An acclaimed biographer, Lauren Kessler immerses herself in her work to construct compelling portraits of her subjects. In Dancing with Rose, she recounts her time at a West Coast Alzheimer's facility. Working as an unskilled resident assistant, Kessler learns important lessons about humanity while conducting interviews with patients in various stages of the disease.
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Okay. Let me just get this with the narration out of the way: If you can get through the audible, hesitant breathy pauses, the audible swallowing, you're golden, 'cause underneath all that, Ruth Ann Phimister rocks it, with incredible sensitivity, proper emotion; you name it, she delivers on this truly incredible story (which is why I didn't squelch her on the star-count). And really, this was such a great audiobook, an amazing look at Alzheimer's; it was uplifting, almost, but never ever glossed over the horrors of the disease. It just reminded the reader that, yes, there's a person in there, a person who loved, and laughed, and who gets scared now. This memoir is based on Kessler's desire to work in a care facility, just to see what it's like as a caregiver, get the rhythm of the work, blah, blah, blah; no big deal, for a couple of weeks. She doesn't expect to be drawn in by the residents, and she certainly doesn't expect to also feel a sense of wanting to be closer to her mother who died of Alzheimer's, a mother she was estranged from. She goes from the person who used to be freaked out by "those people," to the person who goes in on her days off, the person who just can't seem to quit the temporary job. It's a beautiful, beautiful book, filled with the stories of the residents, who they used to be and what they lost to who they are now and what they might have gained; filled with stories of the staff who go above and beyond low-paying jobs, who think outside the box to bring light and a sense of life-right-now to each and every person; filled with stories of Lauren Kessler as she comes to terms with the relationship she had with her mother to the relationships she can have now with the elderly women who desperately need unconditional love. This was such a surprise of a book. This was such a damned blessing...!
Lauren Kessler decided to work in an Alzheimer's ward to make up for how poorly she did when her own mother had Alzheimer's. In finding redemption, she also discovers the humanity and life found in Alzheimer's patients. As the spouse/caregiver of a woman with early-onset Alzheimers I can appreciate the author's journey to understanding and appreciation of those trapped in the moment. I hope readers come to understand that this disease may be challenging but it doesn't have to be frightening. Dealing with Alzheimer,s begins an act of acceptance.
Hats off to Lauren and to the other caregivers who's selfless work for minimum wage make the last years of Alzheimer's patients comfortable and occasionally fun.