Both science and history blend in a survey of aging and dementia, making for a broad discussion not just of changing American attitudes and culture, but changing health system responses.
This work is a major contribution to the history of dementia and Alzheimer disease.
Ballenger has done the field a great service in tracing the historical roots of this problem.
(Benjamin T. Mast PsycCRITIQUES
An important book that deserves a wide readership.
(Gerald N. Grob Journal of American History
Give[s] the reader a vibrant and provocative account of how to think about Alzheimer’s disease in anything but settled or conventional terms.
(Martha Holstein Healthcare and Aging Newsletter
A substantial contribution to our knowledge... We are grateful to Ballenger for making a contribution to creating such wisdom and helping advance our culture's moral imagination.
(Danny George and Peter Whitehouss Medical Humanities Review
A powerful, lucid account... Ballenger can be congratulated for a truly fascinating exploration of aging and senility. This book will appeal to physicians and historians, and the author (or the publishers) should consider marketing it to a broader public audience.
(Stephen Casper Medical History
Ballenger aims not only to provide a cultural history of the disease but also to make ethical and epistemological claims about whether a human being with advanced Alzheimer's disease is still a person. These ambitions impose unusually high scholarly standards. Ballenger is up to the task.
(Thomas R. Cole American Historical Review
A lucid and thoughtful history and a timely contribution... will appeal to readers from all professional backgrounds.
(Stephen Katz Ageing and Society
This revealing and informative account is worth reading.
(Chris Ball History of Psychiatry
No previous author has been able to weave together biomedical data, social science inquiries, policy issues, and popular attitudes while at the same time giving readers a sense of how victims of this dreaded disease (and those who love and care for them) think, feel, and behave. Ballenger's experiences as a caregiver and training as a historian of medicine provide the requisite insights to produce a book that will quickly become the standard work in the field. With this substantial, judicious piece of scholarship, Ballenger appropriately underscores the racial, class, and gender variations in the identification and care of the patient population.
(Andrew Achenbaum, University of Houston, author of Older Americans, Vital Communities
Ballenger has written a persuasive account of a complicated subject, confronting the problem of dementia compassionately but unflinchingly... His writing is clear, graceful, and unburdened by jargon. This book deserves to be widely read by both historians and people dealing directly with dementia, including health care providers and family members.
(Lisa Boult Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Senility haunts the landscape of the self-made man, historian Jesse Ballenger asserts. Here, Ballenger traces the transformation of senility as a cultural category from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century, when Alzheimer's disease became increasingly associated with the terrifying concept of losing one's self. During this period, changes in American society and culture complicated the notion of selfhood. No longer an ascribed status, selfhood must now be carefully and willfully constructed-and thus losing one's ability to sustain a coherent self-narrative may be considered one of life's most dreadful losses.
Drawing on scientific and popular discourses on aging and dementia, Ballenger explores the significance of dementia as a major health issue and the emergence of gerontology as a science to describe normal aging and distinguish it from disease. In addition, he examines how psychiatry approaches the treatment of senility and follows scientific attempts to understand the brain pathology of dementia.