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Orland Park Resident Authors Two Books for Those Caring for Loved Ones With Alzheimer's Disease

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

by Owens Media, Inc.

for Orland/Homer Neighbors Magazine

photos by Scott Duff


Patricia McClure-Chessier’s first book is a personal story.


“Losing A Hero to Alzheimer’s: The Story of Pearl,” published by Westbow Press in 2015, is a memoir of Patricia McClure-Chessier taking care of her mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.



The book describes Pearl’s progression through the stages of Alzheimer’s as she became more forgetful. She was forced to retire from her job and began to lose her social life. She eventually separated from her husband of more than 35 years, causing dissension in the family when she chose to live with her youngest daughter among her four children.


“My professional life caught up with my personal life when I became my mom’s caregiver,” McClure-Chessier said. “That’s when it hits home. Alzheimer’s affects the individual, the caregiver and the entire family system.”


The health care leader saw the effects of Alzheimer’s on a professional level working in health care for more than 25 years and on a personal level caring for her mother with her husband, Eric’s, support.


“Taking care of my mother was one of the hardest things I ever had to do,” she said. “My mother was my ‘shero,’ rock, confidante and friend and it was difficult for me to accept that she wasn’t the same person,” she recalled.


McClure-Chessier said that prior to being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, her mother was deeply rooted and involved in the community.


“She was outgoing and enjoyed social events but unfortunately, Alzheimer’s made her withdrawn,” she remembered. “This is why we had to be selective with the events we engaged her in. It was better for her to go to a concert with a familiar artist but not to a high school reunion.”


McClure-Chessier described not being able to have the same expectations of her mom.


“I was grieving the loss of our close relationship while serving as her caregiver. That was tough, and at times I felt depressed,” she said. “It took me time to stop taking things personally. I had to remind myself that the disease causes psychological changes which caused changes in her personality and behavior.”


McClure-Chessier said that once she accepted and acknowledged that her mother was different because of the disease, it became somewhat easier to accept.


“I had to understand that her behaviors were a form of communication,” she said. “Maybe her acting out was due to anxiety, fear, agitation and depression. As her caregiver, I had to dig deep to find out what she was trying to communicate.”


McClure-Chessier recalled how defensive her mom would become when someone asked, “Do you remember…” “That is a question we should all stay away from if we know the person has challenges with their memory,” she said.



As Pearl’s memory became progressively worse, she began to forget names, important dates and events – all symptoms of the disease and not deficits in her personality, her daughter noted.


“Some of my most challenging moments were learning how to live in the moment with my mom and not correct her when she brought up past events and discussed them as if they were current,” she remembered. “I lived at the moment with her and acknowledged how she felt at that very moment.”


McClure-Chessier said that she learned not to make too many changes in her mother’s environment because it can disrupt the person’s life and cause them to regress.


“I remember when I upgraded appliances and changed the carpet to a completely different color, it caused additional confusion for my mom,” she said, adding, “People with Alzheimer’s do better in an uncluttered, structured environment with a routine, consistency and minimal changes.”


McClure-Chessier’s husband, Eric, was her support system, sharing the care giving responsibilities with his wife. Eric Chessier is the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Church in Chicago, a veteran, and works in health care connecting veterans to mental health services at a Chicagoland hospital.


“We took turns dropping her off and picking her up from adult daycare,” she recalled. “After approximately three years of my mother living with us, my husband and I began to notice Mom’s condition was declining and she began to exhibit behaviors that placed the family’s safety in jeopardy,” adding that cooking, wandering and leaving the house in the middle of the night were some of the concerns.


“My mom experienced sundowning, which also took a toll on the family,” she recalled, noting that her mom became non-compliant with taking medications and performing active daily living skills. It became obvious that McClure-Chessier’s mother needed a higher level of care because they couldn’t keep her safe.


“I felt hopeless, angry and guilty because I was faced with the tough decision of placing my mother in a nursing home because we couldn’t keep her safe,” she said. “As time went on, I forgave myself because the question becomes, ‘Can you keep your loved one safe?’ and if you cannot, it is in their best interest to place them in the appropriate level of care.”


After McClure-Chessier’s mother was placed in a nursing home, she became an active member of her mother’s care team.


“I really appreciated being a part of her care team because I was able to share information that was pivotal in the development of her care plan,” she said.

On December 25, 2004, McClure-Chessier’s mother passed away at the age of 69 due to complications of Alzheimer’s. “Every Christmas after that was always tough for me because she passed away on Christmas morning, which was exactly one day before her 70th birthday,” she said.


McClure-Chessier dealt with the grief from her mom’s death by becoming an advocate for families dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, frequently speaking to groups, sharing her firsthand experience with Alzheimer’s Disease.


Her conversations with audiences were the impetus for her second book, “A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Nine Key Principles,” published be Westbow Press in 2019.


“My second book offers nine key principles when caring for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” she said. “This book prepares the future caregiver for their journey and experienced caregivers will find additional strategies to help prevent burn out and gain additional insight for handling challenging situations.”


“A Caregiver’s Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia” offers a unique perspective on how to be effective as a caregiver with a limited support system, helping the caregiver have a more rewarding experience. The book includes techniques for a number of situations including patients who are non-compliant with active daily living skills or who exhibit unwelcome behaviors.


“In the book, I talk about how to appropriately respond to different situations,” she said. “It’s my hope that anyone who reads this book will be able to identify the stages of Alzheimer’s and develop a new perspective for how to respond to a loved one suffering from this illness. Caregivers must practice patience and should avoid power struggles with their loved ones.”


Both of McClure-Chessier’s books are available at West Bow Press, on Amazon, and on Barnes and Noble online and in the Orland Park store.


“Losing A Hero to Alzheimer’s: The Story of Pearl,” received the first place award in the Senior/Aging Category at the 2017 Royal Dragon Fly Book Awards. “A Caregiver’s Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Nine Key Principles” received the same first place award in 2021. And, Pearl’s story is now being adapted to film.


“It was my hope and dream that my journey as my mother’s caregiver be shared with the world to educate families and give hope to those impacted by this grueling disease,” McClure-Chessier said.


McClure-Chessier is the CEO of a behavioral health care hospital in Chicago and is the president and founder of T.A.A.D., LLC (Trish Against Alzheimer’s and Dementia). She also chairs the Illinois Women Conquer Alzheimer’s (IWCA), an entity of the Alzheimer’s Association.


She and her husband have lived in Orland Park since 2018 with their children.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to encourage someone who is on the journey of taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s but most importantly, helping families recognize that there is life to be lived beyond the diagnosis.”


Further information about McClure-Chessier’s programs is available at www.ta-ad.com and via email at pmcclurechessier@yahoo.com.


Know an interesting person in the Orland Park, Tinley Park or Homer Glen area? Let us know! Send story suggestions to owensmediainc@gmail.com.








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