Review of Jack Turley’s “Alzheimer’s: Will I Be Next?”

Review of Jack Turley’s “Alzheimer’s: Will I Be Next?”

Let me make one thing clear right away: I’m not a medical professional. I’m a former journalist turned novelist who also works as a freelancer and previously also worked in communications for two Florida-based skilled nursing facilities, among other places.

I’m also not someone who’s had a family member afflicted with Alzheimer’s. That said, in working with nursing homes I’ve had the rare opportunity to observe both professional caregivers and family members who cope with and care for people in the most despairing, degrading circumstances that could occur. In fact, I’ve interviewed both types of caregivers for video and just . . . watched a lot of interaction from both perspectives.

So sure, I’m not here to castigate family members who ultimately place someone with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home. But plenty of people do rebuke them — most typically those who never go through the horror of trying to take care of someone they love while simultaneously watching them decline mentally and physically, and all the while usually trying to hold down a full-time job and coping with their own physical issues. Those same critics are often the ones who likewise assume that nursing homes are hell holes and the professional caregivers who work in them could care less about the dementia patients for whom they care. I’ve seen both, and the concept of unfeeling caregivers is absolute nonsense.

But here’s the thing, and Jack Turley’s book Alzheimer’s: Will I Be Next? brings it home: There is no easy or perfect way to be any kind of caregiver and watch the process of Alzheimer’s rip the soul and life out of a once-vibrant person. In Turley’s case, the victim was his mother. He watched it. He lived it. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, he reluctantly chose to place her in a skilled nursing facility, where she lived for 12 years before the unavoidable path of this vicious disease brought her to an inevitable end.

If you’re a professional caregiver in a nursing home, you won’t like everything Turley says about the industry. But some of it you will like it or at least understand, because he does get it. He’s witnessed some of the same compassion displayed by nurses and nursing aides that I have from the sidelines. And if you’re a family member coping with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s? You may take comfort from knowing through Turley that you aren’t alone. You will face tough choices. You shouldn’t harbor guilt for coping the best way you’re able.

Turley at one point describes the insidious process of Alzheimer’s as “sinister craftsmanship once it takes possession of the human spirit.” If, on any level, you’ve battled that sinister craftsmanship, I applaud you. I applaud you because I’ve watched you do the best you can in a situation where no one can ever triumph.

Read Turley’s book if you’re a family member facing an Alzheimer’s situation. And read it if you’re a professional caregiver to remind yourself that the job you do matters considerably, and should never be second nature.