Father-daughter duo uses life experiences to co-author dementia book

Dementia affects , 1 in 10 Americans over 65, , new study finds.The study was conducted by researchers at Columbia University.Black participants in the study experienced dementia at a rate of 15%.compared to 11% of Hispanic participants and 9% of white participants.In addition to discovering that close to 10% of the U.S. population over the age of 65 is living with dementia, .... it found that nearly 22% of the population is living with a milder form or earlier stage of the disease

A new book co-authored by an Atlanta father and daughter tells the story of a family faced with a tough diagnosis – dementia. And although it’s a work of fiction, there is truth within the pages of the book and real emotions and experiences bound inside its covers.

“Heart Love to Head Love,” co-authored by 92-year-old Kenneth Crooks, Jr. and daughter Shelly Michael, is the story of a blended family’s journey after a heartbreaking diagnosis and takes readers on a journey as the family comes to terms with shifting dynamics, tough decisions, memory care issues, day-to-day survival and an uncertain future.

And at its core is a story about love.

The book is loosely based on Crooks and Michael’s own family experiences.

Kenneth Crooks Jr., left, and Shelly Michael, are a father and daughter who wrote about their experience with dementia.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

“A man and woman meet and get married, they enjoy a family life but they get divorced and they each remarry,” Michael said. “The two women in those marriages get diagnosed with Dementia. They end up getting diagnosed at the same time. And their lives come together again.”

Readers see the family’s struggles through the eyes of one character, the main caregiver, who Michael said is loosely based on her own experiences. But it’s another character who, surprisingly, brings everyone together.

“This book is first and foremost a story,” Shelly said. “It has rich characters and a true storyline. We wanted to make it entertaining, to give the characters dimension. But then it’s also about raising awareness for these issues. It’s for people who might have someone in their family that’s starting to show symptoms and they’re asking ‘What’s happening to mom or dad or grandma’.”

Michael said she and her dad hope the book might reinforce for others that dementia is not just a natural part of the aging process.

“It’s a disease that needs to be diagnosed,” she said. “It shouldn’t be ignored or written off as old age.”

As for the collaboration between father and daughter, Michael said that although her dad is 92 and blind in one eye, he is very helpful, gregarious and socially active.

“If this book was a tree,” she said, “then I provided the roots of the tree and he added the limbs and leaves. He filled it out.”

Atlanta readers will enjoy many of her father’s additions to the story, Michael said. Not only is the story set in Atlanta, but Crooks added several bits of Atlanta history to the book as well as mentions of locations such as Morehouse, Spelman and even some of his old buddies from back in the day.

The duo have been working on the book for about two years and finally had it published at the end of August.

“Heart Love to Head Love” is a story with a purpose, she said.

“I think the biggest thing we hear from people who’ve read the book is that there are so many issues that come up in the story that people don’t think about,” Michael said. “And we try to offer some tips about caregiving and letting people see real-life responses to some of these issues. Young people especially have no idea about aging and what happens if someone is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. But as people live longer, the population with dementia is growing. They may face that one day with someone they love.”

Copies of “Heart Love to Head Love” are available online at heartlovetoheadlove.com.

“Heart Love to Head Love” is a  coming-of-age story framed against the 
backdrop of managing loved ones with the onset of a debilitating neurological disease.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed