Untangling End of Life Issues with Gerda Saunders

Untangling Alzheimer’s & Dementia, an AlzAuthors Podcast

Untangling End of Life Issues with Gerda Saunders

March 1, 2021

Untangling End of Life Issues with Gerda Saunders

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!

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

Read Gerda’s post on AlzAuthors:

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

Connect with Gerda Saunders:








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