Untangling End of Life Issues with Gerda Saunders artwork
AlzAuthors: Untangling Alzheimer's & Dementia

Untangling End of Life Issues with Gerda Saunders

  • S3E13
  • 1:11:38
  • March 1st 2021

Today’s guest is Gerda Saunders, author of the mesmerizing memoir Memory’s Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia, in which she describes in great detail her descent into cerebral microvascular disease, a precursor to dementia. A gifted writer, she is also a woman of many talents and has had a remarkable career in higher education.

She grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a farmer in a family of six children. In spite of her family’s lack of resources, she succeeded in earning a B.S. in Math and Chemistry from the University of Pretoria. She then worked as a research scientist at the South African Atomic Energy Board for three years and left that to become a teacher. She taught Science and Math at Kempton Park (Afrikaans) High School, and Math and Physics at the Kempton Park Technical Institute. In 1984, she emigrated to the United States and settled in Utah with her husband Peter and their two children. 

She continued her education at the University of Utah and earned a PhD in English while teaching Business and Creative Writing. After graduation, she worked for seven years in the business world as a technical writer and program manager. In 2001, she became the Associate Director of Gender Studies at the University of Utah. In addition to her administrative role, she taught classes in gender studies and English Literature. 

In 2002, SMU Press published her first book, Blessings on the Sheep Dog, a collection of stories about which Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee said, "With cool intelligence, laconic wit, and deep feeling, Saunders explores the moral chaos of South Africa and the pain of a new generation of...exiles." 

In this episode we discuss what led to her seeking a diagnosis for the peculiar and worrisome behaviors that surfaced at the age of 61, how she’s lived joyously for almost a decade with the d-word, and her carefully crafted end-of-life plan.

Start reading Memory’s Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia now! https://amzn.to/2LdZuQ8

Note: We are an Amazon Associate and may receive a small commission from book sales.

Read Gerda’s post on AlzAuthors: https://alzauthors.com/2017/10/31/meet-gerda-saunders-author-of-memorys-last-breath/

Read Gerda’s article in Slate: My Dementia - Telling who I am before I forget 


Connect with Gerda Saunders:

Website: https://www.gerdasaunders.com/

Blog: https://www.gerdasaunders.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gerda.saunders

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16645330.Gerda_Saunders

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gerda-saunders-a85381100/detail/recent-activity/shares/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gerdasaunders/my-dementia-my-fashion/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GerdaMSaunders

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Thank you for listening.

AlzAuthors: Untangling Alzheimer's & Dementia

Welcome to the AlzAuthors podcast! We’re so glad you found us. We are the global community of authors writing about Alzheimer's and dementia from personal experience to light the way for others. Join us each week as one of our authors shares their dementia journey, revealing intimate details and painfully obtained knowledge to help others currently on this path. We hope our stories offer comfort and support as we strive to break the silence and stigma surrounding a dementia diagnosis. May one of our authors speak to your experience. For more info please visit https://alzauthors.com.

Meet Our Hosts

Marianne Sciucco avatar
Marianne Sciucco
Podcast Producer and Host

Marianne Sciucco is a registered nurse, dementia daughter, and author of the novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, based on a couple she met through her work. It is a testament to the power of love in the face of this heart-wrenching disease. Marianne cared for hundreds of dementia patients over a 20+-year nursing career. She provided care to her stepfather during his dementia journey, and witnessed the painful decline of four beloved aunts to the disease. She's a founding member of AlzAuthors, sits on the Board, and is a director and manager. She can talk about AlzAuthors all day.

Christy Byrne Yates avatar
Christy Byrne Yates
Co-host and Producer

Christy Byrne Yates is a Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP), retired school psychologist, author, speaker and coach/consultant. Her book, Building a Legacy of Love: Thriving in the Sandwich Generation recounts her journey as a working mother of two who also managed the care of her parents, both of whom had some form of dementia. Combining her lived experience with her professional expertise in human development, wellness and a strengths based approach to finding solutions, Christy develops content, workshops and coaching to support Sandwiched families. She incorporates meditation, mindfulness and other evidence based mind/body practices into her work. She’s worked with care communities, financial professionals, estate planners and employers. Christy has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and graduate credentials in both education and school psychology.

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AlzAuthors is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization totally reliant on donations to do what we do. The podcast is one way we provide knowledge, comfort, and support to busy caregivers desperate for information. Your generosity will help us to continue our mission to lift the silence and stigma that often accompanies a dementia diagnosis. Please consider making a donation. Thank you.