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Gaining Direction from a Loved One’s Illness

Nancy Linday’s Story

by Al Siebert, PhD

Author of The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure and Bounce Back From Setbacks (2006 Independent Publisher’s Best Self-Help book), and best seller The Survivor Personality: Why Some People Are Stronger, Smarter, and More Skillful at Handling Life’s Difficulties…and How You Can Be, Too.

When someone in your life is stricken with a debilitating illness, you can either passively accept it, or actively do something about it. Nancy Linday, former champion road runner, chose to deal with her mother Sarah’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease by engaging her mother’s mind and motivation.

Sarah B. Linday had passed the bar exam in 1930, rare for a woman, and even rarer for one with only a high school diploma. Mrs. Linday spent her career as a legal secretary, while practicing law on the side. But in 1989, the elder Linday developed memory problems and was unable to complete her last case on her own. In 1991, her condition was diagnosed as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Nancy and her mother were devastated. "My mother’s brain was her life!" Nancy explained. "Analyzing, critiquing, challenging, writing, advocating–this was what she lived for!"

Not willing to put her mother in a nursing home, Nancy had to change her entire life in order to manage her mother’s affairs. She could no longer hold a full-time job in her profession as an urban planner and she had to stop working on a line of exercise clothing she had been developing since injuries ended her running days. From 1989-1991, in the early stages of Sarah’s memory loss, Nancy and her mother worked together on a project that combined both of their skills.

Nancy chose to focus her energy on the accessory she had designed for her active wear line because she knew it could be patented and trademarked and later licensed to a manufacturer. During her running career, Nancy had tried to find headgear that would meet her needs as an athlete. She needed something that would shade her eyes from the sun, keep her head cool, absorb sweat, and keep her head dry in the rain. Nothing existed on the market that met her criteria. Biking caps, the traditional "runner’s cap," were not absorbent enough, and their visors were too small to help prevent sun glare. They didn’t keep the head dry in rain, and if a runner soaked the bike cap in water before a hot race, the water evaporated too quickly to provide a cooling effect over a long time.

Interchangeable parts was the answer. The Vicap® was the invention. The Vicap is two caps in one. It starts out as a standard sports cap. Once the Velcro attached crown is removed, it converts to a fully functional visor. With the latest innovation, even the crown itself can be worn as a "transformer beanie."

Nancy says:

"The Vicap became my occupational therapy. I sewed many a pre-production sample sitting in hospital rooms waiting for doctors. I would take apart existing baseball caps and remake them as Vicaps, doing all the ripping out and basting while my mother was asleep in the hospital. After visiting hours were over, I would go home and re-stitch everything on an old sewing machine my mother had given me. But before I could start sewing when I came home, I would have to clean up the flooding from the elderly man who lived above me! He was filling his apartment with old cans and newspapers from the street and forgetting to turn off his water–but none of his relatives would have anything to do with him. The City had removed his status as a ‘person in need of supervision’ and the coop board could not require him to get a companion or call in a cleaning service or move him into a nursing home! So I mopped and scrubbed and cried and sewed and sewed and sewed."

Advising Nancy on the Vicap became Sarah’s new occupation. In the early stages, when gait problems and short-term memory loss were the main symptoms, Sarah led Nancy through the legal maze of affidavits, non-disclosure agreements, and working with patent and trademark attorneys. This involvement delighted Sarah, and helped keep her mind agile for as long as possible. Nancy explains:

"For all the anguish, we were very, very lucky….My mother always stayed connected. Except for some of her hospital stays due to pneumonia and urinary infections, when the stress of the situation and the unfamiliar surroundings completely disoriented her, my mother always knew who I was.

"The Vicap became a major focus for us, a central part of all our conversations. Always the attorney–even when her condition became much worse after 1991, she continued to advise me. When formulating sentences became next to impossible, I finished them for her and she nodded in agreement or disagreement. And because I could not tell her the truth about just how difficult the licensing, marketing and selling of the Vicap really was, (you can’t go home and cry on your dying mother’s shoulder!) I developed my own brand of stand-up Vicap comedy, mimicking myself and our outrageous antics to describe the impossible process I was going through trying to get the Vicap out in the market."

Sarah passed away in 1993, and though she will never see the commercial success of the Vicap endeavor, for her it was already a success. She was able to use her expertise that circumstances did not allow her to pour into her legal profession to advise her daughter on her invention, and in the process, keep herself connected through a mind-destroying disease.

Nancy, for her part, is now focusing her own personal marketing efforts on athletic and outdoor fund-raising events for disabling diseases. "I’ve had excellent responses from the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association about using the Vicap in conjunction with their Memory Walks. Hopefully next year this will happen. What could be better for a former national champion runner who’s mother had Alzheimer’s disease than to help raise money for research that may cure it! I think my mother would be absolutely satisfied!" The Dishes Project, Inc., the modeling industry’s only non-profit foundation, chose the Vicap as one of only five products it will use for fund raising.

But when Nancy is asked about what she misses most about working on the Vicap now that her mother has passed away, she always says, "THE LAUGHTER! — It’s work now, not Mother Love and family."

To connect with Nancy Linday or obtain more information about the Vicap please write: Nancy Linday, 170 Park Row, Suite #18E, New York, NY 10038. Email Nancy.

The Vicap is a registered trademark of Nancy Linday.