Useful for Getting to Know Your “Stranger”

There are many revered books by experts for helping loved ones of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to understand a new diagnosis and navigate the degenerative process that follows. One need only type “best books for Alzheimer’s caregivers” in Google to get a litany of web pages with lists of respective favorites. While we have reviewed some of the industry-respected, notable ones here like The 36-Hour Day, The Dementia Handbook, and A Dignified Life, this one released in June 2022, The Stranger You Love, is enthusiastically added to our top list.

The authors earn readers’ respect from the beginning, with the book’s forward citing one of them having first-hand knowledge of being a caregiver to her own father with dementia, followed by a heartfelt, genuine “Message to the Caregiver,” leading with “No doctor or nurse who works with confused older people and their caregivers can help but have deep admiration for the strength, determination, patience, and tenaciousness of family and friends who devote much of their time to caring. . .” This section includes some of the best guidance in the book for caregivers about prevention through awareness of their own possible challenges such as isolation, stress, family tensions/hurts, privacy, and mental and physical health.

As “knowledge is power” to those facing uncertainty, the book dedicates early chapters to providing informative, medically-based, yet easily comprehendible content about the types of dementias, symptoms, stages of disease, and behaviors. Especially helpful is the layout of the information, which includes images, bulleted lists, and bolded text to indicate importance. A unique feature of many chapters of the book are “Caregiver Alerts,” which provide caution/guidance regarding how the caregiver may misinterpret the information found in that respective chapter. For example, in Chapter 1 when the reader is reviewing information about dementia, there is a call-out of warning that “just because a person shows signs of dementia doesn’t mean they have dementia.”

Later chapters cover practical topical areas such as family dynamics; personality changes in those with dementia; safety and injury prevention; and tools and gadgets to help the caregiver to support his/her loved one with dementia. Direct input from caregivers with experience in the respective topic areas is also included throughout the book and is often shared beautifully through story-based personal accounts. A favorite one of ours is of Eloise, a former ballet dancer, whose granddaughter as the caregiver, discovered a treasured connection between her, her “Granny,” and her own daughter Penny through dancing (wheelchair dancing).

Just as there are “Caregiver Alerts” in stand-out, call-out boxes throughout the book, there are also “Caregiver Tips” that include practical advice related to the respective chapter’s topic area. Some include phone numbers and web sites for resources of interest, while others are definitions of terms of importance.

In the closing chapters are unique areas of interest not repeatedly covered in every book on dementia. An exploration of alternative treatments and helping children and teens cope with loved ones with dementia might be specialty areas of interest to the reader not found in other guides.

On the back cover of The Stranger You Love it reads “it will improve your life as a caregiver and the life of the person in your care.” We agree and encourage dementia caregivers, especially those new to caregiving, to purchase a copy today from Amazon or another outlet at its very bargain price.

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