Jacqueline Marcell,
Elder Rage, or Take My Father ... Please:
How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents

(Impressive, 2001)

This could have been two books -- the first, a non-fictional story about a daughter who has troubles of her own, trying to find a way to take care of her elderly parents, and the second, a mini-handbook on how to she thinks others might achieve that and stay sane.

It's written in a humourous style, and anyone who's been in a similar position to the author may appreciate that -- sometimes, humour really is the only way to deal with some of the things that life brings. I found the style and the constant references to TV shows and films a little wearing after a while, but there's an honesty about the things Jacqueline Marcell writes about and there are no pulled punches. Her mother is ill, her father's turned into Jekyll & Hyde thanks to the onset of Alzheimer's disease, and this is the tale of a daughter doing her best to cope as her own world falls apart.

The book would be most useful, I think, not for caregivers necessarily (who understand very well what is being described) but for the friends and families of caregivers. It explains how carers come to the end of their tethers and aren't always the angels they might be expected to be. It explains just what it's like to live with someone who's suffering dementia and undergoes a personality change on a regular, if not permanent, basis.

The handbook of advice that's tacked on to the end of the book is full of suggestions for dealing with aggressive elders. I felt that it wasn't always appropriate, nor always applicable (reward systems might not work so well when a person can't remember who you are, let alone why you're rewarding them ... or witholding rewards), but since it helped in one case, it's bound to prove useful in many others, and I'm sure it has.

At the end of the book, there's a long list of (U.S.) organizations that can help, with web addresses and phone numbers. There's also an article by Dr. Rodman Shankle on the causes of aggression in dementia patients and its treatment.

The book is backed up by a website where users can get updates on Jake and Mariel (the parents) and catch up on interviews given by the author.

- Rambles
written by Jean Lewis
published 29 January 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.