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Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's: One Daughter's Hopeful Story

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  391 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews

Previously published in HC as Dancing With Rose

One journalist?s riveting?and surprisingly hopeful? in-the-trenches view of Alzheimer?s

Nearly five million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer?s. Like many children of Alzheimer?s sufferers, Lauren Kessler, an accomplished journalist, was devastated by the disease that seemed to erase her mother?s identity e
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published May 31st 2007)
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Donna  Napier
Nov 26, 2010 Donna Napier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My sisters
Recommended to Donna by: Donna
My mother is in the beginning stages of memory loss, so I found this book particularly helpful and insightful, as well as comforting and encouraging. The author masterfully weaves together her experiences of her mother's progression through Alzheimer's with her subsequent search to find a deeper understand of the disease, working as an aide in a memory care facility.

I particularly appreciated learning about validation therapy, an approach where one enters and engages the person with Alzheimer's
Mother of God, am I glad to be done with this book. I know that sounds like it was terrible, but it was, in fact, the opposite, of which I am truly astonished. There was actually positivity and joy in this book. I think that is a very rare find in the world of Alzheimer's and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who knows a person with this disease, or who has in the past. I wish I would have had this information when my grandma was still alive. That being said, it was such a struggle for ...more
Gavin Stephenson-Jackman
Dancing With Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's is an important, if difficult read for anyone dealing with a relative who is suffering from dementia. I read this on the recommendation of my older sister after it was recommended to her by the Alzheimers Society of Canada as we learn to deal with our mother’s deteriorating mental state due to dementia.

Lauren, in Dancing with Rose tells the story of her time working and researching about dementia and Alzheimers in a care facility followi
In some ways, Lauren Kessler's Dancing with Rose picks up where Lisa Genova's Still Alice left off. Genova left Alice sitting in her kitchen, aware she was sinking deeper into Alzheimer's. Dancing with Rose looks at it from the caretaker's point of view. However, it's nonfiction, and Kessler takes readers into what happens when the Alzheimer's victim must finally go into a home.

Kessler's mother suffered from Alzheimer's, and Lauren didn't know how to cope. She tried to relieve her father of nurs
Oct 29, 2010 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lauren Kessler lived through her own mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and progression to death. What sets this Alzheimer’s focused book apart is that Kessler became a nursing home employee in order to better understand Alzheimer’s patients and to research this book. Of all the many books I’ve recently read with an Alzheimer’s theme, I found this the most broadly detailed and helpful. '

Because the author actually worked in the nursing home, she came to intimately know (both in the sense of wiping
Ginni Dickinson
May 20, 2011 Ginni Dickinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since my mom is in the mid stages of Alzheimer's disease this was at times a heart wrenching read for me. But I gained many new insights into the disease. Lauren Kessler does an excellent and heroic job of finding the humanity in each Alzheimer's resident that she works with while being a resident assistant in an Alzheimer's care unit. Kessler's story helps the reader understand that although there is a typical progression of the disease; early, mid and late stages, every individual exhibits the ...more
Feb 09, 2010 Kirstin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Journalist, Lauren Kessler, chooses to work as a "resident's assistant" at an Ahlzheimer's facility as a way of trying to make peace with and understand more about her what her mother (who died a number of years ago) experienced in the last years of her life. The author seamlessly weaves her first person experiences with medical research as she chronicles her day to day interactions with the residents. Her compassion is evident and she is honest, yet hopeful, about those who live with the diseas ...more
Nov 04, 2009 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My grandmother, who has Alzheimer's, has recently come to live with my parents. I've been doing a lot of reading about the disease lately, and this is far and away the best book I've come across. The author does an excellent job of explaining the disease, summarizing research on Alzheimer's, and describing how it affects people who have it. I think my favorite part of the book was actually her perspective--she manages to describe the reality of Alzheimer's without sugarcoating it and still maint ...more
May 05, 2008 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people ready to confront the realities of aging
A journalist explores Alzheimer's by becoming an unskilled worker in an Alzheimer's care facility. She develops an appreciation of the humanity of those in her care (and her fellow caregivers, who are so underpaid and under-appreciated!) And she came to better terms with her mom's death. Nice to have a different look at the disease that took my Dad from me several years before his death.
Mar 29, 2010 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding. I recommend this to anyone with aging parents whether they have dementia or not. Observations and commentary were spot on and the story filled me with hope.
May 24, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book paints a picture of life inside a care center for those with Alzheimer's. It helps us understand a little bit better the challenges faced by those living there and those working there. Obviously this can be a little bit depressing and hard to read, especially if you are close to a similar situation, but from my experiences and observations much of the information here seems very accurate. This story is told by a writer whose mother recently died of Alzheimer's. To try to understand bet ...more
Judy Lindow
Jun 12, 2015 Judy Lindow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Riveting, all the way through and, at least from my experience, pretty spot on. An interesting reality check from a woman who signed on to work as a light weight care giver for Alzheimer's patients in a memory care community within an assisted living facility. Usually the stories are personal stories from a family member or informational/technical books so this perspective is very interesting.

I enjoyed her reporting immensely and more than her take aways: that there are big problems with the wo
Aug 10, 2008 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mild dementia accompanied a mood disorder in a SMH client for whom I was case manager a few years back. The manager at her building reported that other residents were persuading her to give them money. We kept aside money to pay her bills, but she had a fair amount in an account that she could access. She couldn’t remember her PIN number, so she wrote it down in a prominent place. She also couldn’t really remember people and chose to trust what people told her, making her even more vulnerable.

Feb 20, 2017 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An eye-opener that changed the way I view people with Alzheimer's. interesting to have read this soon after reading another book about Alzheimer's. Lauren worked at a memory care facility near Eugene for three months and got to know her 11 patients intimately -- literally, since she bathed and toileted and fed them. She learned that Alzheimer's strips the personality down to its essence and that people with the disease are still people and can enjoy life even if they have little short-term memor ...more
This book was an emotional roller-coaster for me. The author was so brave to truly dive into this world of eldercare for Alzheimer's patients, having had her own mother die from complications of this disease several years earlier. The author had "issues" she knew she needed to confront about her own emotional distance and reaction to her mother's decline, and boy did she ever confront them head on.

I applaud her bravery, but I'm not so sure I could be so brave myself. When my grandmother started
Renee Legris
Oct 17, 2016 Renee Legris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard about this book years ago, because the author is a journalist in my home town (Eugene, OR). Now that my own mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I was looking for information about the disease. This book is by no means a medical treatise, nor does it ever follow a single case in a linear manner. Rather, it is an unflinching look at how people with the disease function (or don't) within a memory care facility. The author went "undercover" as a caregiver over a number of months ...more
Aug 18, 2015 Joanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Alzheimer's, there is something missing in this book.

While overall Kessler is able to paint a picture of the world inside Maplewood that is vivid and deep, by the end of the book you are left not wanting more, but wanting something she is unable to provide... a solution. That heart breaking fact makes this book important for anyone with a loved one facing this incurable and mostly un-treatable disease.

But where she looses focus, and where I think a second book is much needed, is on the live
May 21, 2016 Ginny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you know anyone with Alzheimer's disease, this is a great book to read. The author, whose mother had Alzheimer's, decided to go work in an extended care facility for people afflicted with it. This was after her mother died and she felt she needed to understand what she couldn't when her mother was alive. With honesty and great writing, you learn what happens in a facility that deals with this disease head on. You meet the group of residents that reside in the "neighborhood" she is assigned to ...more
This book touched me deeply. My father was in a nursing home and was very much like Hayes, a character in the book. My father was in equal parts handsome/witty/charming/grouchy and insulting. One never knew if he was going to make a witty joke our benignly throw out an insult. My mother ironed his clothes and instructed the caretakers how to dress him everyday. Wow, this book was great. Most of all, I was shocked at how accurate her characterization of the caretakers was! Where my dad lived the ...more
Cathy Gulkin
Jul 24, 2011 Cathy Gulkin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read for anyone who is dealing with a family member with Alzheimer's. Kessler's experiences humanise the sufferers of the disease and make their experiences understandable for the rest of us. After reading it, I went to visit my mother-in-law in her nursing home and saw her and the other residents with new eyes, much better able to relate to her in a meaningful way for both of us. It is also a strong condemnation of the pitfalls of for-profit elder care, particularly in the U.S., where pe ...more
Margo Brooks
Lauren Kessler went to work at an Alzheimer's care facility out of guilt. When her mother had Alzheimer's, she couldn't cope and decided that working with Alzheimer's patients and writing about the experience would help her come to terms with her own emotions and actions. And it worked. This is a beautiful and unapologetic look at what it is like to work and live at an Alzheimer's facility. It gives the residents their humanity back forgives the family members who, like her, prefer to remember t ...more
Jun 19, 2007 Rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: eldercare workers, family caregivers, anyone who knows someone with dementia
I worked for a time as an activity aide in the dementia unit of a nursing home. My daily overarching struggle was to convince certain of my co-workers of the enduring humanity in each of the individuals on the unit. I wish I had this book to give them at the time. Lauren Kessler takes a job at a residence specializing in dementia care. For her, this is a temporary assignment; a chance to gather materials for a reporting assignment. She takes on the difficult and often thankless work of daily car ...more
Feb 20, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a bit hard to imagine a "feel-good" book about alzheimer's patients and their underpaid, undervalued, overworked caregivers. But that is exactly what this book is. The author, who felt quite inadequate about the way she handled her mother's dementia, decides to research a book and do penance by working as a caregiver in a nearby facility. My first impressions were that it was an expose on how badly aids are treated, low pay, high turnover, and more. Then the author starts to dive into the i ...more
This is a book I may well read again. It is an easy and entertaining book by a woman whose mother died of Alzheimer's disease. I know that sounds like a real bummer, but it is not.

There are flash backs throughout the story of the trying time during her mother's last years, but that is not the main focus. Lauren Kessler later worked as an aide in an Alzheimer's unit as part of an effort to understand what was happening for people with the disease. It was much easier for her to meet those people
Jan 24, 2014 Chelsea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lauren Kessler's mom passed away after a long struggle with Alzheimer's. Having difficulty coming to terms with her mother's death and the disease that claimed it, the author decided to become an employee at a facility for patients with Alzheimer's, known in the book as Maplewood. The work, she discovers, is backbreaking and emotionally devastating. The pay, she also comes to find, is not nearly enough for the things the employees do. However, the book was rather hopeful - there was some unexpec ...more
Debbie Bateman
May 08, 2013 Debbie Bateman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recently, I have read several books about Alzheimer’s as research on a short story I would like to write. Dancing with Rose stands out for its honesty, insight and compassion. If you want to find out what life with the condition is really like, this is the book to read. After losing her mother to Alzheimer’s, Lauren Kessler yearned to make sense of what happened and to ease her troubled conscience about how she reacted to the situation. Temporarily setting aside her work as a writer, Kessler too ...more
This was a beautifully written look at Alzheimer's from a very personal perspective. The story is told with compassion and vivid language. The reader isn't spoken at but rather invited into the narrative, to fall in love with the nursing home residents and appreciate all of the difficulties that they face. I really liked the different perspectives that were offered on how to view and treat the disease and the way that scientific information was so well woven into the broader narrative. This was ...more
Apr 09, 2010 Eva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe this book would be a good introduction to the human face of Alzheimer's for people who have not had much experience being around individuals with the disease. The author felt badly for how she had treated her demented mother, and decided to work as a caretaker of Alzheimer's patients as a personal form of penance. She subsequently wrote this book in her professional role as a journalist. She works very hard to develop story arcs around several of the patients, and the book suffers from ...more
Jun 12, 2008 Danielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My grandmother had Alzheimer's; I admit that the thought of the disease - losing one's mind, memories, past - has always terrified me. I also admit to being a bit fearful of this book as a result, as it hit very close to home. But now, taking a deep breath after having finished this book in two days... now I am calmer, more open-minded, able to think about this disease without wanting to hide underneath the covers. It is a wonderfully written and heartfelt book. One of those that makes you want ...more
Aug 18, 2008 Jillien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have a family member suffering from Alzheimer's, this is a great and surprisingly positive look into Alzheimer's Disease. However, I do think that because the author was able to look objectively at the situation and find the "good" because she was much more emotionally removed from the situation, it is obviously much harder if it is a family member that you remember a certain way, then to see them decline is very hard. Kessler talks about how each of the residents, while demented, have th ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Decription clean up 2 16 Feb 10, 2014 01:47PM  
  • Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer's
  • Twenty Questions
  • Elegy for Iris
  • The Things Between Us: A Memoir
  • Rogue River Journal: A Winter Alone
  • Bearing the Body
  • Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen
  • Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life
  • Learning to Speak Alzheimer's: A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease
  • Forever Ours: Real Stories of Immortality and Living from a Forensic Pathologist
  • The House on Beartown Road: A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting
  • I, Maya Plisetskaya
  • Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine
  • Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road
  • The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Life
  • Tearing the Silence: On Being German in America
  • Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio
  • Look up for Yes
Lauren Kessler is the author of six works of narrative nonfiction. She is also the author of Pacific Northwest Book Award winner Dancing with Rose (published in paperback as Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimers), Washington Post bestseller Clever Girl and Los Angeles Times bestseller The Happy Bottom Riding Club which David Letterman, in fierce competition with Oprah, chose as the first (and onl ...more
More about Lauren Kessler...

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“They play like file clerks file.” 1 likes
“The problem is understaffing. The problem is undertraining. The problem is high caregiver turnover. The problem is paying minimum wage. The problem is the eldercare industry. (I could go on, and so I will: The problem is undervaluing the elderly. The problem is fear of aging. The problem is fear of dying.)” 1 likes
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