THE CAREGIVER by Aaron Alterra


A Life with Alzheimer's
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A husband’s unsentimental but deeply loving memoir of caring for his wife, who is stricken with Alzheimer’s. Alterra (a pseudonym adopted by the author, a novelist and short-story writer) didn—t take his wife’s forgetfulness seriously when he first began to notice it in 1994. Stella, a talented concert cellist, was, after all, 80. It was when he understood that what she was losing was not simply vocabulary but a sense of the connectedness of things that he became concerned enough to take his wife to their family doctor. Subsequent consultation with a psychiatrist led him to understand that Alzheimer’s is managed less by physicians than by caregivers, and from this point on, Alterra took control. Through the Alzheimer’s Association, he learned about clinical trials of new drugs, and he put Stella into one when she was unable to tolerate the standard drug for slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. An unusually resourceful man, he persuaded the local police lab to test the medication Stella was given, and on learning it was a placebo, he got her into a program where she was given Sandoz ENA 713. It’s this drug that he credits with slowing her subsequent decline. Nothing, however could halt it, and Alterra unflinchingly describes the inexorable deterioration of Stella’s mind and body. When she could no longer unclench her teeth to eat, he found an infant feeding siphon that worked; when she lost the ability to walk, he figured out that, for a while, marching and dancing could still propel her from place to place. Day care for her and support groups for him helped, but surprisingly, Medicare did not. Alterra’s tale of his bureaucratic encounters is a story in itself, and one he relates with more amusement than bitterness. Today, Stella is wheelchair bound and barely able to speak, but with Alterra still her devoted caregiver. A beautiful, tough-minded love story for all, regardless of age or state of health.

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 1999
ISBN: 1-883642-62-0
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Steerforth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000


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