Jul 30, 2011

Just a Word: Friends Encounter Alzheimer's (Book Review)

Just a Word is more than a book. Even though Rose Lamatt did not intend this, the middle two thirds of the book reads like a wonderfully written three act play.

Just a Word: Friends Encounter Alzheimer's
Just a Word:
Friends Encounter Alzheimer's
The play starts with the startling realization that the diagnosis is -- Alzheimer's.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

The crushing realization that someone you love is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The accompanying denial and angst that comes in with the verdict.

As the play begins the action begins to rise immediately.

As the Alzheimer's disease worsens in her good friend Carol, the action becomes almost frantic. I was surprised at how fast I was reading the words. The scenes were zooming by so quickly that I felt like I was in a car going 100 miles an hour.

Somehow the depiction of the characters became so real that I felt like I was standing in the corner of the room watching each scene play out. I could see the faces of the participants even though I had never met a single one of them.

The doctors, friends, support group members and Rose -- each and every one of them. They all had a body and a face


Rose Lamatt has a unique writing style. One thing that surprised me was her ability to end a chapter with a single sentence that encapsulated the entire chapter.

When this happened, I found myself putting the book down and thinking about Rose's words. Lessons to be learned. At the end of several chapters, I felt myself breathing a little harder, my heart rate was slightly elevated. I was thinking and feeling.


In Just a Word, Rose reveals many of her secret thoughts. She reveals the thoughts that millions of caregivers have from time to time but never say -- out loud. Never reveal to anyone. Those secret little thoughts that reveal what we are feeling and thinking -- these thoughts are rarely pleasant. The lament.


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When this book/play reaches the climax, it is time for Rose to do what every caregiver dreads -- put Carol into a nursing facility. The description of the first nursing facility made my heart hurt. I saw the lazy, uncaring employees in my mind. They had bodies and faces.

I learned how difficult it can be to find a good, high quality care facility. I learned some important lessons that I intend to use should I ever need to face the same difficult decision. For me this education was worth more than the price of the book.


Ultimately, Rose yanks Carol out of the first care facility and takes her to a second. A wise decision fraught with an enormous amount of anxiety, guilt, and heartache.

It is at this point we reach the denouement. The final resolution as Carol dies and Rose must face the demons within her. Demons left over from 14 long years of caring for Carol, and carrying around Alzheimer's like a 1,000 pound weight on her shoulders.

I often wonder to myself, what is it going to be like when it is over? I had to think about that in some detail after reading this book.


The middle two thirds of Just a Word are a wonderfully written three act play.

I could easily envision this as an off Broadway play in New York. The play would be a wonderfully disconcerting depiction of the sinister side of Alzheimer's and the plight of the Alzheimer's caregiver.

The message within the message would help those looking at caregivers from the outside-in to understand what a day in the life of a caregiver entails. They could then multiple that by 14 years.

If Just a Word ever becomes a play it will be hard to watch. People will squirm in their seats. They will definitely cry. They will definitely think. They might feel Alzheimer's for the first time.

When they leave the theater I am sure of this one thing -- they'll understand, maybe for the first time -- that Alzheimer's is more than just a word.

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