In some ways, Lauren Kessler's Dancing with Rose picks up where Lisa Genova's Still Alice left off. Genova left Alice sitting in her kitchen, aware she was sinking deeper into Alzheimer's. Dancing with Rose looks at it from the caretaker's point of view. However, it's nonfiction, and Kessler takes readers into what happens when the Alzheimer's victim must finally go into a home.
Kessler's mother suffered from Alzheimer's, and Lauren didn't know how to cope. She tried to relieve her father of nursing duties by bringing her mother into a home near her, but it didn't last, and her father took her back east where she died. However, Kessler admits she never did understand her mother, one of those victims of World War II who successfully worked until she was forced to leave the workplace when the men returned. After her mother's death, Kessler felt guilty that she felt fear and detachment. As a journalist, she decided to explore the world of Alzheimer's.
Eight years after her mother's death, Lauren Kessler took an entry-level minimum wage job as a Resident Assistant in a facility she calls Maplewood. And, it was there that she learned what a brutally hard job it was for the RAs, but also what a rewarding job it was. She began to see the residents as individuals, as humans going through another stage of life. And, for the first time, she began to understand her own mother, and feel sorry for the woman who actually left herself behind before she suffered from the disease.
Dancing with Rose is a moving story of a daughter coming to terms with her own mother's loss of memory and life, her own fear of inheriting the disease, and her perceived failures as a daughter. It's a moving story that puts faces not only to the people who suffer from Alzheimer's, but also to the low-paid women who care for family members and parents. It's a thoughtful book that humanizes the ones who suffer from it, and the people who cope with the problems on a daily basis. Lauren Kessler did her penance for her lack of feeling for her mother. Though no one truly understands those who suffer from Alzheimer's, Kessler does her best to make the reader see the victims as people who are still leading lives, just different lives than they once experienced.
Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's by Lauren Kessler. Viking. 2007. ISBN 9780670039596 (hardcover), 260p.
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book.