cover image An Unintended Journey: 
A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia

An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia

Janet Yagoda Shagam. . Prometheus Books, $20 trade paper (340p) ISBN 978-1-61614-751-8

In this splendid manual, science writer Shagam (Regaining Bladder Control) combines the practicality of a how-to guide with the heartfelt story of caring for a parent suffering from senile dementia. Shagam’s mother, Dorothy, was 96 when a fall triggered a cascade of complications. Managing difficult behaviors proves to be “the crux of dementia care,” first at a rehabilitation facility, then back at home, and finally at a memory-care facility where Dorothy died a day shy of her 100th birthday. Each chapter is supplemented by worksheets and FAQs for those caring for someone with dementia or any other chronic progressive illness, and Shagam covers it all: from the practical—including power of attorney, advanced directives, feeding difficulties, nursing-home “visiting skills,” dealing with “wandering” and hygiene, finding paid caregivers, and differences between medications—to the emotional (the scribbled sketches from dementia patients that introduce chapters make it clear how devastating their disease is). She courageously transforms her painful journey into an enlightened guide and a primer on appreciating what you have while you have it: “It’s impossible to emerge at the other end without a profound respect for those things that make us human, and... for those subtle characteristics that make us the person we are.” Photos and illus. (July)