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Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's

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3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  337 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Five years ago, Andrea Gillies— writer, wife, and mother of three—seeing that her husband's parents were struggling to cope, invited them to move in. She and her newly extended family relocated to a big Victorian house on a remote, windswept peninsula in the far north of Scotland, leaving behind their friends and all that was familiar; hoping to find a new life, and new in ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,374)
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Ellen
This is one of the most painful books I've read. Andrea Gillies writes about her in-laws old age and her mother-in-law's falling away from Alzheimer's. Ms. Gillies also writes rather well about the science of the brain and the philosophy of the mind. Her comparisons between the UK system of eldercare and medicine and that of the USA are frustrating and scary. No matter where you live in either country, dementia costs the patient their identity and their family's lose piece of mind, friends and m ...more
Candy
Andrea Gillies is an excellent teacher. I learned more about dementia from this book than from anything I have read so far.
I also learned about Andrea's all too human heart. She is an amazing survivor-caretaker. Bravo for all you did for your family, Andrea.
I also wanted to say that the cover art is perfect for the story- the little world surrounding an armchair, with a woman's blurred outline just on the edge of the picture perfectly captures what Andrea described. Nancy became a blur of motio
...more
Betsy
This is Andrea Gillies' first book. Written in 2009, it won several awards for the best book written on a medical topic in the United Kingdom.

After reading "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova, in which Lisa describes her own personal illness of Alzheimer's disease, "Keeper" is Andrea's experience of her mother-in-law's slow dissent with Alzheimer's. Most interesting to me is the conversational style of writing which illustrates the slow neurological changes. Interspersed with the author's own personal
...more
Sammie
Although the author has taken some criticism for revealing so much about a person who has no control of her own life, I think this book needed to be written. Most of us know the word dementia and think we understand the meaning. This book gives you a glimpse into the reality of living with it. It explores the human mind's capacity for memory and self-awareness and what it is like to lose them. We read not only about Nancy's decline but also what it does to her husband, her son and his family. Ne ...more
Nette
It's certainly well-written, and the sections on brain science are fascinating, but I think this memoir is exploitative. "Darkly comic" the reviews say, meaning, the author's mother-in-law says and does bizarre, childlike things as her disease progresses, and she gets herself into wacky scrapes like greeting a group of of visitors wearing only her underpants. It would be horrendous enough to have Alzheimer's without having every embarrassment recorded for posterity and sold to a publisher and re ...more
Kiera Healy
Keeper is Andrea Gillies' true story about caring for her Alzheimer's-stricken mother-in-law (and depressed, physically disabled father-in-law). It follows Nancy as she drifts deeper into dementia, and as her condition becomes impossible to deal with.

This is a difficult book at times, because of its honesty. Gillies doesn't flinch from showing the harrowing human effects of Alzheimer's. Nancy grows unable to function, hiding her faeces and refusing to bathe. Her conversation is erratic and repet
...more
Nene La Beet
I've met Andrea through Twitter and when I had an ugly exerience with a relative with Alzheimers and tweeted about it, Andrea was extremely supportive and helpful. After that I decided to buy the book. I haven't regretted that for a second. It's beautifully written, full of the latest research and very personal. I cannot believe how anybody can do what Andrea did for her mother-in-law. If you know anyone with Alzheimers, this is a good book to read. But it won't cheer you up.
Judy
The title of this book is off-putting. Keeper sounds like a caretaker at a zoo, and not of human beings. I think the author used that title on purpose.

Andrea Gillies probably started out with the best of intentions, but she comes across as mean in her memoir of caring for her elderly in-laws. Her mother-in-law had Alzheimer's, and though the author often reminded her father-in-law of that fact, she seems to have disregarded it when she herself interacted negatively with her charge. She'd threate
...more
Vicky Ruppert
As an Alzheimer's caregiver myself, this is my favorite book. Ms. Gillies doesn't hide anything when she writes about her day to day travails dealing with her family. She shares her true emotions as she feels them. That is so important for other caregivers to read so they realize they are not alone in the wide swings of emotion that they experience. Yes, it is hard to read in the sense that she is brutally honest. For some, it might be too honest. This is a great book for the general public to r ...more
Linda
I give full points when a book keeps me reading the way this one did. It is a non-fiction book that presents a great amount of research about Alzheimer's Disease interspersed in the story of the author's efforts to care for her mother-in-law through various stages of the disease. I plan to ask my children to read this book if and when they suspect that I am developing dementia. I'm not sure whether I want to shame them into caring for me in their homes or encourage them to put me in a nursing ho ...more
Victoria Watson
Five years ago, writer Andrea Gillies moved, with her husband and three children up to a large Victorian mansion on a remote peninsula in the north of Scotland. Along with her family, she took her husband's infirm parents. Leaving behind friends, family and familiarity, Gillies arrived in the windswept area in search of inspiration and the sublime. Andrea's mother-in-law Nancy comes with middle-stage Alzheimer's Disease and Andrea becomes Nancy's carer while also trying to write and run a b'n'b. ...more
Lynn
One of the best books I've read dealing with the caregiving of someone suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia. She tried so very hard and for so long (YEARS!!) to give complete care to her in-laws, but truly, there comes a time when you must admit (for your own mental/emotional stability) you can no longer provide the necessary care. It is never a pleasant realization, but you must set boundaries and limits to protect your own health. I was so glad I had read this book as my own Mother's battle ...more
Jim
This book upset me. It’s the third book dealing with Alzheimer’s that I’ve read in a row but only one to actually upset me. The first was a novel from the perspective of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s, the second was a popular science book; this was a memoir. The first two were good but I read them dispassionately. Keeper, on the other hand, got to me and it’s all credit to the author’s brutal honesty not only about her mother-in-law’s condition and… I’m going to use the word ‘antics’ but ...more
Amy Knutson
I could not take this book after 120 pages. I was so excited to read it, and dug in with a desire to try and wait it out for it to get better.

It didn't. There was example after example of how Nancy (the Alzheimer victim) was affected, and how it affected Nancy's husband and Andrea's family, but that was all it included from the human perspective. Other than that, the book was peppered with theories of the disease, which, while interesting for a bit, brought me back to long neuro psych lectures
...more
Noella Allisen
I am exhausted just reading about the effort required to care for someone who has Alzheimer's. Now I can say I totally understand why families end up 'dumping' their loved ones in a care facility. Their own sanity requires that they do so. I think Andrea was a saint to have looked after both of her in laws for as long as she did. I'm so thankful to have read this very disturbing account of their ordeal.
MaryJohanna
Not for the faint of heart, this book is Andrea Gillies' story of life as a full-time caretaker to her both of her ailing in-laws.
In the retelling, Gillies is painfully honest about her own frustrations, anger and guilt as she (and the entire family) is sucked deeper into the chaos of her Mother-in-law, Nancy's worsening Alzheimer's disease.

For much of the book, she alternates chapters on the science and theory of Alzheimer's with narrative of their day to day challenges. Later, delineations are
...more
Amy
I read this book because Good Reads recommended it since I read Still Alice. It's about a family with three younger children who take in the husband's parents because the mother has Alzheimer's and the father is crippled from falls. Incredibly depressing story, right down to the weather. Throughout the book, the family is waiting to get the parents onto a waiting list to get into a permanent care facility, but wires are crossed and months go by. The mother (with Alzheimer's) becomes abusive--ver ...more
Gillian
I read this book as part of a module and it was a really good book. It gives the reader a great insight to some of the problems faced by people caring for people living with dementia. Touches on the emotional blackmail used by many different people involved in care and the patient themselves but it also has some very funny and touching moments in it
Carol
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jessica
This is a beautifully written memoir about the descent into Alzheimer's Disease. She tells the story of her experience caring for her mother-in-law, Nancy, as well as exploring the nature of memory and existence of self from scientific, philosophical and spiritual perspectives. It's a great read with lots of interesting and useful information in there too. Thought-provoking, scary, and funny.

Actually, now that I've finished the book... I did enjoy reading it but I wish she had talked more about
...more
Nigel
A powerful insight into caring for someone with Alzheimers.

This is a very worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in Alzheimers and particularly for anyone looking after someone with Alzheimers. It is a very honest account of the trials of a carer who is looking after both mother and father in law. Her father in law has physical problems while his wife of nearly 50 years has fairly advanced Alzheimers. I did find that the narrative sometimes strayed from the basic story into deeper philosop
...more
Hillary
Taking a break from the YA fantasy I've been reading (TA Barron's Merlin series), was looking for something meatier - and was really pleasantly surprised that this author not only vividly described the painful human experience of living with a loved one who is losing her mind, but also offered a reasonably technical description of the actual pathogenesis and pathology of Alzheimer's and a few other dementias. Having watched from a relatively safe distance one of my own extended family members su ...more
Maiya
My bubbie had dementia and I could really relate to a lot of the author's feelings.

My grandmother always told people how much she loved them, but now she tells them to "fuck off", flirts with men and accuses women of being sluts and mean-stealers. A sense of humour has gotten us through but thanks to the author for putting this into writing.
Kristine
Keeper by Andrea Gillies, a Kindle book I began reading in mid-December 2011. Alot has happened since (3 changes of Kindles, a boyfriend, losing the book file then finding it again), but I've finally been able to come back to it.

The author turns a critical, advocating, philosophical/scientific, and nuturing eye toward the caregiving of her Alzheimer-besieged mother-in-law in Edinburgh. Each 'day' details Andrea and her family's reaction to Nancy's unfurling symptoms and it's alternatingly a myst
...more
Kim
One of the best books about Alzheimer's and how it can devestate an entire family. I got a feeling of the day to day life of the caregiver and how it must be so hard to deal with in a home setting. Not only does the author deal with her mother in law who has Alheimer's, her father in law also lives with the family and his frustration at his own limitations is evident. I felt physically and emotionally drained after each chapter. One of the most realistic books about this condition/disease. I adm ...more
Meg Marie
A heartbreaker of a memoir. Andrea Gillies documents the last few years in the lives of her inlaws, who she brings to live with her when her mother in law begins to suffer from Alzheimers and her father in law suffers from limited mobility. The story of their deterioration, and the story of her struggle to be a good caretaker, a good parent to her young children, a good wife and an author is starkly and beautifully told. Along with her history is the history of the disease and the treatment that ...more
Kristen Mcandrew
This book was pretty good. It combined medical terms with personal experiences, which kept it interesting
Ebru
Benim kitapta en beğendiğim yan hastalık hakkında geniş bir yelpazede yapılan araştırmalar.Okuyucu sıkmadan olay örgülerinin arasına bunları katmayı başarmış.Zayıf bulduğum taraf ise başı sonu olmayan kesik kesik anıların kitaba aktarılması hangi zamanda nerede olduğumu şaşırdığım oldu.Paragraflar arasında bütünlük yoktu.Belki de kitabı hastasına bakarken yazdığı için,yada eski günlüklerden derlediği için bilemem.Sonuçta Alzheimer hastası yakını olan her kişiye,özellikle de bu hastaların birinci ...more
Heather
My grandmother is now in the late stages of Alzheimer's and has been in a home for quite some time now. My dad and aunt were told by the doctors not to take her home and care for her themselves. After reading "Keeper" it's clear to me why the doctors said this. The difficulties of living with and caring for someone with dementia were so clearly stated and so heartbreaking. I do wish there had been more of how the author's children and husband handled things but overall this is an unflinching loo ...more
Kitty
This is an unblinkingly honest account of a family dealing with the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. The author becomes the primary caregiver for her Alzheimer's-striken mother-in-law, as three generations of the family all move into the same house on the northern coast of Scotland. Despite the author's dedication to her mother-in-law, the caregiving takes an enormous toll on her psyche. This is a well written, gripping book that includes physiological descriptions of the progress of the disease.
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I was born in York and went to school there, went to St Andrews University,then worked in theatre publicity and as a journalist and editor. Married another freelance, had three children,and lived in Somerset, Orkney, France. Now separated and living in Edinburgh. Spent 2 years looking after my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer's, and wrote a diary which became a book: KEEPER, which won the Wellcome ...more
More about Andrea Gillies...
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