GUIDING FAMILIES THROUGH THE SEASONS OF LIFE

Book Review: Somebody I Used To Know

I just finished reading Wendy Mitchell’s memoir, “Somebody I Used To Know”. Wow. It is a must read – not only for everyone caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s, but for everyone. Wendy was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2014, when she was only 58. This book is about Wendy’s journey, through her eyes. It is filled with insight and tips on what it’s like living with Alzheimer’s, as well as many reminders that we should all enjoy our current lives and live in the moment. I found myself underlining so many passages as I was reading!

Wendy writes: “I live for the moment. I don’t plan anymore. I just enjoy each day as it comes. . . .for a moment I have that strange feeling again, as if Alzheimer’s is a gift, as if we could all learn something from the harsh lessons it teaches.”

Wendy has so many reminders for the reader about valuing your life right now, before something changes (for her, an early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but really the reminders apply equally to unexpected changes, diagnosis, deaths, etc). A few of my favorites:

  • “I wish I had known the that they were the last times I would do those things I loved and I would have enjoyed them all the more for knowing: the last run along deserted streets, the last batch of cookies, the last drive behind the steering wheel.”
  • “I took . . . independence for granted then. I envy it now.”
  • “At work you go about life looking forward to the weekend, wishing each Monday to Friday away; here there is nothing to do but watch and wait and think and worry, and wish back all those weeks that whizzed past, all those weeks of full fitness and a future stretched far ahead.”
  • “I don’t know how long I will have to take advantage of these new experiences, so I grab every one, even the ones I’m frightened of – especially the ones I’m frightened of.”

My take-away’s from Wendy:

  • People living with Alzheimer’s just want to be treated as human beings – with honesty and compassion.
  • People living with Alzheimer’s may not remember what you did or said a few minutes ago, but they will FEEL the interaction. They will feel your kindness and loving touch.
  • People living with Alzheimer’s thrive in familiar surroundings. When they are moved to different locations or when things are moved around in their room/house, it is very disrupting and confusing.
  • People living with Alzheimer’s, particularly in the earlier stages, can still do many things. It just takes a lot of patience, organization and creativity to figure out how to accomplish a certain task or activity.
  • Technology can be so helpful for people living with Alzheimer’s.

Wendy still actively blogs and tweets! Check her out on Twitter, @WendyPMitchell

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