Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter's Memoir
by Martha Stettinius

Dundee-Lakemont Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-984-93260-3.
Reviewed by Penny Leisch
Posted on 11/20/2012

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Elders

Martha Stettinius writes Inside the Dementia Epidemic with clarity and insight both into her mother and herself. Her story isn't a simple review of things that happened during her years of care giving. Rather, Stettinius talks about how it affected her, her mother, her spouse, and her children, as well as things she's learned that would have been more helpful if she'd known them earlier. In addition, she provides a comprehensive index, notes, resources, and appendixes on individual topics. Inside the Dementia Epidemic helps people just stepping into that arena, be they daughters, sons, or spouses, to jump-start their knowledge and avoid learning the hard way, as Stettinius often did.

From beginning to end, Stettinius is thorough without over-explaining, and she talks on a level that someone new to the world of dementia can understand. She also doesn't talk down to someone with years of experience in this area. Caring for her mother, Judy, runs the gamut from living with Stettinius, to assisted living, to rehab, and then nursing home. Stettinius realistically faces up to her feelings of guilt and the challenges: she's human, fallible, and wants to do it all herself. She also wonders whether her mother's functional losses would have slowed with earlier care, if she'd been more involved and hadn't missed the signs that her mother had a problem. This is a question that bothers many spouses and adult children who don't understand the multitude of ways dementia affects people, and the over one hundred conditions that fall into this category. Even professionals have difficulty sorting out symptoms that may be caused by such things as infection, medication, other illnesses, depression, or a stroke.

I spent over a decade taking care of three elderly parents, at times from a distance, and traveling all the roads Stettinius still travels, as of the publication of this book. Thus, I appreciate the depth, current information, and compassion for everyone who shares her journey personally and professionally, in addition to her insight into her own needs and behavior. Her book covers a vast amount of information without creating information overload because it's well organized and shepherds the reader through each topic step-by-step. She says what has to be said, even when it goes against what people hope to hear, and also offers support for caregivers who have family and friends questioning their decisions.

Inside the Dementia Epidemic will help friends, family members, and caregivers get a foothold quickly and ease the natural anxiety that comes with the large number of complicated decisions they face. It's a wonderful resource for individuals and professionals.

Read an excerpt from this book.

A true representative of the sandwich generation, Martha Stettinius is a mom, editor, writing instructor, and a volunteer advocate for the needs of family caregivers, as well as the primary caregiver for her mother. She lives with her husband and two children in an intentional community in upstate New York where they share meals and community space with neighbors. Stettinius has a Master's in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Visit the book website.

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