A few years ago, when my mother-in-law was sinking deeper and deeper into dementia, my husband and I suddenly realized, with some help from professional geriatric counselors, that the devious brain disease had been lurking for some time. Although we had noticed a number of memory issues and behaviors, we continually chalked them up to mundane issues of aging and personality. By the time we realized what was really going on and got serious about supporting his mother, she was well into the fourth stage of dementia, and we had missed many opportunities to offer support.
When I first read Inside the Dementia Epidemic by Martha Stettinius, I could not put it down. Right in front of my eyes, the author described and documented almost every step that her mother (and ours) experienced, first early on and then as it progressed incrementally. I wish that the book had been around for us to read five or six years ago.
Inside the Dementia Epidemic should be required reading for anyone who is beginning to notice changes and to feel concern about an elderly parent. Stettinius writes clearly, though not without emotion, about her caregiving role and her mother’s developing illness, sharing observations, explaining how her mother was changing, noting the effects of caregiving on her family’s life, and documenting the many caregiver support services that she found to be personally helpful. She describes the nuances of aging parental finances, sharing what she learned, pinpointing her mistakes, and highlighting the difficult decisions that she and her husband made.
First and foremost, this is a book about becoming a parent’s advocate. The author admits and reflects upon her errors, but seeks ways to make things work more effectively. Unflinchingly she highlights the problems that she and her mother experience, but with continuous brainstorming and help from many resources, Martha Stettinius becomes a better and better caregiver. Her caregiving support resources, identified throughout the book and at its end, are also posted on her website.
Inside the Dementia Epidemic is not easy reading, but it’s instructive. Any adult child who wants to figure out how best to navigate a challenging period in family life needs to read this book.