Lynn’s debut memoir shares her struggle to care for her mother, whose mind slowly disintegrated from Alzheimer’s disease.
Lynn and her mother, Barbara Durling Miller, a retired executive secretary, hadn’t always seen eye to eye. Yet their relationship inevitably changed and in some ways deepened after Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Barbara was first cared for by her husband, but eventually she had to move to full-time residential care. The family disagreed at times about her care, and finding an appropriate facility proved a challenge. One treated her dementia with psychiatric medication; another typically treated less incapacitated patients. By the time Lynn’s mother was placed in a healthy environment, many of her memories and mental capacities had disappeared. Lynn writes movingly, and no doubt for fellow caregivers, comfortingly, about finding peaceful and loving moments with her mother even during advanced stages of the disease. The book includes Lynn’s poetry, which sometimes indulge in clichés—e.g. using butterflies to represent hope—but often contains striking, resonant lines as well. For example, Lynn observes that the necessary decluttering of the living space of an Alzheimer’s patient reflects the gradual fading of their pre-illness personalities: “Yet every time I visit / Your home has one less you.” She also writes insightfully about the particular pain of mourning a parent; watching her mother’s memories of Lynn’s childhood disintegrate felt like losing a bit of her own history. Lynn provides advice for caregivers ranging from the utilitarian (a chart comparing residential care options) to the personal (thoughts on grieving before the patient dies). Filled with photographs and poems as well as prose, the book won’t replace any comprehensive guide for Alzheimer’s caregivers. But Lynn’s honesty and insight may comfort fellow caregivers.
A brief, moving hybrid work that pays tribute to one woman and her daughter.