Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver's Journey
Creativity Connection Press (2006)
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (10/06)
"Love in the Land of Dementia" reveals Shouse´s deepening love and increased connection with her mother. Deborah deals with the complex issues of loss and change in a relationship change completely through this mysterious disease. She tells of learning the need for being flexible, of acceptance, and of enjoying the precious moments creating special celebrations to brighten the day for her mother and herself.
The book also provided helpful suggestions for living with and caring for the victim of dementia. Deborah tells of deepening bonds with her mother and her family while coping with loss, anguish, self-reproach, and embarrassment.
Deborah relates the occasion of her mother´s eighty-seventh birthday this way, "She can"t even make a birthday wish or blow out her candles. But she can lower her face to the glob of celebration nestled right in her own palm (birthday cake) and she can raise her face and laugh. ´Happy Birthday Mom´ I say, kissing her messy cheek and tasting its sweetness."
I, personally, am a fellow traveler on this roller coaster ride of uncertainty and frustration and was especially touched by an incident related of her father´s difficulty in coping. Paul worked for some years in radio and relates his experience this way: ´It´s interesting enough, though far less glamorous than the average person believes. It becomes hard work day after day to fool the public into believing you’re happy all the time."
Deborah goes on to say, "Years later, as Mom moved more deeply into Alzheimer´s, Dad replayed his radio training. He tried to fool the nurse´s aides, the kitchen staff, the other families and my brother and me into thinking he was happy or at least coping. But we knew him too well. We could see and feel the pain and anguish underneath his brittle smile. We could see the hard, hard work of all he was going through."
I appreciated the way the author shared her personal discoveries and the willingness to make herself vulnerable to the reader. She tells of an anticipated extended afternoon visit to family where she may be called on for help. "Still, I cannot walk over to the plastic sack and take out the white rectangle of protective paper. I cannot take my mother´s hands and guide her into the bathroom. I am not ready to take another step away from being her daughter, towards being her caretaker."
Deborah has a unique gift of communication and is able to take difficult and seemingly impossible situations and bring tenderness to the story as the reader experiences first tears, than peace, and finally a smile as hope replaces despair and the future dread is exchanged for the preciousness of the moment.
The subtitle of "Love in the Land of Dementia" expresses the true theme of the book, "Finding Hope in the Caregiver´s Journey." The book is well written, is illuminating, insightful, and inspirational. I highly recommend it to caregivers, both family, and professional.