Book review: ‘Slow Dancing with a Stranger’

You know you are a caregiver or an Alzheimer’s awareness advocate when books like this appear on your Christmas wish list.

I had read positive reviews of the book, “Slow Dancing with a Stranger” by Meryl Comer, a former television journalist.

Courtesy: MerylComer.com

Courtesy: MerylComer.com

In this raw and honest memoir, Comer attempts to illustrate the “unvarnished reality” of Alzheimer’s while describing her life as the primary caregiver for her husband, a former esteemed NIH scientist who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in his late 50’s. He is still alive, 20 years later. Comer’s mother, who she’s always had a difficult relationship with, also has dementia and is still alive at age 94. The three live together, and a small group of dedicated caregivers work daily shifts to help with the care.

Comer tries placing her loved ones in facilities, but it is important for people to understand that not all Alzheimer’s patients are suitable for facility care, and that in fact, can be essentially “thrown out” if they are deemed a risk to themselves, staff, or other residents. Yet home care brings its own set of challenges, and neither road is an easy one to navigate.

I also think Comer does a good job of demonstrating that some people with Alzheimer’s don’t respond to the more positive therapy methods that are popular nowadays, such as music therapy, exercise, etc. Comer tries everything imaginable to reduce her husband’s anger and anxiety, but nothing seems to work. Comer’s husband has a form of Alzheimer’s that causes violent, physical outbursts, and both Comer’s husband and her mother were extremely manipulative, with her mother calling the police to claim she had been abandoned by her daughter.

I found beauty and awe in Comer’s resilience to take care of her loved ones in spite of all of the setbacks they faced together. Comer has given up her career and essentially her life to take care of her husband and mother. It’s a sacrifice that not everyone could make. To say this is a depressing book would be an understatement, but I hope it will help raise awareness of the debilitating emotional, physical and financial impact of this disease.

100 percent of the proceeds of the book will go towards Alzheimer’s research.

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