Friday, June 8, 2012

Help for Dementia

An older woman came up to the register, short white hair slightly curled, wearing a bright turquoise blue jacket with a mandarin collar. “Do you have THE 36 HOUR DAYicon”? she asked.

“We do,” I said, “It’s right over here.” I lead her to the section and showed her the book. “We have two different versions, one in trade paperback, one in mass market, the only difference is size and price.”


“I think I’ll take the smaller one,” she said. “I have to hide this when I go home, so smaller might be better.”

I paused for a moment. She seemed kind of reserved and I didn’t want to intrude, but knowing this book as intimately as I did, I wanted to offer help if I could. “This book gives a really good overview of what’s going on with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It looks at what happens to the body and how things will progress. I practically memorized it when my mom was alive.”

“Oh, good,” she said. “It was recommended by a friend of mine.” She paused. “It’s my husband,” she said.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said. “I don’t know how far along he is, and this is a really good book to give you a sense of the disease and how it progresses," I said, pointing to THE 36 HOUR DAYicon. Another one you might consider, and one I wish I’d had when my mom was alive is this one, CONTENTED DEMENTIAicon.” I picked up the book and handed it to her.


THE 36 HOUR DAYicon is great in that it gives you an idea what’s happening physically and ideas for medications and other ways to help. CONTENTED DEMENTIAicon is from Britain, and it really talks about how to interact with the person. People with dementia often can’t remember where they are or what they are doing, and so often what we do is try to orient them to the here and now, trying to get them to focus on what’s going on right here. And that often doesn’t work. The patient doesn’t remember what’s going on now, they are often living back somewhere else in their memory. This book says to go back there with them, just go with them and talk about what they want to talk about. My dad was a doctor and he would always remember himself as being in a hospital. It was a good place for him.”

She hadn’t stopped staring at me. She said, quietly, “My husband is a doctor." She paused. "Was a doctor. He’s retired. He gets like that, he can’t remember what we’re doing right now.”

“Right,” I said, softly. “It’s hard. I actually did this pretty well with my mom, but she still got pretty distressed and I wished I’d had this book so I could have done it better.”

“The friend who recommended this one,” she said, holding up THE 36 HOUR DAYicon, “her husband is going through this too. My husband is too.” She smiled a little smile. “It’s going to be hard. I want to know what to expect, though.”

“Well, THE 36 HOUR DAYicon is great. And I really like CONTENTED DEMENTIAicon. You might consider getting that one later.”

“If you are recommending it, then I’ll get it now,” she said.

“I think they will be helpful,” I said. “Good luck with everything,”

“Thank you so much for all your help,” she said.

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