While on vacation, I had the chance to read Dignifying Dementia: A Caregiver’s Struggle by Elizabeth Tierney. First and foremost, this nonfiction book is a guide for caregivers offering all the nitty, gritty details of how difficult it is to personally care for a loved one at home through all the demanding stages of dementia from beginning to end. It is more than that, however, because it is also a beautiful love story.
Anyone seriously considering taking on the full-time responsibility of caring for a spouse, parent or loved one with any type of dementia should read this book for an insider’s look at the daunting challenges ahead. Not only are the odd symptoms and behavior of dementia sufferers explained, but also other concerns that caregivers may not think about as important in the earlier stages of the illness, like the extensive medical and personal supplies required, the need for a strong support network offering respite, the backbreaking labor and physical considerations, the importance of geographic location, weather emergencies and transportation issues. Dignifying Dementia offers a helpful guide so that caregivers might recognize potential problems in advance and prepare to eliminate future difficulties.
This documentation of Elizabeth Teirney’s nine-year caregiving journey with her ailing husband Jim proves her love and devotion without a doubt. She was ultimately successful with her goal to maintain her husband’s dignity throughout an illness that can easily strip the afflicted of every last trace of respect within the medical community and our impatient, fearful and uneducated society.
I truly admire the author for her efforts and the loving decisions she made on behalf of her husband, listening to his requests and remembering his desires all along the way, even when he was no longer able to communicate them. For example, as the illness progressed the author realized she must find a break from her caregiving duties and explored daycare options, but her husband objected to one particular dementia daycare program she explored. She immediately moved on to other alternative solutions within her own home because her husband did not like the atmosphere or people.
I would recommend anyone facing the task of dementia caregiving read this book for a positive example of what is really involved when caring for a loved one with dementia and how to do it on your own terms while keeping your loved one’s desires a priority along the way. Congratulations to Elizabeth Tierney for a caregiving job well done and for sharing her experience and discoveries. There is much to learn from her extraordinary example to provide the proper care for dementia patients with dignity and respect. I can’t think of any greater example of love.