In 2001, Jade Angelica's mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and thus began a surprising and transformative journey for both mother and daughter. From the early stages of the disease until her mother died, Angelica was dedicated to her mother's care, and in that time she learned a lot about grief, relationship, the nature of selfhood, and the unexpected gifts of Alzheimer's Disease. She also found a purpose and embarked on her life's work—to teach that people with Alzheimer's can have relationships, meaningful lives, joy, and growth. Where Two Worlds Touch is both a spiritual memoir and a pastoral guide for those who love someone with Alzheimer's. It offers heartfelt wisdom on preserving connection, self-care, and staying open to the possibility of grace.
The message for caregivers in Where Two Worlds Touch is about the power and potential of true encounter. The message is related through the endearing and enlightening meetings I experienced with Mom, but this book is about more than our relationship. It's about meeting persons with Alzheimer's and falling into love and respect for them. It's about meeting caregivers who have learned to bear the unbearable, who demonstrate that it's okay—even desirable—to commit to caregiving even if it means our lives must change. It's about recognizing our limits as individuals and the failure of science to cure this disease. It's about accepting our frustrations and suffering, and then opening our hearts to hope and healing as we face a degenerative terminal disease. It's about the tender responsibility of becoming the legal guardian for a person who is completely helpless, and then struggling with awesome decisions about life and death. It's about grappling with the realities of Alzheimer's disease and the impact of these realities on families and science. It's about caregivers telling our stories and meeting scientists who will listen and help us change the world of Alzheimer's care. It's about seeing our selves and our humanity—our feelings, thoughts, reactions, and beliefs—through the lens of Alzheimer's. And it's about discovering life-giving possibilities in every corner of life.
Table Of Contents:
IN THE BEGINNING
Accepting and Improvising
Waiting and Preparing
INTO THE HEART OF ALZHEIMER'S
Healing When There Is No Cure
The Value and Beauty of Every Person
Into Our Hands
Points of Surrender
The Dance of Yes and No
The Present Moment
The Gifts of Alzheimer's
BELIEVING IN RELATIONSHIP
The Most Important Memories
The Last Word
LOOKING BACK, WALKING ON
Forgetting, Forgiving, Reconciling
Companionship on the Journey
RESOURCES FOR CAREGIVERS
Facts about Alzheimer's and Dementia
For Further Reading
Very few writers possess the wit and spunk of Jade Angelica, especially combined with an uncanny insight into the art of giving care. Where Two Worlds Touch is filled with pathos, anger, joy, and hope. Information about the science and medical treatment of Alzheimer's disease is readily available, but caregivers reaching for spiritual guidance have largely been left on their own. Angelica offers much-needed guidance on topics like "Healing When There Is No Cure," "Redefining Survival," and "Forgetting, Forgiving, and Reconciling." Angelica's life story as an estranged daughter, a Harvard theological student, and eventually the primary caregiver for her mom has led her to a place where she can hold the hands of other caregivers and share her hopeful credo, that two worlds can indeed touch, even if one world is altered by distance and disease. I have decided to gift each of my support group members with a copy of Where Two Worlds Touch.
—Joanne Koenig Coste, author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's: A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease
Every chaplain, theologian, caregiver, and healthcare professional can find profound truth captured on each page of Where Two Worlds Touch. Jade Angelica builds from the narrative of her experience as a caregiver and invites the reader to journey with her into the highly significant theo-philosophical literature that has arisen in the last decade around the experience of the deeply forgetful and those who care for them. The reader will find that there is a place for love and hope and continuing selfhood in an experience that is more than just half-full if we can see it rightly. This is a beautiful book and the deepest I have read on the topic.
—Stephen G. Post, author, The Moral Challenge of Alzheimer Disease: Ethical Issues from Diagnosis to Dying
I am so very impressed by this exceptionally well-written and well-researched book. Jade Angelica deserves rave reviews for her unique balance of compassion, insight, and scientific support on a very complex issue. I strongly recommend Where Two Worlds Touch for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer's dementia.
—Robert A. Stern, Clinical Core Director, Boston University Alzheimer's Disease Center, Boston University School of Medicine
Where Two Worlds Touch is an accessible and compassionate guide to understanding and loving someone with Alzheimer's. Through her own personal experience and spiritual training, Jade Angelica offers a shift in perspective about Alzheimer's that shines a loving light on what is still there instead of what is lost. This is the book I wished for when my grandmother had Alzheimer's.
—Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author, Still Alice
Where Two Worlds Touch is a perfect blend of sacred/spiritual and everyday insight for caregivers. Angelica bravely describes her relationship with her mother pre-dementia, helping readers to understand that they can have meaningful relationships with loved ones who have Alzheimer's, even when those relationships have been fraught with difficulty in the past. The book offers practical tools, such as improvisational techniques, and spiritual reflection to help readers transform the lives of people with dementia and their own lives as well. Angelica helps care partners to approach people with dementia in a creative way that does not focus on what the person cannot do. Instead, the focus is on entering into the person's reality, which often leaves us surprised, excited, and humbled at the abilities and memories that remain.
—Melanie Chavin, Vice President of Program Services, Alzheimer's Association, Greater Illinois Chapter
Where Two Worlds Touch is a timely manifesto that will forever change the way our society cares for individuals with dementia. This is a must-read book for all caretakers of patients with Alzheimer's disease. Angelica is a prescient observer of the human condition and has done a wonderful job of providing rich anecdotes, clear prose, and novel strategies that really work. Given that there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease, it is imperative that our society develop and follow a humane standard of care for these individuals. Where Two Worlds Touch provides a blueprint for how we can ameliorate the suffering and dramatically improve the quality of life for Alzheimer's patients.
—Justin Feinstein, Clinical Neuropsychologist, Laureate Institute for Brain Research
Any caregiver who has felt duty-bound to support a spouse, parent, or other loved one with Alzheimer's disease will find a path to compassionate care as they follow Jade Angelica's personal transformation from a wounded, distant daughter to her mother's loving companion in Where Two Worlds Touch. Embedded in wisdom from a variety of spiritual traditions, Jade's inspirational story provides a new and hopeful way for caregivers to approach the daily challenges of Alzheimer's disease and connect meaningfully with loved ones.
—Cordula Dick-Muehlke, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Division of Geriatrics, University of California, Irvine School of Medicine
Jade Angelica has written an engaging and reflective book that is both personal and political. The commandment to honor your parent is not always easy. Angelica's focus on the care of people with Alzheimer's highlights this and brings out the often unspoken challenges of the practical, emotional, moral, and spiritual work we need to do to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.
—Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Spiritual Care Director, Hebrew SeniorLife, Boston
Jade Angelica is a sojourner from the land of Alzheimer's bearing witness that all there is not lost. Her testimony is even more outrageous: We can experience in that far country depths of being alive, and in love, that the worlds of perfect health may never understand. Where Two Worlds Touch is a treasure chest of spiritual gems, the boon of an adventure into and out of the valley of the shadow of death. If you or someone you love are in the land of Alzheimer's, read this spirited-inspired travel log and find your way home.
—Michael Verde, Founder and Director, Memory Bridge
Where Two Worlds Touch is one of the finest accounts of the spiritual journey of Alzheimer's, for both the caregiver and care recipient, that I've read. Jade Angelica gives us the gift of an honest, reflective account of journeying through Alzheimer's with her mom. Jade brings to the journey and to the telling of it the fruit of years of theological study and reflection, meditative practice, improvisational theater techniques, spiritual direction, and a pastoral heart. It was a journey fraught with personal, emotional, and spiritual difficulties, but it was in the crucible of Alzheimer's disease where her relationship with her mom was transformed and healed. As she notes in the introduction, this book may not be comforting or helpful for everyone. But for those who want to reframe Alzheimer's to focus on the gifts that remain and who want to be stretched in mind, heart, and spirit—this is the book to read.
—Nancy Gordon, Director, California Lutheran Homes Center for Spirituality and Aging
Jade Angelica has given a blessed gift to all persons whose lives are touched by Alzheimer's or other dementias (and that is all of us)! Wise and witty, Where Two Worlds Touch teaches us to see the whole person who is still very much present within the reality of progressive memory loss. Dementia cannot be cured, but Angelica teaches us that life can remain good, filled with love and laughter, even as cognitive ability declines.
—John T. McFadden, co-author, Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship and Flourishing Communities
This tender and fiercely challenging account of a daughter's encounter with her mother's journey into Alzheimer's disease takes issue with our cultural consensus around the tragedy of dementia. By refusing to collude in her mother's progressive loss of personhood, the author discovers a deep path of engagement, forgiveness, and growth, including startling moments of joy and the spontaneous flow of love. Jade Angelica's intensely personal story becomes translucent to the universal yearning and wisdom of compassion, illuminating what it might mean for any of us to give, and receive, care. Through this experience, she demonstrates that the opportunity to serve and advocate for a dependent loved one can be as much a gift and a blessing as it is also a burden. Her testimony calls into question our collective denial of our continuing connection to our warehoused elders, and lifts up their humanity as a summoning to authentic presence and spiritual discovery.
—Kendyl Gibbons, Unitarian Universalist minister
This book, in recounting one mother and daughter's poignant caresharing journey into Alzheimer's disease, reflects on the spiritual dimensions of struggle, suffering, and companioning. The author offers wise counsel and practical ideas in rethinking the carer role, sharing through improvisation, and effectively advocating for the personhood of the cared for. Ways to transform the carer role are offered. Spiritual themes addressed throughout the book offer unique and important perspectives on independence and quality of life for both care partners. The book is a first-person account of a journey, yet it speaks to universal concerns. It is a thoughtful and hopeful addition to the literature about dementia and caregiving.
—Marty Richards, author, Caresharing: A Reciprocal Approach to Caregiving and Care Receiving in the Complexities of Aging, Illness or Disability
Jade Angelica captures the essence of being an Alzheimer's care partner. She transforms a task frequently perceived as complex, difficult, and discouraging, into one that is a joyful, rewarding experience for both partners. By being fully present and "saying yes" to her partner's reality, she accepts and validates her partner's persona and joyfully joins her in the world of dementia. Where Two Worlds Touch is a practical and spiritual guide for all who choose to travel the journey through Alzheimer's disease together.
—Charles J Farrell, President, Carolyn L Farrell Foundation for Brain Health
Grounded in research and inspired by poetry, spiritual insight, and personal reflection, this testimony to the transforming power of love touches at the root of what makes us human—the ability to maintain relationship despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Jade Angelica's indomitable spirit uses every means available to her creative imagination to seek and eventually find a means to heal and be healed through relationship with her mother, who is succumbing to the diminishments of Alzheimer's Disease. This is spiritual direction at its best—alert to Divine guidance while attending to present-moment reality. Ms. Angelica allows knowledge to remain in the background as she deftly gains insight into the nuanced communication of her slowly diminishing mother. Warmly, open-heartedly, keenly, perseveringly, their relationship yields to mutual transformation. This is a testimony to the power of love at work in those who willingly receive. Thank you to Jade Angelica for this witness to the power of the human spirit to prevail in the midst of chaos, darkness, and confusion—a true story of the reality of resurrection for those vulnerable enough to see.
—Martha L. Campbell, Former Director, Spiritual Guidance Program, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, Washington, DC
Jade Angelica has written an intensely personal yet also universally applicable treatment of Alzheimer's disease that is real, honest, and wise. Blending sound research with helpful and often moving accounts of caring (in every sense of the word) for those with Alzheimer's, her writing is clear and engaging and provides a great deal of practical advice.
—Stephen Sapp, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
A creative and compassionate Unitarian Universalist, Jade Angelica draws on wisdom from the world's religious traditions in a way that is respectful of the integrity of each tradition and deeply relevant to the ethic of care she develops in this important book.
—Jennifer Peace, Co-Director of the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE), Andover Newton Theological School
Inspiring! Angelica's day-to-day journey with her Mom through Alzheimer's to death is a deeply informative story of caring and growing in the process. Through the sharing of her story she makes a profound case for the need to be with and for another who suffers from the disease. She also gives many clues about how to do it. I suggest that it's a "must read" for anyone who has a family member or friend with Alzheimer's, and for everyone who works with Alzheimer's patients as a nurse, an aide, or volunteer.
—Janaan Manternach, co-author, Alzheimer's Disease: A Handbook for Caregivers, Family and Friends