As a nurse who has cared for numerous Alzheimer’s sufferers, Drummond uses her experience to inform her slightly unorthodox methods of dealing with her patients. She opens her book with a jarring introduction from the point of view of someone in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s; she has reverted to her 20s and now believes the doll she’s holding is her child. She tells her companion, “When you see me hold a baby doll as if it is you, you know the love you see in my eyes is real.” This scene sets the stage for the author’s main point: The best communication will occur when meeting the Alzheimer’s patient where he or she is at any given moment. While many health care practitioners employ the “reality orientation” approach, which aims to attune the patient to the proper time and place, Drummond has found that this only adds to the patient’s frustration and confusion; it’s important, she says, to focus on what the patient will respond to, not what the caregiver desires. This might mean laughing at the patient’s joke each time he tells it or assuming the role of daughter when the relationship is actually one of sisters. Drummond admits that this can cause the caretaker to feel unsettled, but it’s a way of respecting the patient’s reality. She suggests that refraining from the instinct to correct the Alzheimer’s patient can help create a more peaceable existence. Looking for what the author calls “opportunities for success” might even enrich the relationship and help mitigate the patient’s depression or social withdrawal. Imbuing these practical tips with wisdom, respect and sensibility, Drummond comes full circle by ending the book with another dramatic circumstance, this one regarding what happened when her own mentor fell prey to the disease.
This slim little gem offers a humane, intelligent alternative way to care for Alzheimer’s patients.