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Woman self-publishes her father’s book about her parents’ journey with her mother’s dementia

Shirley Parsons and Cecil Parsons at Pleasant View Towers on Dec. 29, 2014, their 60th wedding anniversary. Both have since died, but their daughter, Debra Nagle, has self-published Cecil’s fourth and final book, “A Road Taken: A Journey Through Dementia,” a heartwarming story about their lives after Shirley was diagnosed with the disease.
Shirley Parsons and Cecil Parsons at Pleasant View Towers on Dec. 29, 2014, their 60th wedding anniversary. Both have since died, but their daughter, Debra Nagle, has self-published Cecil’s fourth and final book, “A Road Taken: A Journey Through Dementia,” a heartwarming story about their lives after Shirley was diagnosed with the disease. - Contributed

‘It’s a book of hope and love’

Debra Nagle isn’t sure when her father began writing his fourth and final book — before or after her mother died in February 2015.

But she was determined to share it with the world, just as he wanted it.

Before Cecil H. Parsons died last summer, he finished writing, “A Road Taken: A Journey Through Dementia,” a heartwarming story of the journey taken by him and his wife, Shirley, after she was diagnosed with the disease.

Nagle has self-published the book through Bounty Print.

“It’s Dad’s legacy. He had it done and I couldn’t let it sit. There was just no way,” said Nagle, who noted her father had everything arranged for the book, including the cover, which features the purple angel — the global symbol for dementia — and the various photos in the book.

“As expensive as this undertaking is, I think it’s the right thing to do.”

It’s not a topic that’s going to appeal to a huge market, she said, but added the book will help many people who have been touched by some form of dementia.

Parsons uses character names Eliza and Hayward to tell his own story.

“It’s a love story about my parents and my Dad’s determination to learn as much as he could about the disease and how best to care for my Mom … but there’s more to it.

“It’s a book of hope and love.”

Debra Nagle with her father, Cecil H. Parsons, in March 2017, four months before he died. Nagle has self-published Parsons’ book, “A Road Taken: A Journey Through Dementia.”
Debra Nagle with her father, Cecil H. Parsons, in March 2017, four months before he died. Nagle has self-published Parsons’ book, “A Road Taken: A Journey Through Dementia.”

The book includes helpful information about the disease. Chapter 3 begins with “Truths worth knowing,” and lists of warning signs of dementia. Interwoven throughout the pages are other topics such as the positive effects of music therapy and spirituality.

There are a few themes that resonate in the book.

One is the importance of treating people with dementia and Alzheimer’s with care and respect.

“Whether you’re a family caregiver or professional caregiver (nurse, doctor or personal care attendant), you can never be too good to people with dementia. There is some light there sometimes,” Nagle said.

“Sometimes you might think there’s nothing there but a shell sitting there in a chair, but someone walks by with a guitar and they light up — even before they start playing …

“We have to talk to these people with dementia like they understand because sometimes they do. In the book, Dad quotes a researcher, who said, ‘These people may not remember what they had for breakfast, but they remember how you made them feel.’”

The other theme is the importance of expressing gratitude to the professionals who care for people with dementia. There’s also a message for the government — to provide more resources for their care.

“This is a situation in which it’s never going to get better. It’s only going to get a larger and larger problem,” said Nagle, who urges readers to not skip the preface and the foreword, written by the book’s editor and Parsons’ long-time friend, Robert Dawe.

“It’s already a big problem when you have such a huge waiting list for people to get into homes.”

Parsons also expresses the guilt he felt when, after consultation with professionals, he made the heart-wrenching decision to have the love of his life placed in a long-term care facility.

“He had the frustration of being separated from her, because they’d been together so long and were so in love,” Nagle said.

However, she stresses that the book is not a sad story.

“My Dad doesn’t do criticism and he doesn’t do sad,” said Nagle, whose father also wrote, “Effie’s Angels” (2002), “On My Way” (2005) and “Molded By the Sea” (2008). “He manages to find the hope, the love and the joy in whatever he writes and that comes through in the book.”

When asked why it was so important to get her father’s final book published, Nagle couldn’t help but become emotional.

After a slight pause to collect herself, she said, “Dad thought this book would be very helpful to people because they would know that they weren’t going down this path alone.

“So many people don’t know where to turn. They live with so much stress,” added Nagle, who points to the many people who helped him deal with the stress, including an informal support group with other family members of residents at the home.

“He thought it was very, very important for the message to get out to everybody and hopefully help others,” she said.

Nagle, who grew up in Conception Bay South and has lived in Mississauga for the last 25 years, will return to her hometown for the book launch, which is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. Tuesday at the C.B.S. Lions Club. The event is open to the public.

A portion of the book’s sales at the launch with go to the Alzheimer’s Society.

rosie.mullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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