on 29 March 2014
I am caring for my 89 year old mum who has dementia.
This book describes the practical and emotional journey of this condition; how it affects the person with dementia (as far as someone observing the person can know) and those who are close and caring for them. It is reassuring to read how Sally and her family react and adapt to this ever changing condition and know that it is OK not to get it right all the time; we are human, we learn by our mistakes and are then able to get back on track. Everyone is an individual and each person's dementia will differ depending on many things, including their own personalities, but the general flow of things is familiar. It is also reassuring to read of Sally's decisions about her mother 'not' going into hospital unless absolutely necessary and their thought processes about medical treatment to prolong life. It does not give answers - everyone is different - but it does give us permission to come to our own decisions without guilt.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone on this journey.
Sally Magnusson, a television reporter, is the daughter of Magnus, broadcaster and journalist, who died of cancer in 2007. This is the moving account of Sally's mother, Mamie, herself a newspaper reporter, and her dementia that relentlessly advances, is life-changing for the sufferer, those surrounding her and for which there is no cure until death intervenes. The author writes that 'Dementia is one of the greatest social, medical, economic, scientific, philosophical and moral changes of our time. I am a reporter, it became the biggest story of my life'. This is a memorial to Mamie and also to memory. The devastation felt by a child whose mother cannot remember your name or later even who you are is unbearable. The tragic and poignant downward spiral in memory and communication is accompanied by brief moments of confused communication, imparted in a sweet and humorous way by the author. The smiles bely the underlying problem that may start with forgetfulness, repetition, a bemused expression, and confusion. How many of us are affected by these? Age-related or the beginnings of something more sinister.
Sally Magnusson has written of her mother's later life and is a fitting memorial to an adored and talented mother. Little is told of her life before her Alzheimer's disease set in. As our population lives longer, most of us will have someone close or know of someone with this dreadful mystery of age. This book may go towards helping, in whatever way, one person's experience, and that we, the readers are not alone. My family have seen this sad decline in our family members. A fine, well-written loving and touching book.
Having been through the trauma of recently losing a loved one who suffered with Alzheimer's. I was keen to read an account from someone else's perspective. Sally Magnusson has done a wonderful job of re-telling the journey through her mother's struggle with the disease. Full credit has to be given for the way she has captured the full remit of emotion from fear and loneliness. There's no cure and Magnusson approaches her mother's death with a sense of the inevitable but uses the experience to open up a series of questions about society, asking how we're dealing with a disease that is growing to epidemic proportion.
There's much here I can identify with and though it's a sad, touching memorial it's also much more. Packed with empathy and screaming of those dreadful feelings of disbelief when the body remains but the person has gone - a grief you have to bear in advance of their physical death. If I'm making the book sound miserable; it's not. There's plenty of warmth and compassionate.
on 4 February 2014
Sally Magnusson's WHERE MEMORIES GO: WHY DEMENTIA CHANGES EVERYTHING is, more than anything, a heartbreakingly beautiful love letter to her late mother, who succumbed, following a years-long struggle, to that cruellest of diseases.
Mamie Magnusson was a journalist and columnist, locally famous and beloved in her native Scotland, where, with her more famous husband, TV personality Magnus Magnusson, she raised five children of whom Sally is the oldest. The author's memories of her parents and the ways in which she and her siblings rallied together to provide care as her mother's mind slowly slipped away form the beating heart of this touching tribute. As an investigative journalist, Magnusson also inserts alternate chapters incorporating the research she undertook about the insidious nature of Alzheimer's and other causes of dementia; and she also documents the grossly inadequate and often casually cruel way in which dementia patients are treated and 'warehoused' by the health care system. And while all of this is helpful and informative, the thing that makes this book so damn good, so heart-wrenchingly effective, is the personal stuff: the stories of her parents' childhoods and courtship, her memories of her own childhood, the description of losing her father to pancreatic cancer, and, most of all, the final years, months and days of her mother's life.
There is humor here too, as Mamie was a person who loved to laugh and sing and make others laugh - a quality she kept right up to the bitter end, fighting through the fog of dementia, groping for words. And losing the 'words' was perhaps the cruelest cut of all, because Mamie loved words, made her living with words. But when the words began to go, it simply became too very sad. And what made it even worse was that Mamie seemed to know what was happening to her, as evidenced by her "heroic ability to summon words to express what [she] was going through." This is heartbreakingly clear in some of her last coherent sentences, phrases like -
"I've reached a stage where everything is nothing ... I'm just daft ... I just felt the whole world was going."
And I must readily admit here, that I could not remain objective about a book like this. Having lost my own aged mother in the past year, Magnusson's descriptions of her mother's rapid decline and the indignities endemic to old age made me remember my mother's last months and weeks. As I read Magnusson's account, I often found myself grimacing, on the verge of tears. I knew, of course, that a book like this could not end happily, and at the end, which I knew must come, I wept.
This is a book about love. If you have lost a beloved parent, you will relate. And yes, you will probably weep. HIGHLY recommended. (four and a half stars)
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
on 9 April 2015
Chapters of thoughtful and kind descriptions of the experience of living with dementia are interspersed with chapters describing the history, how the illness was discovered and various medical facts. I learned so much more from reading this book than from all the medical web pages I had looked at because each piece of information appears in context within its pages. Nobody will tell you what will happen because each dementia sufferer is an individual. What you desperately need, when somebody close has been diagnosed with Alzheimers, is some insights into other people's experiences. There were so many anecdotes in this book that I could immediately relate to. Having recognised the account of the early symptoms of dementia, I felt that reading the book to the end helped prepare for what is likely to happen in the future. It was also a delightful and enjoyable book to read - I couldn't put it down.
on 29 December 2014
I read this book mainly because I knew Maimi very well working for her some years ago. Sally also a friend and past employer I have enjoyed other books she has written, this being her most beautifully moving and compelling yet. I laughed and cried at every page and found it so hard to put down. Sally has a unique way of writing which draws you into the book. It's helped me to make sense of my poor late grandmother's time with dementia, and indeed my father's mild mixed dementia. I would recommend this to anyone who has a loved one suffering from this terrible disease.
on 16 April 2015
This is a wonderfully written and highly personal account of a family living with dementia. Sally Magnusson is a brilliant wordsmith - and avoids cliches throughout this book. What makes it remarkable is how she opens up to express the most personal of memories and emotions. It is largely written as though she was talking to her mother. Initially I was unsure, but actually this approach works really well. My own mother is currently in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's - and I can identify with so much of what Sally talks about - the frustration, the guilt, the dilemmas and so on. She sprinkles some lighter moments throughout the book too - a lot of joy, in fact, running alongside the pain - always expressed in a delightful style.
I very much recommend this book to all who are going through a similar experience - but also to anyone else who wants to understand a little more about what dementia is and does - and that, if you look, you can always trace the rainbow throught the rain.