Will I Still Be Me?

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

This book is unique in that it discusses dementia by someone who is experiencing it. I am amazed that the author was able to write this book, which sometimes reads like a neurological theory paper. 

Anyone who has, or has a loved one who has, a progressive disease which impairs their cognitive skills will definitely relate to this book. Society feels that much of what makes up a person is their thinking skills. Bryden argues that is but one part of our personality, and even when our cognition is impaired, at the core we are still who we have always been, able to form relationships, have a spiritual side, and find meaning in enjoying the moment. She states over and over that a person with dementia is NOT an empty shell, and that by simply being, no matter what their circumstance, each person has value.

This is an interesting read, and I thank NetGalley and Jessica Kingsley Publications for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a unique look at dementia, through the eyes of someone who is actually going through it. Ms. Bryden's experience is fascinating, especially in the places where she talks about her fears, some of which are realized and some which turn out to be not as frightening as she initially thought. There are new things to worry about, she finds, and some things that are actually all right. Her book is by turns heartbreaking and hopeful, and I am very curious about her other works, especially since learning that she has been a dementia survivor and advocate for over 20 years. 

Bryden is a Christian, and she makes it clear that her faith is something that has helped her throughout this difficult journey. As a non-Christian reader, I didn't find these parts of the prose to be overmuch, nor did they come off as preachy. Her faith is part of her journey, and I found that it helped in my understanding of Ms. Bryden as both a writer and a survivor. Her book offers a unique viewpoint on dementia, and I think it would be of particular interest for caregivers of loved ones who have dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.
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The first amazing thing about this book is the author's ability to do research and formulate arguments, despite battling increasing cognitive impairment. Clearly she had plenty of "cognitive reserve" to begin with and is doing as much as she can to hang on to what she was given.

Having a mother-in-law with Alzheimer's, who has now been moved to a memory-care facility where there are folks further down that road, this book was alternately encouraging and depressing. Encouraging, in that Bryden argues persuasively for the self-ness of the dementia sufferer and the continued ability both to feel and experience life and connections with others. She urges us to continue to engage our loved one with eye contact, touch, and prompts that help her make the connections that are dangling just out of recall reach. Appreciate our loved one's continued humanity and hunger for connection. Never mind whether the person still remembers your name or whether you visited just yesterday -- instead focus on enjoying each other's company in the present. A friendly face is a friendly face, and a pleasant encounter a pleasant encounter.

And the book is depressing for the same reasons. Horrible disease. Bryden's pleas for us to remember she is still herself and that the human spectrum should be wide enough to accommodate the cognitively-impaired, without viewing them as lesser or absent, are heart-breaking.

I will warn you that the book reads sometimes like a research paper, complete with citations, and Bryden does tend to repeat herself. Nevertheless, if you work with or have dementia-sufferers in the family, or have received the diagnosis yourself, this is a worthwhile read.
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