4 out of 4 stars
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Living With Alzheimer's: A Journey Observed by Leigh Smyth, MD is a non-fiction book of 126 pages. The author, a psychiatrist and clinician, combined her medical training with her personal experience to present a simple, yet comprehensive, description of what to expect when caring for someone who has Alzheimer's disease (AD).
The author dedicated the first section of the book to recounting how her life changed once she began noticing AD symptoms in her husband. The dynamics of their marriage changed as more symptoms appeared. Social activities became strained as people outside the family began to question her husband's behavior. Numerous decisions became the caregiver's sole responsibility, including the termination of the sexual relationship, suspension of the driver's license and moving into an independent-living retirement center.
The second section expanded upon the symptoms previously described and defined their clinical terms to help readers understand the stages and manifestations of this disease. People tend to dismiss the first signs of memory deficit as a "senior moment." Mood lability can provoke emotional changes that include meltdowns, erratic swings of likes and dislikes, and oppositional behaviors. As the disease progresses, the patient's increasing frustration may express itself in verbal abuse against the caretaker.
The last section delved into specific coping strategies for the caretaker. The direct and practical suggestions motivate and empathize with other AD caretakers. Tips concerning when it is okay to lie to a patient and how to maintain your psychological and physical health encourage caretakers on this challenging journey.
I appreciated the author's professional writing style. She developed a logical progression that began with the home setting, progressed to the clinical explanations of the symptoms, and concluded with practical advice for caretakers. Abundant examples of AD behaviors, such as hygiene problems, nasty remarks made in public, and the patient’s rejection of their first grandchild help readers comprehend the physical and emotional costs this disease causes both to the patient and to the family.
Frequently, the spouse will be the initial primary caretaker for their loved one. Forty years of marriage helped the author to recognize various symptoms in her husband. Their happy marriage also made it more painful for her to watch the love of her life deteriorate before her very eyes. The author provides a helpful link to the website of an occupational therapist. This site offers caregivers a lifeline to education and support from other caregivers.
I give this book a wholehearted 4 out of 4 stars. There was nothing I did not like about this book. The author's writing style is honest, candid, and educative. Her emphasis on remembering that the AD patient has not lost their humanity focuses readers on the patient's need for love and patience. The lack of errors also made the reading fluid and enjoyable.
Anyone who has a relative with AD would benefit from this book. The in-depth knowledge of the full spectrum of the symptoms and behaviors of the AD patient would help caretakers understand what is happening to their loved one. Caretakers, in general, would also benefit from the author's tips for maintaining physical and emotional health. People who have lost a loved one to Alzheimer's might find this book to be too emotionally distressing.
Living With Alzheimer’s: A Journey Observed
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