Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dignifying Dementia (2011)

Elizabeth Tierney’s (E.T.’s) new book, “Dignifying Dementia” is an important addition to the literature of Alzheimer’s Disease and related disorders. It is the chronicle of a patient, Jim Tierney, as told by his wife, E.T. The book recounts Jim’s slow, steady decline from being a vibrant productive teacher and administrator to a totally dependent patient with Lewy Body Disease. Memorably, it addresses the many disconnects between the patient and his family and the health care community. No segment of the latter is untarnished. E.T.’s struggles to identify health care providers for her husband are frustrating and sad.

“The psychologist offered us chairs but never smiled… I couldn’t believe how unfriendly he seemed.” A neuropsychiatrist, when asked by E.T., “What should I do?” responded, “Don’t buy a boat of a 10,000 square foot house.”

Eventually, after much effort, E.T. assembles a caring team that treats Jim with dignity and, indeed, love. Most people would not have had E.T.’s persistence and moxie. Perhaps, that is one reason why so many dementia patients wind up in nursing homes.

Illness narratives fall into three categories: quest, restitution, chaos. Chaos is the least commonly written and the hardest to read. It may also be the most important, the truest type of pathography. Dignifying Dementia is mostly a chaos story, with an admixture of restitution made possible by the team of carers that formed around Jim. It is a memorable book that will help all of us who will be called to care for vulnerable individuals suffering from the varied forms of dementia. Order from Amazon. Kindle is only $3.99