Wednesday, May 22, 2013

And You Thought There Were No More Books...

I never cease to be amazed just how many books there are about people's experiences with caregiving, dementia, and aging parents.  Like any other genre, some are well-written, some not, but I think hearing someone's experiences is always valuable - and sometimes entertaining!  Here are two that I finished not long ago, both are more memoir than informational and both were really well-written.

Inside the Dementia Epidemic, by Martha Stettinius.

I really like Martha's story and the way in which she told it.  She delivers a mostly chronological narrative from the moment she and her mom realized something was seriously wrong, through the various care and housing choices she made for her mother, to the facility where she lives now.  I think one of the things I really enjoyed about it was how obviously conflicted Stettinius was about the relationship she and her mother shared.  We need to hear more about the dysfunctional relationships and how they affect caregiving, and Stettinius doesn't disappoint.  We discover that her mother was an alcoholic and suffered from depression, and how that affected Stettinius as a child and how it makes her feel about caregiving now.  She brings her mother into her own home for several months, and is really honest about how the stresses and tensions of this arrangement affected her and her young family.  We get a really good look at the experiences of a member of the "Sandwich Generation." 

The book is also unique in that Stettinius moved her mother several times, to, and from, several different types of facilities.  Her experiences with all of them and their staff and procedures was very interesting and informative: so many memoirs detail caring at home, so I appreciated seeing one where more of the care was in a facility.  All in all, the book was very well written, entertaining, and evocative; well worth the time spent reading it.  ***

Keeper, by Andrea Gillies.

I admit I found this book fascinating, coming as it does from a British author and detailing some of the ways that caregiving, and governmental caring bureaucracy, differs from the US.  The author, her husband, and three adolescent children buy a large, old house in the North of England in order that they can provide housing and care for her husband's parents. His mother has progressive dementia, and his father has multiple health problems that keep him in a wheelchair, depressed and angry.  The couple have been married for over forty years and are dependent on each other emotionally, yet he can't seem to accept her dementia and insists that she continue to act and think in the ways she always has, resenting her for needing so much care, but being unable to sleep when she is spending time at respite care.  Seeing his denial of the situation, and, indeed, of his own health problems, coupled with his love of and dependence on her was fascinating. 

Gillies ends up providing most of the care for both her parents-in-law, and she goes into eloquent detail about the increasingly difficult and heart-breaking symptoms and behaviors exhibited by her mother-in-law and her increasing inability to deal with them. Gillies' description of the house and the countryside and the comfort she attempts to elicit from living where they do are eloquent and beautiful. The family attempts to go through the British health and care system to obtain in-home aid as well as respite care, and are repeatedly let down and failed by the system.  It seems bureaucracy is the same whatever country you're in! Ultimately, their attempt to provide care at home, as a family, is a failure and the couple must be placed in a facility. I usually read these types of book as education and research, but I found myself not wanting to put this one down. Gillies writes beautifully and she really draws you into her experience and that of her family.  You feel empathy for the entire family and an appreciation that sometimes the best laid plans truly do go awry. ****

I continue to hope that these reviews help my readers find the information and support they need, as well as an entertaining read that might reassure them that they are not alone in their experiences.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the recommendations. Always good to know what is available.