Alzheimer’s Daughter by Jean Lee: book review

An Alzheimer’s disease memoir and love story

Alzheimer’s Daughter by Jean Lee is a triple threat memoir with an unthinkable premise. One parent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is a crisis, two parents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is a disaster. Dual diagnoses and decline at the exact same time is a tragedy of epic proportions.

Alzheimer's Daughter Jean Lee book reviewAlzheimer’s Daughter follows adult sisters, Rosie and Annette, as they discover and manage the progressing cognitive impairments of their aging parents. Ed and Ibby Church are a loving couple in their eighties who’ve been married for over sixty years. Their two children are united in efforts acting as responsible caregivers to keep the parents they love safe through heartbreaking decisions, from the first telling hints of memory lapses through the inevitable end of life issues.

Lee’s familiar Alzheimer’s memoir format is elevated to a classic love story by the revelation of Ed and Ibby Church’s extraordinary courtship and marriage. World War II lovebirds, the couple’s timeless love letters are shared at the beginning of each chapter, written during their separation while Ed served in the Army. This touching correspondence adds a romantic element to keep the couple’s devotion, for each other and their family, central to their inevitable fate.

The dual diagnoses and deterioration, while difficult for Rosie and Annette to manage as caregivers, turns out to be the final blessing bestowed upon Ed and Ibby for a life well lived. The elderly couple’s oblivion to their plight helps them fade away together hand in hand, with neither forced to endure the other’s incapacity.

Alzheimer’s Daughter is a beautifully written tribute to the extraordinary love and lives of the author’s parents. The story offers a map on how to maneuver through the pitfalls of dementia care while honoring our parents with dignity and love through faith. The memoir reveals a modern day path many others will travel as dementia snowballs into an epidemic as baby boomers age. The journey of Alzheimer’s Daughter leads the reader through a tragic but rewarding love story with heart, like a true version of The Notebook.

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