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Her Final Year is a powerfully written book that is a must read for anyone dealing with a relative who has dementia. Alzheimer's and other types of dementia gradually rob a person of his/her independence and personality. While many of the available on-line sources deal with the clinical progression of dementia including loss of mobility, incontinence, loss of speech, there is very little information about the cognitive changes that accompany this disease. Dementia patients suffer hallucinations, talk to dead relatives, and perceive the world in very different ways. This book addresses these issues.
The authors also deal with the toll--both emotional and physical--that caregiving takes on the caregivers. It takes a long time to die from dementia, and the process is marked by a series of declines and plateaus. I am entering the final stage of this process with my own mom who is 92, and I found this book to be very useful and moving. I read it in a single sitting. Highly recommended.
I've been the sole caregiver for my wife who has been in that awful journey through Alzheimer's for at least the last twelve years. The word "caregiver" means a great deal to me. I do it 24 hours a day all of the time, except for a few hours off each week. So often when I read books about the experiences of Alzheimer's "caregivers" I end up angry the way the word is used by those that use the word but don't often really do the difficult hands on work that caregiving is. Usually they do it by phone and hire the actual caregivers.
"Her Final Year" is not that way. I kept shaking my head in agreement as I read the book, knowing that the two authors and their wives had walked in my shoes and understood my feelings and frustrations. I especially liked the last section on recovery and renewal after their mothers in law had passed away, as I will shortly be in that phase myself.
This is an open and honest book about the realities of caring for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. Expecially for those just embarking on this experience, the book is a great reality check for what probably lies ahead.
As Pam Crabtree has noted in her review, this book should be a great addition to those dealing directly with someone with dementia.
I think this book can also be of value to those who are not directly dealing with a family member with dementia. I read some of the e-mails in real time (I'm a friend of one of the families). I do not have any family currently dealing with dementia, but in the years since this book began to be assembled I now have several friends with family members afflicted with some form of dementia, as well as family and friends that need help and attention on a daily basis. Reading through the book I was surprised to find how many of the experiences there touched directly on some of my developing tangential contacts with care giving. Dealing with hospice, getting patients to the doctor, dealing with bureaucracy and the like are not unique to dementia, even if those stresses and others can be so much worse in the long term care that dementia generally requires. The book has also opened a window on to some of the stresses and experiences of those friends I have, that, due to their dealing directly with a person suffering dementia, do not have as much current social contact outside their family as earlier.
Although not "literature" the book is well written/presented and read with an intensity that became physically palpable for me.
I highly recommend this for anyone with aging friends and relatives as well as those dealing more directly with the immediate issues of care giving. Even if you are blessed enough never to have to go through what the authors did I think you will find reading the book worthwhile for the insights into what so many others are going through.
When I heard about this book, I felt that I could have written it, except that I'm not a writer.
I had the privilege of being able to help my mother care for my grandfather, who had Alzheimer's. I work as a consultant and flew to Seattle to help when he starting falling, but couldn't remember that he would fall. It became impossible for my mother.
The writers give a poignant and vivid description of the hills and valleys on the path of these patients and their caregivers.
Three months after my grandfather died, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I became her caregiver for the next year.
I especially like the last part of the book which tells about recovering from the experience. That's where I am now.
Thanks for taking the time to read my review, and I hope you found it helpful in making a purchase decision.
Book Review: Her Final Year: A Care-Giving Memoir and His First Year, A Journey of Recovery
Authors James Downey and John Bourke along with their wives, Martha John and Kathi Bourke have compiled a unique and very passionate account of their experiences as caregivers to Alzheimer's patients. (Martha and Kathi's mothers respectively) The majority of the writing is from the men's perspective resulting in a distinctive point of view. Society typically assumes that the wives/ daughters take on this role, but for these two families, the husbands became major care providers and share their experiences through a collection of journal entries and email communications over the course of several years.
Whether the condition be Alzheimer's or some other chronic or terminal illness, many characteristics are universal, which makes this collaborative memoir very useful and relatable for anyone going through a similar experience with a loved one. Their accounts are emotional, very honest, and at times humorous, (Yes, you do need to find some bright spots every day with your "patients"!) Their advice for dealing with bureaucracy and practical coping strategies is solid and useful.
Much of the book is divided into twelve months to equate to twelve stages of care and life with a family member suffering from Alzheimer's /Dementia. The final section, His First Year, addresses the aftermath and how these gentlemen and their families redefined their lives after their patients passed and the role of caregiver came to an end. Readers will not find a more real, heartfelt and honest account out there aside from your own personal experience. For folks who have already walked this path, (and could possibly walk it again), this is a must-read book.Read more ›