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Introducing TTN Featured Author: Robyn Yale
September 10, 2015
introducing ttn featured author
Robyn YaleWe sat down with TTN Featured Author Robyn Yale as she discussed her influcences and inspiration for her latest book Developing Support Groups for Indviduals with Early-Stage Alzheimer's Disease: Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation!
TTN: What inspired you to write your most recent book?
ROBYN YALE: I've been a clinical social worker in the Alzheimer's field for many years, and within that have specialized in working with people who are in the early stages of the disease. My first book (Developing Support Groups for People with Early-Stage Alzheimer's Disease: Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation) pioneered the "early stage support group", which allows people with Alzheimer's to better understand and cope with it by doing the same things other people do in any other support group -- learning about the disease and reaching out to one another. The model was replicated nationally and internationally and over time, the service became widely available.
Several years ago, I decided to retire. I joined my local TTN chapter, served on their steering committee, and did some other volunteer activities that were completely different from my previous work. After a year of retirement I was asked by the Alzheimer's Association to help develop an individual counseling program for people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Once again, this is a service that needs to be available and isn't. Most professionals even in the Alzheimer's field aren't trained in this and don't provide it; yet there are so many people in need of it, and capable of benefitting from it. Once again, it is a way to help people deal with the emotional adjustment, practical coping needs and lifestyle challenges they face at this point in time; while they can do so. My work on this project resulted in my second book (Counseling People with Early-Stage Alzheimer's Disease: A Powerful Process of Transformation), and I'm hoping that this service too will become widely implemented.
In both books, my efforts have been grounded in a "social change" focus, in terms of raising awareness within my field and the larger society about the capabilities of people with Alzheimer's -- who can continue living as good a life as possible for as long as possible -- when they have the opportunity to talk about what is happening to them. Counseling enables people to work through the grief and losses they face to an acceptance that helps them cope with the illness. They can then seek to balance acknowledging the trauma of having this condition and all they need to do about it with focusing on the wellness that remains in the early stage. This allows them to look at new opportunities for activity, relationships, and purpose in their lives, rather than isolate and think that life is over.
I've been guided, taught and inspired by the people I've worked with every step of the way. For TTN women, the message might be: One can think that they've finished their life's work, and then find they are called to do something else that re-ignites their passion, propelling them to create and contribute something new. Transitions take many forms, and the very word implies that things are always changing!
TTN: How did your transition impact the topics you feel drawn to write about?
ROBYN YALE: Each person with early-stage Alzheimer's has a different pace and process of acceptance of what they are facing, as would you or I. It is very rewarding to see people blossom in transformation though, as the book's title describes. Many are able to go from feeling that there is nothing left for them to saying things like, "I'm still here", "I still matter", or "I may need a little extra time or help but I can still be involved in that". I've seen people form strong partnerships with family members, develop new friendships and talents through early-stage programs, and find ways to contribute to their communities or to the Alzheimer's field through volunteer work. Doors -- and possibilities -- can open rather than close when someone has guidance and support. Their remaining capabilities can be pointed out and built upon, so that the focus is not only on their limitations and what is no longer possible.
As we go through life, we all face transitions and losses we have to make our way through. My books build on the themes of hope and resilience, as they provide a framework for exploring challenges, setting goals, and living as full and meaningful a life as possible for as long as possible. One reviewer recommended the second book "not only to professionals, but to caregivers and anyone interested in navigating life's changes successfully...as it provides a blueprint for turning life's corners with optimal support and wisdom".
TTN: What was your favorite part of the writing process?
ROBYN YALE: It's very exciting to have the creative process unfold, in all its mystery! And for me, this was a further evolution of my earlier body of work. It was gratifying to develop another innovative approach that chips away at stigma and stereotypes about Alzheimer's.
Also, I kept a long list of interesting/inspiring words and phrases that occurred to me, and then hunted for places to insert them - that was kind of fun. Of course, writing is also very hard work!
TTN: Do you have any tips for TTN members who are interested in writing their first book?
ROBYN YALE: I would say, follow your passion. Believe in your capabilities. Consider your writing a "practice" and be consistent in your effort -- however much or little you do at one time, do it steadily. Have balance and pleasure in your life, to offset the intensity. Develop a good support system. And take good care of yourself during the process.