Book: Dementia: hope on a difficult journey

Dementia: hope on a difficult journey, by Dr Adrian Treloar,
Published by Redemptorist Publications 2016
ISBN: 9780852314715
RRP: £9.95

During my previous nursing career, I was one of many who dedicated a considerable amount of time and energy to the care of men and women with dementia. Sometimes those with dementia included Sisters from my own community. Some were dearly-loved friends.

I therefore approached Dementia: hope on a difficult journey with a certain amount of practical experience, sharing with countless others the ups and downs of what really is a "difficult journey" - in fact, a frequently very difficult journey. The book's author is not addressing a readership which is, as it were, a blank slate. Instead, he speaks to people with a certain degree of familiarity and know-how in caring for people with dementia; who, whatever their understanding and proficiency, need some reassurance and concrete support.

Dr Adrian Treloar is a consultant and senior lecturer in old-age psychiatry with more than twenty years' experience in his field. He is a committed Catholic, but he has written in such a way that Dementia: hope on a difficult journey is accessible to all, regardless of religious belief or its absence.

Dementia: hope on a difficult journey can be read within a couple of hours. It also deserves to be read and re-read, chapter by chapter, as one inevitable question after another raises its head. It is a genuine sharing of thoughts and experience in the hope of generating fresh ideas and caring behaviours. The book is a stepping stone, not the solution.

Here, at last, is a book which is full of information, delivered in simple language and in a style which is both gentle and personal. Its very directness helps the reader to feel that Dr Treloar is engaging with them in conversation, offering support in situations which can be very trying. There is a lovely sense of equality and dialogue as he delivers what are sometimes hard facts and offers immensely practical ways of dealing with the challenges that occur. Nobody wants, for instance, to think about drawing up an agreement for Lasting Powers of Attorney or of restricting the movements of a wanderer who regularly loses their way. Yet these are genuine needs which Dr Treloar confronts with an empowering sensitivity and realism.

Its accessibility makes Dementia: hope on a difficult journey a valuable support, not only to the carer, but also to the person who has received the diagnosis and wants to understand more about their present and future.

Loss of memory and the ability to recognise loved ones are two painful aspects of dementia. Dr Treloar offers strategies which can help to maintain meaningful conversations even at a fairly advanced stage of the disease. He highlights the fact that someone's spiritual awareness stays with them for a surprisingly long period - even to the end. Praying together can be an enormous source of peace and unity for both the carer and the person with dementia, who might have surprising and inspiring insight into what is happening in their life. To one who has been a regular churchgoer, the sacraments often remain an important anchor even as they cope with their increasing disability.

Throughout the book, Dr Treloar has inserted brief quotes from carers. These help to create a sense of solidarity: the dementia of a loved one is something which does not need to be faced alone. There are others who have "been there, done that" and are willing to share what they have learned in the process.
Dementia: hope on a difficult journey is a very special book, one which is relevant to the person with dementia, to his or her carers and extends to those with pastoral responsibility for the carers. Reading this book, I mused that a copy needs to be in the community room of every religious house, presbytery, doctor's surgery, medical school, school of nursing, care home, hospice and library. It is a small book, but one which deserves to be a bestseller.

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