(Reviewed by Glenda Anderson)
A frightening diagnosis: Dementia. Scarier yet: The patient is a spouse or loved one. Before your eyes is a shattered life.
So, your mom or dad is suddenly behaving like a ten month-old child, only without the cuteness or expanding learning curve. What do you do? Send them away; tuck them out of sight, out of mind? Hire a full-time caretaker? Or do as Dr. Patricia Arnazzi did when her father became confused, could no longer dress himself and lost his intellectual faculties: she enlisted the help of other family members and friends in order to keep him home and do the job themselves.
Dr. Arnazzi knew it wasn’t a job for sissies. Yet it was her father who had instilled in his children fine traits, teaching them to work hard, to love, to respect. As a result, his children gave back to him in his time of great need, when it would have fit into their work schedules, and been immensely easier, to shunt him off into a home or hospital.
Instead, by tending to him themselves, it was a labor of love, regarded by them as a just reward for his parenting. This was, after all, a fitting effort in the circle of family life with all its responsibilities encompassing the young and healthy, the elderly and disabled.
Especially distressing are increasing cases of abuses perpetrated upon helpless elderly people at the hands of trusted, professional hired help, who instead, are unscrupulous, immoral and criminally-prone. Mr. Arnazzi never became a victim of neglect or indignities and/or crimes. Dr. Arnazzi was able to be with him at his last moments when his eyes met hers and seemed to convey one last look of clarity, of love.
If one seriously considers to suck-it-up and take on the job themselves, Dr, Arnazzi’s heartfelt, tender account of her own, along with family and friends experiences, is both a pragmatic and spiritual guide.
I Am My Father’s Keeper: The Ten Steps to Caring For The Elderly is a touching book of hope and courage for our times.