A retiree signs up with a “Seniors Helping Seniors” agency and starts assisting a cantankerous elderly woman afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
With co-writer Yetman, debut author Loyst chronicles his experiences of chauffeuring and assisting Poppy, an 80-year-old headstrong woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. From the start, there are warnings about her feistiness; a woman at the agency remarks that everyone who has been sent to fill the job has been rejected (“You could be our last hope”). But kind, unflappable Loyst finds himself intrigued rather than deterred. His job interview at Poppy’s home is so swift and unremarkable that Loyst becomes amusingly mystified when he is hired on the spot. Though she must rely on him to drive her everywhere, she initially retains plenty of independence. But as Poppy’s faculties diminish, she allows Loyst to do more for her, and as he accompanies her everywhere, he tries to gauge her disease’s progression. Soon she loses keys and contact lenses and grows angry and impatient with caretakers, doctors, and the butchers at the grocery. He forms a comaraderie with her caretaker Emma as they try to handle the increasingly persnickety Poppy. He’s pleased when Poppy’s children trust him to have a voice in decision-making. Most biographies about Alzheimer’s patients recount the care of a familial loved one. But Loyst’s book stands out as he navigates how to gently handle a woman whose dementia grows worse while he wonders who she was before the disease began to set in. Loyst, a deft peacemaker, always tries to let Poppy make her own decisions—or when necessary, allows her to think she’s making them. Overall, the book’s a mixed bag, with charming vignettes and dashes of humor. But there are also dollops of unnecessary details—such as the kind of vegetables and meat that Poppy buys. Still, Loyst’s description of accompanying Poppy on their final trip to place her in a nursing home is positively heart-wrenching. Though Poppy shows appealing spunk and resilience, the story becomes more about the modest Loyst, with his deep well of kindness, sensitivity, and loyalty.
A sensitive recollection about chauffeuring; Driving Miss Daisy light.