"Is the cooker turned off?"
Caring for an older person with failing memory
Improve the confidence and living skills of those with memory loss, dementia and early stages of Alzheimer's disease
'If you want to recommend one book to a carer of someone with dementia, recommend this one. It is a practical survival manual, written by a carer, aiming to offer guidance and share experience of the day-to-day reality of caring for people with dementia.
It is incredibly easy to understand and takes about an hour to complete, an important selling point to its target audience. It covers every aspect of care, from understanding memory to providing memory prompts, from personal safety to personal care to the carer's own well-being, with a compassionate eye to the dignity of the cared-for person and the sanity of the carer.
The author uses her own experience of caring for her father to illustrate her recommendations, and this personal experience anchors her advice and proves its relevance. I was particularly impressed by the chapter on carers and on how to look after yourself, which includes relaxation and meditation techniques and tips on positive thinking.
Many books on dementia are very medicalised or written from a practitioner viewpoint. This book is wonderfully simple: a guide for carers by a carer, reassuringly honest and to the point.'
Rachel Wooller, Senior social worker, Cambridgeshire Social Services Department. Community-Care Magazine.
The immediate appeal of this book is its clear and attractive format. The content is such that it can be read straight through or the reader can dip in and out of relevant sections. It is written from a dual perspective: the author has theoretical knowledge from her professional nursing background, but is also a family carer who has experienced the 'emotional consequence' of finding herself in the position of looking after a father with memory loss.
In the first chapter there is a brief description of her father's journey, and the way she tried to help him understand what he was experiencing - with examples of the diagrams she used to explain the physical basis of memory loss. How encouraging that right at the beginning the importance of a clear explanation to the person with memory loss is demonstrated.
There are a number of useful practical tips to help a person with memory loss to remember things, using cues, association, diaries, note-books, visitors' books and routine checklist, among others. Changes in behaviour as a result of feeling frustrated, uncertain, lonely, impatient and suspicious are discussed sensitively, as is the increasing need for assistance with personal care.
The effect of these practical tips, while assisting in helping the individual to cope with their memory loss, is also to help the carer. The beauty of this book is that while dealing with practical issues and providing assistance in a sensitive and dignified manner, it manages to provide information for the needs of the carer herself: "To be an effective carer the first person you need to look after is yourself."
The latter half of the book focuses on the needs of the carer and provides useful suggestions for minimizing stress such as thinking positively, relaxation, meditation and getting enough sleep. An appendix outlines some benefits and sources of help available.
Some extracts from the author's father's diaries show the progression of his failing memory and the insight he had into this.
One brief criticism: the book discusses memory loss and does not use the word dementia. As we strive to remove the stigma associated with dementia it would have been helpful, I feel, if the word had been included.
This person-centred book would be a useful resource for family carers and professional care staff alike. Useful tips are provided and the whole problem of failing memory is discussed in a sensitive yet challenging manner.
Helen Leslie, The Journal of Dementia Care, Vol. 2 No. 1 January/February 2004
This book is easy to read and is presented in a logical, well structured format. Overall, it provides the reader
with a well integrated synthesized account of both personal and 'technical' information about caring. The book is formatted in a way that allows the reader to select particular areas of interest to him or her and this is enhanced through the use of notes in the margin. The text is also further illustrated through the use of clear pictures and diagrams.
The nine chapters of the book reflect the evolving nature of becoming a carer, beginning with the chapter 'Discovering you are a carer' and working towards practical advice on how to help both the carer and the
cared for. From an occupational therapy point of view, it is refreshing to see that the book has a strong emphasis on the practical ways in which a person with a failing memory can be helped to maintain his or her independence for as long as possible. This is done with an honest approach that offers valuable insights into the role of being a carer or being cared for. The authors acknowledge the challenges of being a carer but also highlight the rewards that can be gained from taking on this role.
This book would be useful to a number of different readers. It would be a good text for carers, health care professionals working with carers, basic grade occupational therapists or therapists new to working with carers,
as well as for students wanting to gain some valuable insights into the role of being a carer. Overall, it is a book
that would be useful in a university or departmental library
Kirsty Pope, British journal of Occupational Therapy February 2004 67(2)
This practical guide is intended to be read by carers of older people with memory problems living at home or in care homes and by professionals involved in caring for older people. Six of the chapters relate to various aspects
of Josephine Woolf's research into prospective memory.
Aspects such as memory changes, insights into difficulties relating to the individual and memory aids, are all
clearly explained and illustrated with relevant diagrams. Of particular interest is the explanation of the importance
of finding keys or cues to help trigger memory.
The book is grounded in Ms Woolf's experiences as a carer for her father. Anecdotes illustrate her personal journey as a carer and these are linked to the research study. The practical tips and advice about how to aid memory will benefit family carers. They also give professionals an insight into some of the difficulties caused by memory loss.
An interesting book, it meshes real life experiences of a carer with the research.
Alan Chapman, Education and Training Manager, Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling.
Nursing Standard Journal 6 July 2005, No. 43
Co-author Josephine Woolf, who has a background in nursing as well as psychology, found herself in the role of main carer for her father, who developed dementia. Together with her brother Michael, she provides us with a deeply personal and often compelling account into the range of problems presented by someone with dementia, in a concise, understandable, informative and down to earth manner, which is evidently based on personal experience underpinned by professional insight.
The book covers every aspect of caring for someone with dementia, from understanding memory to helping a person with dementia to remember things, using cues, association, diaries, note-books, visitors' books and routine checklists; from personal safety to personal care to the carer's own well-being, both physically and psychologically, whilst retaining a compassionate eye to the dignity of the cared-for person.
I really only have one criticism, which is the fact that the author consistently uses the terms 'memory loss' or 'failing memory' rather than the word dementia. As we all strive to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, including dementia, the use of the word dementia throughout the book would have been more helpful.
I recommend this book to a number of different readers. Firstly and baldly, to patients in the early stages of their illness, who retain a degree of insight and are interested and brave enough to want to learn about a multitude of aspects of their likely future journey. Secondly, to all carers, both informal and professional, for whom this book offers invaluable insights into the various roles of being a carer. Thirdly, to all other aspiring and practicing colleagues in the field of dementia, if only to recommend it to patients and carers alike.
In summary, this book should be found on the bookcase in every house, care home, institute and department working with and/or caring for older people with dementia.
Walter Pierre Bouman, Consultant Psychiatrist for Older Adults. University Hospital, Nottingham, UK.
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 2005
This book has been carefully thought about the layout, content and presentation style all combine to help the reader find their way round with ease. The size of the book makes it easy to handle, and the text size makes it easy to read.
The authors are clear about who this book is aimed at, namely anyone who finds themselves thrust by circumstance into the role of caring for someone who's memory is failing, and clearly reflects their own experiences of caring. It concentrates on the practical aspects of coping with daily life, and gives clear guidance for people with minimal understanding of the complex workings of memory, all written in positive language.
There are useful margin notes throughout the book that would help the reader to relocate a particular place, and this layout style also helps the reader who likes to "dip in" to a book rather than read it cover to cover. Each chapter contains a "mind map" style presentation of the chapter's content and ends with a summary of the main points.
I found it very readable and positive in its approach - a recommended read.
This is the sort of book that should be available at any older person's resource centre, that any professional could leave with someone when first contacting services, or for older people's carer support organizations to have available.
Steve Kings RMN BSc, Clinical Nurse Leader, Mental Health Services for Older People, Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust.
SIGNPOST JOURNAL, June 2005
'Thank you for writing this book. I am sure it will be a real help for carers looking after people with dementia - who need to realise that they are not alone and that there are ways to help. Your experiences and techniques are valuable ways to help those particularly in the earlier stages of the illness.
It is also a valuable book for student health professionals working with people with dementias as it will give a useful insight into the problems faced by the person and their carers. I don't think student health professionals have much insight into the work of informal carers so this should help.
The idea of finding a key to unlock the existing memory is excellent which I will use in my own teaching. It should also be a useful adjunct for practitioners working with people with these health problems.
I am suggesting that our library obtain several copies of this book.'
Adrian Newman, Senior lecturer, Centre for Healthcare Education, University College, Northampton.
'There are many text books on the market currently relating to the care of the older person, however, very few focus on the fundamental day to day challenges which face carers both at home, in the community, and in hospitals and nursing homes.
The book provides a much needed insight into the range of problems presented by the older person with failing memory, in an understandable, down to earth, no nonsense way, which is clearly based on personal experience underpinned by professional insight. The book, therefore, provides a very practical compendium of advice and guidance, which has direct practical application. The book is clearly intended for relatives and healthcare assistants as the primary readership, but it will equally be of value to nursing and other healthcare students, in addition to qualified practitioners caring for the elderly.
It is a book, which can be read with ease or 'dipped' into in order to extract specific information of a very fundamental nature, which can be utilised as a basis for nursing diagnosis, care planning, and evaluation of care. I particularly like the layout of the book. It is not cluttered with non essential photographs and diagram, and the diagrams, which are included in the form of 'mind maps or spidergrams', are extremely useful and easy to interpret.
It is a book, which should be found on the bookcases in every nursing home and department caring for the elderly. It does not purport to be what it is not, and it is a practical handbook 'peppered with' advice and information, which can be readily interpreted and transferred into meaningful care plans. It is a book, which also adds insightful structure to an often confusing array of symptomotology, which can be both confusing and distressing for the non professional carer. The added value of the text is reflected in the fact that the authors portray an empathy that can have only been generated from harrowing first hand personal experience.'
Philip Pye OBE Faculty Head, Dean of Faculty, Bangor University Faculty of Health
'The layout is very clear and easy to follow, enabling the reader to dip in and out or read straight through. Lots of practical tips on helping people to remember. Good all round advice; the message that carers need to look after themselves is one that we are always stressing.'
Sue Gladden, Wirral Carers' Centre.
'This book is a moving and lucid description of the journey taken by a family caring for their father who suffered from memory failure over a period of years. Underlying the book is a sense of respect and insight into the worries that both the person affected and the carers will encounter and useful strategies for both in coping with and understanding this slowly progressive condition.
Josephine Woolf describes how she managed to develop strategies for helping both her father and herself in this situation. She pays respect to the needs of the carer as well as the person with the memory problem and gives clear and practical advice for both.
It is a chapter on "remembering to remember" where she describes approaches to unlocking memory that is particularly useful. It gives carers a chance to explore the "keys" which open the doors to memory retrieval .The concepts are made easy to understand for the general reader and are clearly set out. Most importantly they give a sense that there are positive things that can be done to help the person with memory loss.
This book is useful for all involved in the care of people with memory impairment. It would sit well in the general practitioner's library and would be helpful for GP registrars in training. It is a clear and positive manual for care staff and all involved in the care of those with dementia.'
Julia Lecky MB ChB MRCGP DCH DRCOG General Practitioner and Trainer in General Practice
'This book offers sensible, practical advice on techniques for dealing with failing memory in later life. It is based on good research and is illustrated with a detailed case-history.'
Emeritus Professor D. B. Bromley, University of Liverpool, UK.
'This book is essential reading for any carer of someone with failing memory. Here we have the advantage of the shared experience of a carer's professional knowledge of physiological, psychological and practical expertise in a role that may take many of us by surprise but can be a challenge that would enhance the lives of both the carer, and the cared-for.'
Pauline Thorpe, Wirral. Amazon review.
'A very informative work that details many important issues and problem solving skills that are essential knowledge to the carer and/or professional.'
Terry Keen, Senior Lecturer (Mental Health), Liverpool, UK.
'It is the personal experiences of the authors that come across particularly strongly in the book - that this is written by those who have faced up to the emotional and physical consequences of caring for someone with failing memory adds great credence and truth to the advice offered.'
'Learning that a parent is losing his or her memory and coming to terms with the realisation that you are slowly losing the person you love can be a very slow, tortuous and emotional journey. Dementia, unlike other conditions, attacks the whole family, and very little can be done to stop its destruction.
This book is an excellent description of how Josephine Woolf cared for her father during the six years of his dementia and how she looked at strategies to help him and cope herself.
The book then describes her research into the concept of 'remembering to remember It is a very easy-to-read, practical description of approaches and strategies to care that can be applied when caring for a person at home, in hospital or in a care home.
A useful addition to a library, particularly useful for care staff and informal carers who care for people in the early stages of dementia.'
Lynne Phair MA, BSc Hons (Nursing), RGN, RMN, DPN
Full review in 'Nursing older people' magazine - September vol 15 no6 2003 Royal College of Nursing
'Few people who find themselves becoming a carer have any forewarning or preparation for the job. Whether it happens overnight or gradually, they are thrown into their new role with little chance to think about it. I was lucky. My partner had his first stroke eight years ago followed by a second 15 months later while undergoing surgery, after which things went from bad to worse. We live in an area where social services are very good, and near one of the best mental health units in the country.
Thanks to our GP's insight, by the time things became really bad we already had a network of support in place, from social worker to psychiatric team (including a family therapist) as well as care facilities. Nevertheless, the feeling of isolation, of not knowing what to do or if what you were doing was right, sometimes of sheer desperation, was still there.
Co-author Josephine Woolf - who has a background in psychology, and specifically in the study of the effects of old age and failing memory - found herself the main carer for her ageing father. She writes compassionately, explaining in simple language why and how the memory fails, and describes the frustration and misery for the sufferer. She gives practical ideas for helping the sufferer to live as independently as possible while retaining their dignity (hence the title of the book: simple notes left around the house can be of enormous benefit, at least in the early stages).
She stresses the need for the carer to look after themselves too, something which most find hard to do. But this book shows that, with understanding of the problems and causes of failing memory, it need not be as overwhelming as it might seem. I only wish I'd had this book earlier.'
Kathy Stevenson, Daily Mail
'The book is very readable and the information very accessible. The layout of the book is clear and concise and the information it contains will provide a useful tool for anyone who is caring for a person with failing memory. There are clear and helpful hints as to strategies that could be employed and clear indications of some of the pitfalls to be aware of. It is very sensitively written and gives good guidelines for the carer about the person they are caring for and about how to look after themselves.'
The Shrewsbury Voice.
'However much you love them, looking after a parent with failing memory is physically and emotionally demanding. After working as a nurse in the NHS and carrying out research into memory loss at Liverpool University, Josephine Woolf thought she could cope with her elderly father's needs.
She wasn't prepared for her emotional response to his memory loss, but Josephine did eventually find simple, practical ways of helping her fiercely independent father to cope. "Talking about Dad's painful foot would remind him he had a chiropodist's appointment," she says, "and putting his pill container on the table where he ate his meals meant he'd take his own medication. Helping him to manage, rather than taking over, meant he could retain his self-worth."
After her father died, Josephine and her brother Michael turned their experiences into a practical reference guide for carers in a similar position.'
Good Housekeeping Magazine
'I have cared for my wife now for about five years with senile dementia and with the advice from her doctors I thought I knew all the answers, but the few pieces I've read, this book tells me I'll have things to learn. I can well understand the thinking that's gone into the title, brilliant.'
Letter from a reader, 81 years of age
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