Book Review - Living with dementia: a practical guide for families and personal carers

It is a pleasure to write a review of a book that I think highly of. For many years, as I cared for my mother who had dementia, I searched for helpful material that would guide me, teach me, and reassure me. So for all those who are on the dementia journey with a loved one today, I highly recommend this book. It is a practical guide for family and personal carers. Readers’ needs and expectations vary a lot, but for most of us, the variety of knowledge, expertise and experience of the authors will be of great assistance.

Researchers, lectures, clinical nurses, and very importantly, a carer wrote the chapters in this edited book. Jane Thompson, my colleague from the Alzheimer’s Australia Consumer Dementia Research Network, wrote the final two chapters. These openly deal with both the negative effects that caring for person with dementia can have on a carer’s health, but also discuss some of the positive aspects of caring. Strategies, with good evidence of effectiveness based on research studies, are presented to assist carers maintain good health. This is essential if one is to be an effective carer. In particular, the importance of flexible respite is emphasised. Very brave.

The book is divided into a number of chapters and can thus be used successfully as a self-help book, in which key issues are easily accessible without having to read all of the book at once. For example, the section on sensory functions may enlighten you about some changes in the behaviour of the person you care for, as well as show you how to use some activities to stimulate the senses. There is a good section discussing pain thresholds, which I find very helpful, because it shows us the differing reactions to pain between individuals; one person with dementia may cry, another may shout and kick aggressively. The book also has a section on spirituality, which is a big “plus”. When the carer applies a holistic approach, incorporating body, mind and spirit, both the person with dementia and the carer will benefit (most of the time we are told only what is good for the body and mind). Then there is the great section in Jane Thompson’s chapter on interventions designed to support carers in their role, including counselling, education, respite, and support groups.

The book aims to give practical, evidence based advice for carers but I think it might have benefited from an additional chapter with a collection of helpful hints, from carers to carers. New carers then may not need to re-invent the wheel.

Sources: 

Book review written by Danijela Hlis – Current member of the Alzheimer’s Australia Consumer Dementia Research Network

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