When dementia hits, it helps to have a good writer tell the story

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor

As the editor of a business-to-business publication, I can promise you there are plenty of life stories being put out nowadays. Too many. Unfortunately, they are usually tales in search of a decent writer. Thankfully, however,  there are also the rare occasions when a skilled writer decides to tell a good story. Elaine C. Pereira's "I will never forget" clearly is this.

A retired school occupational therapist, Pereira has produced an engrossing read. And she's done it out of what I consider unlikely starring material.

Her book is formally titled "I will never forget/A daughter's story of her mother's arduous and humorous journey through dementia." This is Lifetime Channel fodder. Guys are not typically going to elect to spend much time on a daughter experiencing, and not recognizing, her mother's steady decline into dementia. Yet I did.

Pereira won me over the old-fashioned way: She wrote compellingly and with candor. When I first received the book unsolicited in the mail, I skeptically flipped to a part about halfway in. Somehow, I was suddenly dozens of pages away, in the middle of a vignette, unlayering a real-life quandary being faced by a real-life daughter, mother and wife. Aware and candid, Pereira does not wallow, except when she tells you she needs to, of course.

I went back to the beginning and eventually met all the members of her extended family, both growing up and as an adult. One of the most artful touches of this loving journal is the way Pereira sporadically flashes back to her childhood and her evolving impressions of her mother. The cutaways are neither predictable nor evenly spaced. They might last just a page or two. They reveal a writing maturity not present with most would-be authors in her position.

All the while, this highly intelligent medical professional lets us in on her human side. We learn of her hopes, fears, confusion, insecurities and more. In other words, feelings that just about anyone in her situation would have, God help us.

Although it can't accurately be described as a breezy read — the generally somber circumstances prevent that — it is nonetheless a page-turner. Never preachy nor high-handed, it remains instructive. She's been there and struggled with how to keep her mother safe, and herself sane.

Along the way, the author teaches us a lot about herself. And ourselves.

"I will never forget" by Elaine Pereira is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and iUniverse in paperback, hardback and e-book formats.


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Daily Editors' Notes

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 Marty Stempniak.