The Gift of Alzheimer’s, Heart & Soul Journey
By Maggie La Tourelle
Published by Maggie La Tourelle
'The Gift of Alzheimer’s, Heart & Soul Journey' is a deeply moving, real-life account of a mother and daughter finding a new level of peace and understanding with each other after the former is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The book acts as a counterbalance to the unsurprisingly overwhelmingly negative perceptions of this devastating disease, showing that with love, persistence and care it is possible not only to communicate meaningfully with someone who has dementia but to actually strengthen relationships. It also acts as a learning tool, showing that death from dementia can be gentle and graceful if carers are able to embrace and even encourage the person’s altered reality, rather than waste time constantly trying to drag them back to “normality”.
Maggie La Tourelle's story of love and redemption begins when her mother Pat, who lives on the west coast of Scotland, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 85. Maggie, who lives in London, makes the decision to put her life on hold, not just for her mother but also her father, who is in his early nineties and struggling to cope with his wife’s illness. She decides not to fight but to "embrace" her mother's disease, something which, to her and Pat's astonishment, becomes the catalyst for a hugely positive transformation in what was a volatile and difficult relationship.
Two years after Pat’s diagnosis and with her behaviour becoming increasingly dangerous (she has transitioned from putting tomato soup out for the cat’s dinner to leaving unlit gas hobs turned on), a devastated Maggie agrees for her mother to move into a care home permanently, one which, providentially, is next door to the family home.
It is during Pat’s time here that mother and daughter really begin to address and heal a lifetime of wounds, many of which stem from the depression which has dogged Pat throughout her adult life. Never diagnosed, Pat has managed – or not – her depression on her own, Maggie’s father being of little help because "my parents have never been able really to hear or be there for each other because of their own overwhelming needs”. Deepening the family’s wounds still further is the alcohol-related death of Maggie’s younger sister, Shona.
Maggie engages with her mother as a daughter but, being a healer and psychotherapist, as a counsellor too, and finds that she and her mother can successfully negotiate dementia's intricate mental maze to cover ground that “would normally take months in therapy”. Maggie finds herself uplifted by this new-found connection, marvelling that it can happen “in the shadow of Alzheimer’s”.
'The Gift of Alzheimer’s' shines a hugely positive light on a condition popularly viewed as unremittingly bleak. Maggie's simple but profound advice about being open and loving, and not just to hear but to really listen, will help anyone caring for someone with late-stage Alzheimer’s, professionally or personally, towards a better understanding of and a deeper connection with the person behind the disease.
'The Gift of Alzheimer's, Heart and Soul Journey' is available to buy from Amazon, priced £12.99.
Many thanks to all who entered our drawer to win one of three sets of 'Saying Goodbye to Hare' and 'Remembering Hare'. The winners are: Karen Leach, Vanessa Hillier and Jo Blagbrough.