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

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  230 ratings  ·  73 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...more
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...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...more
Erika
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
Ginni Dickinson
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
Jean
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...more
Kirstin
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
Christine
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
Pam
May 05, 2008 Pam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Stephanie
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.
Margaret
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.

I...more
Heather
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...more
Leslie
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
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
Rebecca
Jun 19, 2007 Rebecca rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Nancy
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...more
Karen
Kessler, a university professor and journalist, wants to make amends for what she perceived as a failure on her part to connect with her mother who had dementia during her final years.

Kessler decides to work as a minimum-wage employee in a skilled nursing center that offers care to people with dementia. Not only does she learn to care for their physical needs. Kessler works to connect with them socially and emotionally despite their memory problems.

She learns to celebrate the person before her...more
Debbie Bateman
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
Emeritus Senior Living
Nonfiction writer Lauren Kessler tells the story of her complicated relationship with her mother, her mother’s death to Alzheimer’s and her journey working in an Alzheimer’s facility. Along the way, Kessler meets and becomes strongly attached to some of the men and women living in the communities.
Jennifer
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
Jillien
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
Danielle
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
Eva
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
Steve Thorp
A well-written, honest description of what it's like to live with and care for individuals with dementia. The author worked for six months in a Memory Care facility both to understand the illness better and to work out her own issues with her mother's dementia. The book urges a sensitive and humanistic approach toward individuals (individuals!) with the disease. It's also socially conscious, looking at the lives of the minimum-wage people, mainly women, who do the hard do-to-day work of care giv...more
Deborah
Jul 13, 2008 Deborah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: caregivers, families of individuals with Alzhiemer's Disease
I started listening to this on CD and became so enthralled I checked the book out so I could finish it more quickly. I wish I'd had this when my mother was suffering from the disease. There were many insights into how Alzheimer's affects individuals that would have helped. This woman, by being observant and sensitive, learned so much about the disease. I wish the elder care industry would take note. My only criticism is that in my experience, it was extremely rare to find a caregiver at this lev...more
Mary
I put off reading this book because of the uncomfortable topic of Alzheimer's disease, and a fear many people in my age group have of someday experiencing its ravages. I'm very glad that I did read it. Not only did Lauren Kessler give a personal face to the victims of this disease, she also found within each person dignity and hopefulness. She was able to enter their world and relate to them in ways they could respond, which changed the quality of their relationship. I have no personal experienc...more
April
Sep 10, 2007 April rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone associated with elder care
Both of my grandmothers have Alzheimer's. I have several issues trying to explain the loss of connection with them. The author seems to have had some of the same feelings, but she goes to work in a Alzheimer's care facility in order to see how life for these folks really is.

She tears apart the stereotypes of 'alive' and 'terminally ill'. Her book also has a good deal of commentary about the treatment of minimum wage workers who work their arses off in a field where they are underappreciated and...more
Monty
I gave this book a five star rating because it has such an important message and it got me back in touch with what it was like to visit my dad for the last eight years of his life when he lived in a nursing home, wheelchair bound and with dementia. The author is a journalist who spent several months working as an aide in an Alzheimer's residential center. Her descriptions of the residents, the aides and her experience not only reminded me of my dad's last years, but allowed me to appreciate the...more
Kim
A thoughtful and touching book for anyone who knows or has known someone with Alzheimers, particularly those struggling with their care. This book also suggests we think about the kind of life and care we'd like for ourselves in advanced age and not wait until we're there to let others decide our fate. There are many wonderful facilities for the elderly out there, but there are also many attending issues - most notably that of low-paid, unskilled, high-turnover staff - which are crying for our a...more
Carole
Apr 11, 2008 Carole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: health care workers, family caregivers, social policy makers
Recommended to Carole by: Betsy Dalton
This book was lent to me by a nurse practitioner who works with persons with dementia. Like the author of this book, she sees the person that is still there inside the demented individual. The book was written by a journalist who worked in an Alzheimer's facility following the death of her mother who had dementia. It is a very realistic view of the invaluable role of the direct care provider and, in addition to its presentation of the patients, this book also shows the issues facing those who pr...more
Chris
A quote from the back of the book " Laren Kessler has confronted the horror of Alzheimer's in the most direct and courageous way possible. After losing a mother to the disease, she went to work as a low-wage aide in an Alzheimer's facility. Dancing with Rose is itself a kind of miracle of caring. She manages to humanize the victims and shine a clear, compassionate light on those who struggle to care for them." Provides quite a bit of insight into a world most of us would rather not visit in pers...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Decription clean up 2 15 Feb 10, 2014 01:47PM  
  • Elegy for Iris
  • The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Life
  • Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life
  • Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer's
  • The Story of My Father
  • Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio
  • Shouting Won't Help: Why I--and 50 Million Other Americans--Can't Hear You
  • Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence
  • Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction
  • One Doctor: Close Calls, Cold Cases And The Mystery Of Medicine
  • The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed
  • Kerplunk!: Stories
  • Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving
  • Resistance
  • Three Samurai Cats: A Story from Japan
  • A Day With No Crayons
  • Hanging Up
  • Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict
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...
Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family Counterclockwise: One Midlife Woman's Quest to Turn Back the Hands of Time The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, a Daughter, a Journey Through the Thicket of Adolescence Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era

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