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November 1, 2016 (RICHMOND, VA): How do you become a senior caregiver? J. Keith McMullin will tell you it begins by answering the phone. When he got the call, his mother had been admitted to the emergency room. What followed was an odyssey through his mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia and his role as her primary caregiver, while working full-time in disease prevention and raising a young family. Eventually following his mother’s death from Alzheimer’s disease, he began his second journey—writing about those life-changing experiences.

After writing and rewriting in the wee hours for two years, McMullin had his first book—Missing Mary. He also had his first endorsement from the nation’s leading expert on Alzheimer’s dementia, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine physician and professor Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H., author of the seminal work The 36-Hour Day. Dr. Rabins recommended Missing Mary to caregivers as “A heartfelt depiction of one family’s journey through Alzheimer’s disease, filled with many practical tips to make things better.”

As more endorsements and “buzz” have continued to build about Missing Mary [print ISBN: 978-0-9977478-3-6 and], McMullin observes, “Readers expect to cry about the tragedy called Alzheimer’s disease, but they are surprised when they find themselves laughing. For instance, my Southern mother’s personal mantra was “fashion is always first.” But women dealing with the confusion of dementia can manage and keep track of just one pocketbook. Unbelievably, my son and I had to help Miss Mary go through some hundred pocketbooks in the cedar closet, bags collected over a lifetime of shopping. She could keep only one. No matter how fabulous the crocodile clutch, it had to go. Welcome to caregiving.”

McMullin’s mother, known as Miss Mary, was a mathematician and one of the first women faculty members at the University of Richmond for nearly twenty years. “With a genius IQ, she was the only person I ever knew who triple majored in college. A force of energy, she was an accomplished athlete, champion golfer and bridge player, and most importantly, an unforgettable mom. But the reality is Alzheimer’s takes away much of what makes you uniquely you. The memoir, to me, is about remembering what made her special, along with sharing what caregiving is really like. More and more, caregivers look like me—unlikely sons, brothers and grandsons.”

McMullin’s mother comes alive on every page. He says, “I was surprised and honored for my memoir to receive praise by Dr. Rabins. His book is the manual I always recommend to Alzheimer’s caregivers. My book on dementia includes practical tips, but it’s much more focused on putting a human face on the patient and caregiver experience.”

Keith McMullin has led health care program development, marketing and sales for more than twenty years. He has worked for some of the most trusted brands in health care—Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Bon Secours Health System. Even before Missing Mary was published for the public, health care groups were inquiring about book orders and speaking engagements. The author says, “I wrote every night for a year and then re-wrote every night for a year with editor Erica Orloff. I’ve given draft copies of the book to friends with family members who have been recently diagnosed. One reader said she was ‘gobsmacked.’ I nervously asked for clarification if that meant good or bad. She said, ‘All good. I stayed up late reading, crying, laughing and learning about this disease.’ It’s gratifying to be able to help others on this long strange trip no one ever wanted to take.”

Now that his mother is gone, McMullin says, “I like that she is still alive on the page. We can celebrate her life, and not just remember her struggle against a cruel disease. In her memory, a portion of the proceeds of the book will benefit Bon Secours Health System hospice, which provides compassionate care to those at end-of-life. The book is really a testament to Miss Mary—a toast to her remarkable life.” Or as she puts it in the pages of the book, “Make mine a double, Pussycat.”

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Ten Story Ideas

  • National Alzheimer’s Awareness month is November to increase awareness of the prevalence of dementia. In fact, every 4 seconds a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease worldwide.
  • There are an estimated 15,000,000 caregivers for people with dementia in the United States. Nearly half of caregivers are men in 2016.
  • Caregiving when you can’t quit the day job
  • The caregiver job: doctor, lawyer, Indian chief (and all other duties as assigned)
  • Did God, our good shepherd, get dementia and wander off?
  • The elephants in the room: the impact of Alzheimer’s on family relationships
  • The Three D’s: 1) Alzheimer’s disease, 2) dementia and 3) delirium
  • Alzheimer’s emotional guarantee: guilt, grief, fear and laugh-out-loud comedy
  • Are you my mother? Communicating with mom when she can’t say your name
  • Norman Rockwell never painted this all-American scene: Grandma and Grandpa are both dieing in slow motion of Alzheimer’s disease


“A heartfelt depiction of one family’s journey through Alzheimer’s disease, filled with many practical tips to make things better.” – Peter V. Rabins, MD, MPH, author of The 36-Hour Day and founding director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

“Miss Mary nearly charmed herself out of Alzheimer’s, or as Keith McMullin says, Oldzheimerz. Near the end, he asks: “How much of life turns on a whisper, such as ‘I love you’ or ‘Good-bye?'” I typed and printed this sentence. It sits on my desk as a poignant reminder to pay attention to the ones I love.” – Rosemary Rawlins, author of Learning by Accident: A Caregiver’s True Story of Fear, Family, and Hope

“Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease and one I know first-hand as a nurse and daughter. Between the tears and laughs, Missing Mary achieves the right balance to help caregivers and loved ones deal with their newfound reality.”  – Francine Barr, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CEO of St. Mary’s Hospital, Bon Secours Health System

“As only a Southern storyteller could do, McMullin masterfully combines the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s disease with laugh-out-loud entertainment and practical insights. Missing Mary is a must-read for caregivers.”Tom Edwards, designer for Spotify

“Missing Mary is a must-read for everyone. It should not be limited to only medical and nursing professionals.” – Ken White, PhD, Associate Dean of University of Virginia School of Nursing