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Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's Paperback – October 25, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* By the time Gillies’ family moved into their new home—a remote, three-story Victorian behemoth—her mother-in-law Nancy’s Alzheimer’s was in its mid-stages and her father-in-law Morris was physically impaired, though still mobile. It won’t take readers long to marvel at the strength and stamina of this woman who undertook not just the 24/7 care of her in-laws, but also house and grounds renovation, bed-and-breakfast hosting, and parenting her and her husband Chris’ three children, to say nothing about writing, all in the near-isolation of a peninsula in northern Scotland. The point is, they all survived. Even after Nancy greeted B&B guests dressed only in her underpants. Even after Morris lost all mobility. Even after Nancy wandered off-grounds and was found lying in the road. They survived even after Gillies suffered a major meltdown one day while home alone with Nancy. Amid the insanity (yes, Alzheimer’s can make caregivers feel insane), Gillies amassed a library of information on the disease from which she shares details and data. And beyond that, the key to Gillies’ personal strength resides in the numerous literary and philosophical observations she frequently quotes and from which she draws inspiration in this awesome chronicle. --Donna Chavez --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Forthright, smartly researched, and warmly recounted…Gillies writes with a novelist’s eye for detail, and her unflinching rendering of Nancy’s excruciating loss of self is skillfully and tenderly drawn…An invaluable resource.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“With an economy of expression, an eye for detail and a storyteller’s knack for dialogue, Gillies charts Nancy’s terrible course from doddering to vicious and her own decline into caregiver dementia…An unvarnished cautionary tale.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“The key to Gillies’ personal strength resides in the numerous literary and philosophical observations she frequently quotes and from which she draws inspiration in this awesome chronicle.” Booklist (starred review)

Praise from Abroad for KEEPER
 
"This is one of the most moving and important books that I have read on Alzheimer's." — John Bayley, Author of Elgy for Iris

“Overflows with history, literature…[a] compassionate account.” Times Literary Supplement
 
“A painfully honest account.” —Daily Express
 
“The most poignant aspect of Keeper is the way Gillies traces the increasingly unbearable pressures that are placed on carers as patients progress from memory lapses, not remembering important life events and no longer recognizing family members, to the final advanced stage that Gillies calls the ‘darkest shadow.’” —The Lancet
 
“Andrea Gillies’s account of living with Alzheimer’s is the perfect fusion of narrative with enough memorable science not to choke you. It’s a fantastic book—down to earth and darkly comic in places.” —The Psychologist
 
“In Keeper there is hope and humanity and the warmth of sacrifice.” —Catholic Herald
 
“Deeply moving.” —Daily Mail
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030771912X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307719126
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,497,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I LOVED this book. My father died with Lewey-Body Dementia and my Mother is now in an ALF due to dementia issues. Andrea Gillies is an exceptional writer and conveys this disease with humor, love, and best of all - medical and scientific information on a layman's level. Mrs. Gillies truly loves her mother-in-law, Nancy, and was very devoted to her well-being through thick and thin. As she describes the stages and minute-by-minute behavior of Nancy, she provides detailed but understandable information of exactly what is going on in the brain and why it effects the behavior of the sufferer. Mrs. Gillies also sees and conveys the humor of some of Nancy's behavior - while I am sure, that at the moment it occured it was not funny at all - in hindsight, and with talented writing, she is able to convey that humor. I recall many moments of my Dad's behavior that was funny, and he would laugh right along with me. Mrs. Gillies also speaks to the health care issues our governments are facing and the high cost of nursing home care. Anyone with a family member suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's should read this book as well as anyone who has a friend "suffering" as a caregiver. It is a fast read due to her wonderful presentation. And, the last chapter is the best part - it leaves the caregiver at least comfortable and at most, not guilty for leaving their loved one to a skilled nursing home where they will actually live an easier life.
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Format: Hardcover
As a social worker who works with older adults, I have a lot of knowledge on the topic of Alzheimers. But to hear the honest account from a caregiver dealing with the day to day hardships, chaos and unwanted surprises that Alzheimers can create was educational. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heart wrenching, always beautifully written and honest, this is a great read for all professionals working in the older adult field.
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Format: Hardcover
I've wathced close Family members decend into the murky pool of Alzheimers a few times in my past. Nowdays, I'm seeing my father enter that pool. Andrea Gillies book couldn't have come along at a better time to help me understand what my Father is able to comprehend. This book is written with sensitivity and a good dose of level headed honesty. Gillies, does an exlecent job of opening very common hidden world to her readers.
Not only does Gillies discribe her closeness and care of her inlaws through their stages of Alzheimers but we get to understand the situation. But we become empthic with Gillies through her daily challenges with Nancy and Morris her inlaws she cares for in her home.
Gillies gives us sections of medical information to help us understand Alzheimers, There are 7 diffrent and unique stages to Alzheimers. Each stage is well explaned and through her relationsip with Nancy and Moriss we see those develop.
This is a great book for lay people or anyone involved with caregiver or alzheimers support. I would also recomend this book to anyone who wanted to understand the unique dance of Alzheimers with family or friends. When you finnish this book, share it (or buy another) for a friend or family member. Alzhimers touches everyone.Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's
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Format: Hardcover
Andrea,

Thank you for writing this. Before my mother went through this my idea of Alzheimer consisted of becoming forgetful, then sweetly ditzy, and fading away.

I was wrong. I had no idea what it feels like when your mother doesn't know who are. No one told me about the verbal abuse or physical violence. It takes a while to understand that it is the disease,not the person.

Tom D.
Atlanta
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If anyone is dealing with someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers, this book is invaluable for learning about the different phases that a person goes through with this disease. I found this book very readable and a great resource. I've recommended it to many people.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This memoir, written by a Scottish journalist, is a grim but honest account of what it is like to be a caretaker for older relatives, but especially with someone who is spiraling down into Alzheimer's disease. I'm not sure why I chose to read it (my father had dementia before his passing, but not Alzheimer's). It was difficult to get through but I finished it. I awarded it 3/5 stars, mainly for the author's perseverance in keeping a journal and committing to writing this book. I am basing this rating on my reaction to the story and my trouble with the subject matter, not the author's talent, nor her ability to make it through those couple of horrifying years. The difficulty for Ms. Gillies was that her father-in-law was confined to a wheelchair and was so depressed that he parked himself in front of the tv while the other family members dealt with his wife's severe dementia and physical limitations. She works from home as a writer (or tried to) and her husband has a career that had him traveling at times. They also have 3 children who must have had a tremendously difficult time dealing with all the emotional scenes at home.

I would have been satisfied with just a short story about this time in the author's family's life. It was hard to stomach the scenes dealing with the lack of hygiene and memory that her mother-in-law lost to this illness, which caused her to need to be cared for as a newborn baby would. The older woman needed to be reassured of the same things over and over, due to permanent short term memory loss-- and she would frequently become agitated--cursing at or smacking her grandchildren. All in all, I commend Ms. Gillies for writing this, and for being such an angel in caring for her husband's parents.
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