Alzheimer's and joy, an unlikely couple

James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

In the news business, we say to look for the different. “Dog bites man” is not an especially enticing story, but “Man bites dog” is. So is “Finding Joy in Alzheimer's.”

If there is anything that could sound more confounding than finding pleasure in Alzheimer's, I don't know what it is. Actually, I didn't know until the mail came yesterday.

“Finding Joy in Alzheimer's: New Hope for Caregivers” is the eye-catching title of the latest book from Marie Marley, Ph.D., and co-author neurologist Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN.

When last we checked on Marley, it was to share a glowing review of her intensely personal memoir of life with a significant other with Alzheimer's. Her professional background and unusually strong descriptive writing made “Come Back Early Today” a surprisingly smooth read. And a helpful one.

That's where we come in again with “Finding Joy.” Both Marley and Potts have firsthand experience with loved ones with Alzheimer's. (Potts' father had Alzheimer's and painted the cover illustration before he died.) The authors draw from a deep well. It allows them to speak authoritatively about how a caregiver actually CAN find joy with something so devastating as Alzheimer's in the room.

The primary target is the “family,” or at least non-professional, caregiver. But I also see great value in this for the caregiver on the payroll. On one hand, it can help set one's mind straight about the figurative mind-numbing duty of looking after people whose minds have gone numb.

Professional caregivers also would be wise to present this book to family members of individuals with Alzheimer's. It includes both lists of tips and first-person observations. And hope.

As Maria Shriver points out in her foreword, it is a “groundbreaking” effort, put out by caregivers who have walked the walk, day in and day out. In these pages there is fuel to help loved ones come to terms with the condition “so that they can free their mind and heart to embrace and enjoy the time they spend together.” The authors include numerous smile-inducing anecdotes, including some that could come from a program called, “People With Alzheimer's Say the Darnedest Things,” if such a grin-inducing product existed.

Sections are dedicated to helping people with Alzheimer's enjoy life, insight about overcoming denial, letting go of resentment, and the role grief plays on the way to acceptance.

And there is a path to hope.

And, if one allows, even to joy.

“Finding Joy in Alzheimer's: New Hope for Caregivers,” featuring a foreword from Maria Shriver, is published by Joseph Peterson Books and is available in both Kindle and hard copy versions from Amazon.

James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @JimBerklan.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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