Tag Archives: dementia

Review: Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade, by Deborah Barr, Edward G. Shaw, and Gary Chapman

Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade, by Deborah Barr, Edward G. Shaw, and Gary Chapman
Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade, by Deborah Barr, Edward G. Shaw, and Gary Chapman (Northfield Publishing, 2016)

This book includes personal stories, practical information, and candid responses from people walking this “unchosen journey” with loved ones. It relies on input from studies and other key books on the subject of dementia and caregiving.

Don’t stop half-way through, daunted by the prospect of what Alzheimer’s can bring. Once the authors have given that grounding, they move on to share strategies, stories, and hope.

And don’t say we could never do what these care partners have chosen to do. Maybe we couldn’t, but we never truly know what we can do until we’re in a situation and we rely on God.

The authors contend that, like coma patients, persons with dementia hear more than they can respond to. Also, studies show their emotional reaction to a stimulus lasts after they’ve forgotten the cause. So do visit, do show love in ways they can receive.

In the call to choose to love unconditionally, I heard the same thing I hear from parents of handicapped children, about the role of loving becoming a gift.

Among the many books on the topic of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, this one focuses on applying the 5 Love Languages® for both the patient and the care partner. It includes a simple self-assessment of the reader’s own love languages, plus suggestions on how to assess the person with dementia if they’ve progressed to the point of being unable to comprehend it themselves.

The authors say, “We believe that the love languages are tools for gently lifting a corner of the dark curtain of dementia, making it possible to sustain an emotional connection with a memory-impaired person.” [p. 41]

Then they provide practical tips and examples of how to show love as cognitive ability fades, including ways to help the person with dementia feel useful. The authors also advise that in the mid- to advanced stages of the disease, care partners should use all five love languages because the person’s languages will change.

This is not a book advocating keeping Alzheimer’s sufferers home in the later stages, nor does it push putting them into care facilities. It’s an honest look at different case studies that recognize the uniqueness of each situation and the people in it.

The authors warn care partners not to do this alone, due to the health risks. It’s important to form a team—and the members who’ll choose to step up to help may not be those you’d expect.

They suggest early testing for dementia because some forms are treatable (eg. depression, brain tumours) and also because the testing can take time to reach a true diagnosis. This is especially true if more than one type of dementia is involved or if it’s one of the less common varieties. They note that personality change can be an early sign.

Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade is an excellent resource equipping care partners to not only demonstrate love to persons with dementia but to also identify how to keep their own “love tank” filled. In that sense, I think it would be helpful for all types of caregivers as well.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi Junior

The Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi JuniorThe Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi Junior (Word Alive Press, 2014)

I knew this was a book I’d value, from the dedication:

Dedicated to my brother, husband and children, who never said “You should…”

And to Jesus, who said, “Let me.”

On one level, this is a memoir of one woman’s struggle to demonstrate the love of Christ to her mother, Nancy, who has dementia. Without a power of attorney in place, Bobbi Junior and her brother, Lawrence, can’t take the conventional advice to “put her in a home.” As a Christian, Bobbi feels called to treat her mother with love and dignity, even though they had a difficult relationship since Bobbi’s childhood.

On another level, it’s a story for every Christian walking in a hard place.

The Reluctant Caregiver is transparent about Bobbi’s ongoing battles with her attitudes, fears, and the desire to take charge. Most of the time, she rises to the challenge in a way that will have many readers shaking their heads in admiration (and a few readers putting the book down, angry that she doesn’t retaliate or walk away).

When she fails, or when she’s floundering, her journal entries give us clues to how we might handle similar experiences. (What? You haven’t failed or floundered lately?)

The book reads like a journal-style novel, and I found myself reading every chance I could. It offers insight not only into the difficult role of a caregiver but also into the pain of an intelligent woman who knows she can’t think straight anymore – and who now berates herself as “stupid.”

The chief take-away is that we can’t manage life’s challenges in our own strength, but that Jesus is ready to take the lead if we’ll only let Him. Because we’re human, this is a day-to-day or minute-by-minute process. We get better at it, but only in the sense that practice helps us learn to turn to Him more readily.

The Reluctant Caregiver is a valuable resource for Christians who are or who will become caregivers, and for those who find it easier to take control than to surrender it to God. I’m in a wide-open space in my life right now, but even in my small stresses I found Bobbi’s prayers and journal entries showed me a better way. I’m challenged to walk closer with Jesus and to ask Him to show me His way instead of insisting my own. Even in the little things, it’s hard to do.

Bobbi Junior is a Canadian author and speaker who shares what she’s learning about life and caregiving at her website: bobbijunior.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

Review: Seagrass Pier, by Colleen Coble

Seagrass Pier, by Colleen CobleSeagrass Pier, by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson, 2014)

Elin Summerall is a young widow caring for her preschool-aged daughter and for her mother, who’s slipping into dementia. Elin is also the recent recipient of a heart transplant—and now she’s remembering details of her donor’s murder.

The police don’t believe her, but it seems that the murderer does.

FBI agent Marc Everton’s investigation of the murder leads him to Elin. They’ve met before, but Marc didn’t know their one night of passion produced a child. Now Marc has to protect Elin, for the sake of his daughter.

I had trouble getting into this novel. Perhaps if I’d read the previous books in the series, it would have been easier. There is a large-ish group of secondary characters connected to Elin, with some inter-connections to Marc. I felt as if I’d walked into a room full of people and had to somehow remember their names and their relationships. Some of those relationships are complicated.

As well as the danger to Elin, her chemistry with Marc and her fears for her mother, there’s someone searching for an object hidden in Elin’s new home. Again, lots for readers to keep track of.

Ultimately I enjoyed the story, and I’m glad I kept reading. The suspense is good, and behind it is a subtle thread about identity and how it changes. Elin’s mother shows one facet of this, as she’s losing herself, and also in the way she talks about her youthful dreams and how they shifted over the course of her life. Elin explores another aspect. She’s been a wife. What does it mean now to be a widow? And along with the memories, her personal tastes are changing. Is the heart transplant turning Elin into her donor?

Colleen Coble is a USA Today best-selling author of romantic suspense, both contemporary and historical. Seagrass Pier is the third novel in the Hope Beach series. I don’t think this is her strongest novel, but it’s still a good read. For more about the author and her books, visit her website: colleencoble.com

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

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Review: Dark Justice, by Brandilyn Collins

Dark Justice, by Brandilyn CollinsDark Justice, by Brandilyn Collins (Broadman & Holman, 2013)

When Hannah Shire and her elderly mother stop on a deserted road to assist the victim of a car crash, they’re pulled into a terrorist plot to take down the entire US power grid and send the country into darkness.

The victim passes on a message—and a warning not to tell anyone, even the police. With no idea what’s at stake or who to trust or what the message means, Hannah and her mother, Carol, are soon on the run. She tries to keep her daughter Emily out of it, but all the three are in danger.

The story is told in the first person from Hannah’s point of view, interspersed with portions of a hearing taking place after the fact, investigating police handling of the events. This builds the suspense and allows the reader access to information that Hannah doesn’t have.

Dark Justice is a high-stakes terrorist thriller, made more gripping because of the ordinary women protagonists. Hannah misses her dead husband. She’s not used to handling everything alone, and the strain of caring for a mother with dementia has her near breaking before the story even opens.

Brandilyn Collins does an excellent job crafting Hannah’s increasing strain and paranoia while keeping reader sympathy. The pairing of vulnerable characters with the high-stakes threat makes the threat that much more real in readers’ minds. This sort of attack could actually happen, and odds are that real-life people wouldn’t be able to stop it. (Does that mean Hannah, Carol and Emily succeed? I won’t tell.)

Best-selling author Brandilyn Collins is known for her Seatbelt Suspense® fiction. Dark Justice is her most recent release, available in paperback and e-book formats. For more about the author and her other books, visit her website.

[Review copy from my personal library.]