Anybody who knows somebody in the earlier stages of dementia will recognise Steph's account of how her plausible, charming husband could deceive the unwary — even a psychologist responsible for diagnosis. Again and again, Tony refused to acknowledge there was anything wrong, and Steph herself admits: 'For me, it was a strategy of not facing up to the reality of what dementia could bring and whether I could cope with it.'
In the end she did indeed cope — though not without immense stress, heartache, anger and despair. Her vivid narrative, including the terrible 'breaking point' when Tony hit her over the head and had to be sectioned, the difficulty in achieving the right sort of medication, the dilemmas over respite care . . . All this will be painfully familiar to many carers.
But reading her description of her husband's last days, and imagining Tony's daughter Cherie and Steph singing together at his deathbed, is a poignant reminder that love can survive 'the dementia bubble' and continue after death.
Each case of Alzheimer’s is as unique as the person afflicted by it, but I found her account both reassuring and frustrating in its familiarity. My former partner has the same cruel disease, and the myriad emotions Steph describes – the aforementioned guilt as well as anger, hurt, grief, exhaustion, loneliness and also love, memories, laughter – are remarkably similar to those I have felt...Towards the end of the book, Steph provides a list offering useful advice to those in a similar situation, but what is most evident throughout is her deep frustration and anger at the dearth of information and support...This is a brave, honest and important book that accurately describes the chaotic, exhausting, haphazard, guilt-filled, embarrassing and lonely role of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s; a disease that is a stripping bare of a human being – not just the patient themselves but also of those who love and care for them.