She is the founder of Grand Family Planning LLC, and author of the book Dementia Sucks: A Caregiver’s Journey – With Lessons Learned. She was a primary caregiver to two parents who succumbed to dementia, as well as to her husband, a cancer survivor. She has a unique perspective on the issues surrounding caregiving and the challenges of staying healthy and productive under extreme pressure and stress.
Lawrence started Grand Family Planning in 2014, while her mother was in hospice. Realizing that millions would be facing the same struggles she had endured, she conceived of a team approach to coaching families through life transitions and health crises. During her time caring for her mother, she kept a journal, which formed the basis for her groundbreaking work, released by Post Hill Press in May of 2018. Her commitment to raising awareness of the growing family caregiving epidemic drives her business and her professional speaking and training programs.
For Lawrence, writing this book on a personal level felt very necessary. “I began to write about my experiences with my mother because for me, it’s a coping mechanism. It’s cathartic. I could be kinder to her once I flushed a lot of the daily anguish out of my system. As the journey progressed, I realized that what I learned might have value for others, so blogging the episodes was rewarding as well. I enjoyed hearing from people who could relate to my stories. And later on, I was grateful to have such detailed accounts of all that had happened. In the heat of crisis, it’s easy to get confused and forget things. The documentation of this phase of my life helped me to appreciate the experiences from a safer distance,” she said.
The response from fans, readers and critics has been overwhelmingly positive. “I am often surprised when someone I don’t know reaches out to tell me how much they enjoyed it. The only negative response has been from my brother (which I had predicted). I was sad about it, but I have come to realize that he would not have approved of anything I said about him that didn’t portray him as anything short of heroic. Trust me when I say that I could have revealed many worse things. I included what I did so readers would understand the kinds of family dynamics that come from these situations,” she said.
Lawrence started Grand Family Planning in 2014. “I was employed as a financial advisor during the last months of my mother’s life. I had learned a lot about comprehensive planning from life experience, and financial planning both as a consumer and a professional. When my mother had to be hospitalized, I took family leave from my job in order to be with her and advocate for her during her crises,” she said.
“As I was approaching the end of my family leave period, it became clear that I couldn’t return to my job, so I left on good terms,” she said. “My mother entered hospice and was fairly stable, so I had time to think about what was next. How could I leverage all I had learned to help others? Having a great team in place to help me with my mother, I thought about what I would have wanted when I first began caring for her. I started brainstorming with my colleagues, and Grand Family Planning was born.”
For people going through loss and grief, she offered the following advice: “Grief is extremely individual. It’s the price we pay for loving others. We have to give ourselves time and space for grief, and understand that it comes in many often unexpected forms,” she said.
She continued, “A lot of times, when we’re in crisis, we barrel through and don’t have time to process grief. Just ‘getting through’ an episode may lead us to believe we’ve already dealt with the grief. But there can be a delayed reaction. This happened to me. Selling my parents’ apartment in Florida was a horrific experience. I had to dispose of tons of stuff by myself or with little assistance. I had a week to clear out 50 years of accumulated items from 5 huge walk-in closets. I knew it was the right thing to do, and I got it done. But the grief didn’t hit me until almost two years later.”
“I was relating the incident to someone on the phone and began sobbing uncontrollably. I sought out a therapist, and I soon realized that I was finally experiencing a type of grief I hadn’t recognized. Selling my parents’ apartment, I had disintegrated the physical representation of the happiest time in my parents’ lives. I was grieving this loss. So I strongly advise those dealing with loss to seek help, and if anyone ever tells you to ‘just get over it,’ tell them to just get over you. They’re not worthy of your attention,” she elaborated.
She plans to keep talking about the subject matter of dementia especially with a large aging workforce across the world. “There is another book in the works, but it’s not about dementia. I am committed to enlightening the adult children of aging parents with an online course I built called the Family Care Survival Course, which is available by clicking here.”
“I am seeking opportunities to work with companies who are having difficulty attracting and retaining the best people. The vast majority of employees have aging parents and need to become more conversant in leveraging their benefits in order to be more productive at home and at work. I offer custom training, workshops and resources that provide great relief and empowerment,” she remarked.
Dementia Sucks: A Caregiver’s Journey – With Lessons Learned by Tracey S. Lawrence is available on Amazon by clicking here.
To learn more about author Tracey S. Lawrence, check out her official website.