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.
It is assuring and comforting to know that as long term care providers to a close family member, our personal feelings and ideals are "normal" and okay. It is in many ways, a personal and solitary journey, but this memoir lets the reader know they are never completely alone.