facilities in Charlottesville, where I live. A few attendants had set out dinner for the audience. Among this group, quietly eating turkey, was a woman and her father, who has advanced Alzheimer’s. ...

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A Simple 4-Step Equation for Helping a Friend in Pain

Cancer survivor Emily McDowell made national news this summer with a line of genuinely comforting “empathy” cards. Her cards debunk those easy-to-say platitudes that can be pleasing on coffee mugs and wall calendars but sound hollow when life is in a million pieces, and you don’t know how to ...

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Architect of Change Mary Cail is Throwing Dinner Parties to End World Hunger

I go to a community church in a rural Virginia neighborhood. Nothing fancy—we don’t even have an organ. It sits like an oversized shoebox of white clapboard on a hill scattered with old chestnut trees. There’s nothing of hellfire and brimstone in this church, where ripe chestnuts roll about in ...

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By Mary Cail / Tips for Transformation & Inspiration

How to Handle a Friend’s Tears

I ran into a friend recently. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we were going through the rituals of reconnecting. We hugged; we exchanged the usual volley of questions: How’s everything? What have you been up to? Her eyes, however, weren’t “usual.” They were brimming over with tears ...

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3 Ways to Help a Friend Through a Difficult Anniversary

I got married on October 3, 1992, in almost pitch darkness. I had always wanted an evening wedding with candlelight. Aside from the romantic reasons, people generally look better in candlelight. Earlier that day, I’d had a huffy little tête-à-tête over it with my childhood church choir ...

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5 Things To Remember When A Friend is Grieving

A caregiver friend of mine tells the story of being “uninvited” to a dinner party. Her husband had younger-onset Alzheimer’s, although few people were aware of his illness then. He enjoyed people and compensated for his problems by staying quiet for the most part. The hostess, though, learning ...

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Small Kindnesses and the Importance of Having a ‘Yes’ Friend

We sometimes forget that our small kindnesses really matter. A note, an afternoon walk, dinner—it can make a real difference in a friend’s problems. We’d do well to keep in mind Edward Everett Hale’s inspiring words, “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can ...

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The All-Weather Friend

I was not a caregiver to my late husband, not in the sense of someone who tends to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. My husband didn’t have dementia; he had a rare brain tumor, growing like a pointed tool into his brain stem. The nine-hour surgery to remove it seemed to remove, as well, ...

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Architects of Change Share 23 Important Lessons They Learned from Their Mothers

For this Mother’s Day, we asked our community of Architects of Change to answer this question: What’s the most important lesson you learned from your mother?

Read on as these AOC’s share the wisdom they gleaned from their moms:

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VIRGINIA FESTIVAL OF THE BOOK 2015Alzheimer's: A Crash Course for Friends and Relatives, by Mary Cail

Often Overlooked: How to Support Friends and Relatives Dealing with Alzheimer's Disease


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by Anne Lassere, Legal Aid for Seniors


RADFORD READS LITERARY FESTIVAL 2015 Alzheimer's: A Crash Course for Friends and Relatives, by Mary Cail

Reading and Recreation

Panel discussion with Dick Wall, author of Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening, Mary Cail, author of Alzheimer's: A Crash Course for Friends and Relatives, and Neil Sagebiel, author of Draw the Dunes: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World

Read the Roanoke Times Event Article


WSLS 10 ⎮INNOVATIONS IN CARE WORKSHOP ⎮Reported November 11, 2014

Innovations in Care Workshop Inspires Learning and Education


ROANOKE (WSLS) – Hundreds of people gathered in Roanoke to hear from several experts in the field of treating and supporting patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.  

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Mary CailKaren McNew, Channel 19 News Anchor, Sue Friedman, President, Alzheimer's Association CVWV



NOTE TO VISITORS:  Alzheimer's: A Crash Course for Friends and Relatives is an expanded, updated version of The All-Weather Friend's Guide to Alzheimer's Disease. The following stories and events use the first title.


FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY SERIES ⎮Fayetteville, NC ⎮October 9, 2012

Friends of the Library Host Author Visit

Up and Coming Weekly, by Erinn Crider

...The isolation in facing this disease can also be debilitating. If there is no one to relate to, situations often seem far bleaker than they are, but Dr. Mary Cail has written a book that counteracts this perception. It offers true accounts of people dealing with Alzheimer’s and advice concerning the care of these patients. Cail will be at the Headquarters Library Pate Room, which is located at 300 Maiden Ln., on Oct. 9, from 7 until 9 p.m., to discuss her book.

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"People found the true stories and straightforward advice in Dr. Mary Cail’s presentation and book to be very helpful and practical—not the clichéd platitudes they so often hear from well-meaning friends and family."

—Suzanne Frank, President, Friends of the Library


NBC29  WVIR TV⎮Reported by Dannika Lewis ⎮ May 30, 2012

Charlottesville Author Helps With Alzheimer's

Byrd Abbott remembers life being very different seven and a half years ago, before her husband Cort was diagnosed with a form of dementia.  The symptoms, which look like a mix of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, have turned her once successful financier husband into a completely co-dependent person in less than a decade...

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THE WASHINGTON POST ⎮ Reported by Whitney Fetterhoff ⎮ May 14, 2012

Advice for Patients and Caregivers

Cail discusses what can be done to help both the patient and you as the caregiver in the early, middle and later stages of the disease. You’ll learn what to do — from helping the patient learn to accept the disease initially and doing the remembering for him or her as the condition progresses. 

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Also published in The Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN: May 26, 2012



STEPHANIE'S HERO'S ⎮ Charlottesville Newsplex - CBS19 ABC16 FOX27 ⎮ Reported by Stephanie Satchell ⎮April 9, 2012

See "Many Hats Disclaimer" blog in the FUN category.


THE MIAMI HERALD ⎮Reported by Marcella McCarthy ⎮November 15, 2011

Caring for the Caregiver: New Book Gives Insight Into How to Be a Friend—to Both Alzheimer’s Patients and Those Caring for Them

see "miami herald" blog in the reflections category

see "miami herald" blog in the reflections category

After she cared for her husband who had a brain tumor, and after she failed multiple times to have a child, Mary Cail's life took an even darker turn. In 2000, in the middle of winter in Charlottesville, Va., while searching for her husband on hospital grounds, she found him, Dr. Wayne Cail — a Miami native who had attended Hialeah High — dead in the parking garage. Wayne had taken his own life.

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Also published in:
The Seattle Times, Seattle, WA: November 25, 2011
The Raleigh News and Observer, Raleigh, NC: 
The Modesto Bee, Modesto, CA: November 22, 2011
The Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, TX:  November 22, 2011
The Sun Herald, Gulfport, MI: November 22, 2011
Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, IL: November 22, 2011
The Fresno Bee, Fresno, CA: November 22, 2011
The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, CA: November 22, 2011
The Lexington Herald Leader, Lexington, KT: November 22, 2011
The Forum of Fargo Moorhead, Fargo, ND: November 27, 2011