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How to help when a loved one begins to lose their memory

Forgetiquette by Joan Sauers. Publisher: Penguin Random House. RRP hardback $19.99. Also available as e-book.
Forgetiquette by Joan Sauers. Publisher: Penguin Random House. RRP hardback $19.99. Also available as e-book.

ALZHEIMER'S Australia estimates that there are more than 342,800 Australians living with dementia. 

This book is for the presumably more than 342,800 people living with someone who is living with dementia.

When I was first handed this book, with its clever wordplay title and ironic cartoon cover picture of an elephant, I thought this was going to be a bit of a quirky look at the serious topic of memory loss. You open the book ready for some bitter-sweet stories about living with a loved one who is putting their sunglasses in the fridge or something similar. But as you turn the pages you find genuine, loving, simple advice on how to cope and how to help when someone you love begins to lose their connection with their memories, which are often your memories too. 

 I can only imagine the heartache caused when someone you've shared your life with suddenly can't remember your name, or your children's names. 

 As well as advice there's some tough love here too, like the suggestion to get your loved one to a specialist lawyer as soon as possible after diagnosis, to help them outline their end-of-life decisions while they still have the mental acumen to self-determine.

 There's humour here yes, but there's poignancy as well. Genuine understanding learned through experience. You become drawn into the honest, brave exposure the writer gives to the dreaded diagnosis Dementia. "Remember that shame is contagious. If you're ashamed about their condition, they'll feel it too."

 There's a strange phenomenon which occurs with this wonderful book.  Every person I have shared this book with has experienced two reactions. The first is having an "ah-ha" moment. They've read one of the pages and looked at me with an understanding or remorseful look and said: "I've done that."

For me it was the epiphany I had when I read: "Never say, 'I already told you that!' If they remembered you already told them that, they wouldn't be asking again."

The second phenomenon experienced by all was the realisation that everyone they knew needed to read this book as well. 

 And that includes you. Everyone you know needs to read and enjoy this provocative, humorous, sad yet sound book, so you're in some way prepared when someone you love becomes one of the more than 342,800 living with dementia. 

More from Lillian Broderick 

Forgetiquette by Joan Sauers. Publisher: Penguin Random House. RRP hardback $19.99. Also available as e-book.

Topics:  alzheimers book review dementia


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