Rocky's Reviews > What Are You Doing Here? : Reflections on Dementia

What Are You Doing Here?  by Janet Wainscott
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it was amazing

I'd normally shy away from reading a book about dementia, reasoning it would probably be sentimental, boring, or, at the very least, depressing. Janet Wainscott's book 'What Are You Doing Here?' is none of these things, and I'm glad I read it because it demystified the topic for me. There won't be many of us who haven't had a relative with some form of dementia, or who don't worry that a loved one will develop dementia in the future. In telling the story of the author's mother's twelve year battle with dementia, this book contains a wealth of information about how the disease progresses, and about how you can continue having a relationship with a loved one who can no longer communicate as she once did. Because the author draws on interviews with the families of a number of dementia sufferers, as well as with professionals working with the elderly, the book gives a well-rounded view of how the health system responds to the needs of those with dementia. It's extremely well-researched, but instead of overwhelming the reader with the results of numerous scientific trials, the author has distilled the information into a useful and easy-to-read summary of what is currently known about reducing the risk of dementia and delaying cognitive decline.

What struck me most about 'What Are You Doing Here' was its combination of honesty and compassion. It tackles subjects such as incontinence, feeding difficulties, and the use of restraint in rest homes, with great sensitivity and without bias. The author has obviously taken great care to represent everyone's point of view. While being devoid of sentimentality, this book also leaves you in no doubt that the lady at its centre was loved very much. In the third chapter, 'What's Going On?', Janet writes: “Mum may have been much diminished and compromised by this loss [of identity] (and all the other losses), but there was still a spark of her old self until the last few days of her life. There's more to a person, their identity and their 'self' than the sum of their episodic memory.”

I can't help but feel the world would be a better place if 'What Are You Doing Here?' was recommended reading for anybody either working with dementia sufferers or responsible for making policies that affect their lives.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 22, 2013 – Finished Reading
October 1, 2013 – Shelved

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