I haven’t read a book in a long time that I simply could not put down until I read The Stemwinder, written by our dear friend Denise Valerio. Her book tackles really difficult issues (elderly caregiving, terrifying domestic abuse, prejudice against gay people, end of life decisions and more). Please buy a copy. It is that good!

 –Molly McCaughey Napolitano


The Stemwinder is a truly inspiring memoir.  I had no idea what being a Care Manager entailed.  Denise does a great job of describing the many challenges that Care Mangers are faced with, and has beautifully intertwined her personal story of ups and downs. This is a MUST read for anyone pursuing a field involving Care Management or Social Work!

–Kristin Marcolina, Teacher


Denise does an excellent job of showing, through the stories of three of her clients, the dilemmas that we face. When a client is estranged from family—is it for good reason or did the relationships just unravel due to distance and perhaps dementia? How can we know who really cares for our client, and who cares more for their money, or who just wants control? Denise wrestles openly with these questions throughout the book—challenging herself, and us, to be brutally honest.

It takes great courage to write a book. It takes even greater courage to write your own story of violence, loss, the shame of childhood sexual abuse. Denise reflects on the strength that she inherited from her beloved mother, and writes, “No matter what I’m dealing with, she’s always near. I believe I got through so many things in life because of my mother’s strength, and sometimes that was ‘foolish strength’ to stay in the mix and endure.”

–Susy Elder Murphy, BA, CMC, Owner, Debra Levy Eldercare Assoc.


I stayed up late the last two nights and couldn’t put it down!

                                                                      –Sharon Dickol, BS, CMC


I didn’t know what being a Care Manager meant until I read this page turning memoir describing in revealing personal detail the hard truths surrounding her clients and herself. Their stories are creatively intertwined with her painful accounting of surviving a father who suffered from PTSD. Her ability to successfully navigate the daily struggles of her professional life is graphically depicted throughout the book as a result of what she was made to endure.

The graphic descriptions of the personal battles waged with her father are shocking especially her fight as a teenager to ‘come out of the closet’ as he attempted to mentally have her ‘fixed.’ Her ability to survive the past has equipped her with the tools necessary to understand those who society has often neglected. Her compassion for those featured in the book does not get mired in gloom nor grim empathy, but rather projects an uplifting theme of courage and surviving the odds.

The stories are insightful and told with appropriate touches of humor. The reader not only has a better understanding of elder care but is dared to pick a favorite among those depicted. Their stories are gut wrenching while at the same time, heartwarming. You travel with Denise as she crashes through boundaries constructed not to be crossed as she deals with her own demons. The hard-core realism of the book is refreshing and motivates the reader to be more open to unspoken details that often define us and our loved ones.

I am honored to be the first African American to host a daily live television talk show in 1975 at KDKA-TV, Pittsburgh, PA, a CBS Owned & Operated Station. I interviewed many authors during my time. Denise Valerio is someone who I would describe as the perfect guest with the hottest book!

      –Yvonne Forston Allison, Former KDKA Show Host


Upon receiving my copy of The Stemwinder: Stories of a Faithful Care Manager, I broke my cardinal rule. . That is, I never start a book until my current book has been read, cover to cover.

I couldn’t wait to dive in!

On a bitter Sunday night a few weeks ago, I got under the covers around 9 PM and began the read. My plan was to read a few chapters then call it a night. I put the book down seven hours later, at 4 AM! I finished the book the next day.

Ms. Valerio’s account of her 3 favorite patients interspersed beautifully with the backdrop of her own life…the ups and downs and the in between. She wove her clients triumphs and struggles into a vivid tapestry that left the (this) reader wanting “more.”

I highly recommend The Stemwinder and fervently hope there will be a sequel! ?

                                                                                                                   –Liz Dooley


The Stemwinder Launch Party – 1/26/2019


















Artwork by: Dylan Pecora


Consider this: What if you had to decide if an elderly woman should or shouldn’t take a chemo pill, extending or curtailing her remaining years? What if you were faced with filing criminal charges against someone’s family member? What if you had to contend with harassment and personal threats to protect another’s mental well-being? Denise M. Valerio takes you on a spin through her care management milieu introducing three extraordinary souls: “The Broken Dish,” “The Proper New Englander,” and “The Gentle Soul.”

In this debut memoir, The Stemwinder is a portrait of Valerio’s professional experiences told in raw and emotional context. Laced with sexual abuse, depression, caregiver overwhelm, domestic violence, and degenerative brain disorders, each account offers an intimate view of the care management profession. Most prominently, each story is demonstrative of amity, compassion, and unvarnished love. Collectively, they are breathtaking expressions of the human condition. Reliving selected memories from her own past, a wider picture comes to life revealing an exquisite interconnection that binds the tapestry of her life.