- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1st edition (February 13, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801882761
- ISBN-13: 978-0801882760
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,932,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Self, Senility, and Alzheimer's Disease in Modern America: A History 1st Edition
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"Both science and history blend in a survey of aging and dementia, making for a broad discussion not just of changing American attitudes and culture, but changing health system responses."(California Bookwatch)
"This work is a major contribution to the history of dementia and Alzheimer disease."(JAMA)
"Ballenger has done the field a great service in tracing the historical roots of this problem."(Benjamin T. Mast PsycCRITIQUES)
"An important book that deserves a wide readership."(Gerald N. Grob Journal of American History)
"Give[s] the reader a vibrant and provocative account of how to think about Alzheimer’s disease in anything but settled or conventional terms."(Martha Holstein Healthcare and Aging Newsletter)
"A substantial contribution to our knowledge... We are grateful to Ballenger for making a contribution to creating such wisdom and helping advance our culture's moral imagination."(Danny George and Peter Whitehouss Medical Humanities Review)
"A powerful, lucid account... Ballenger can be congratulated for a truly fascinating exploration of aging and senility. This book will appeal to physicians and historians, and the author (or the publishers) should consider marketing it to a broader public audience."(Stephen Casper Medical History)
"Ballenger aims not only to provide a cultural history of the disease but also to make ethical and epistemological claims about whether a human being with advanced Alzheimer's disease is still a person. These ambitions impose unusually high scholarly standards. Ballenger is up to the task."(Thomas R. Cole American Historical Review)
"A lucid and thoughtful history and a timely contribution... will appeal to readers from all professional backgrounds."(Stephen Katz Ageing and Society)
"This revealing and informative account is worth reading."(Chris Ball History of Psychiatry)
From the Inside Flap
Senility haunts the landscape of the self-made man, historian Jesse Ballenger asserts. Here, Ballenger traces the transformation of senility as a cultural category from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century, when Alzheimer's disease became increasingly associated with the terrifying concept of losing one's self. During this period, changes in American society and culture complicated the notion of selfhood. No longer an ascribed status, selfhood must now be carefully and willfully constructed-and thus losing one's ability to sustain a coherent self-narrative may be considered one of life's most dreadful losses.
Drawing on scientific and popular discourses on aging and dementia, Ballenger explores the significance of dementia as a major health issue and the emergence of gerontology as a science to describe normal aging and distinguish it from disease. In addition, he examines how psychiatry approaches the treatment of senility and follows scientific attempts to understand the brain pathology of dementia.
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Having volunteered as a long-term care ombudsman, I share his skepticism. Although as with many old-age impairments, there is definitely tragedy and distress, so much personality remains. Someone who may not remember her age or name retains the ability to thoughtfully move her head out of the way of someone else watching a tv show and to behave graciously and enjoy music. These are impaired people, but they are not UN-people.
Prioritizing the conception of a disease has aided in funding research (and that's a good thing per se), but it has done nothing to promote funding for proper care for those with Alzheimer's (a more immediate need and -- since as with cancer research there is no guarantee of a solution -- at least as important of a need now and very possibly for the indefinite future). For instance, so often in nursing homes those with Alzheimer's who desperately want outside and could enjoy the outdoors are not allowed there since they might wander off. If we put any priority on their care instead of writing them off as un-people, we'd build enclosed yards where they could still enjoy nature and the outdoors. As well, we'd mandate better staffing so those who care for them can do so adequately.
This book is thoughtful, knowledgeable, and hits the ball out of the park dealing with how we think about these things (and about ourselves and our own "personhood"). Can't recommend it too highly.
Diane C. Donovan