You will never hear me call cancer or any other horrible disease a "gift." So how can I talk of happiness when dealing with Alzheimer's Disease (AD)?
Until I read Dancing with Rose. Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's, I would have said, "I can't." Not after caring for my patients with AD, a progressive neurological disorder that afflicts 4.5 million Americans annually. And not while watching the decline of a loved one due to AD.
Author Lauren Kessler is a journalist whose mother died of AD. She describes her guilt over facing her mother's illness "with a combination of fear and detachment." Hoping for redemption, Kessler decides to work as a bottom-rung caregiver at a residential Alzheimer's facility. The work is "exhausting and humbling."
Where most biographical books about various illnesses have simply validated what I'd already come to understand, Dancing with Rose delivers on its promise: It "offers a new, optimistic view on what Alzheimer's has to teach us, and is a much-needed tonic for the many people faced with providing care for someone they love."
What surprises Kessler -- and me -- is the grace, humor, and unexpected humanity (my emphasis) that are possible in the world of AD.
Kessler's perspective is realistic without a hint of Pollyannish romanticizing. I heartily recommend Dancing with Rose to anyone who is dealing with AD and/or grappling with the fundamental question: When we lose our memories, do we lose our humanity?