During September, World Alzheimer’s Month, I read Barbra Cohn’s memoir/self-help book, Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Barbra cared for her husband who had early-onset Alzheimer’s and wrote the story of their journey as part of a reference book to help others walking that path. I would have liked to have read this book while I was caring for my mother on her Alzheimer’s journey. There is so much more I could have done to comfort us both.
I have read a number of books on Alzheimer’s caregiving, both memoirs and self-help books. Barbra came at this from a different perpective. She is practiced in various spiritual healing methods and has a background in health and nutrition, so Calmer Waters is a book for “care partners”—both caregiver and Alzheimer’s patient—to give ways to be healthy, to try to rise above, and to de-stress both the body and situations.
In Calmer Waters, Barbra mixes in the story of her husband’s care journey with words of wisdom, ways of soothing, and healing therapies based on spiritual philosophy. She includes other caregivers’ stories and their tips for coping and for soothing their care partners. This is whole body, non-drug therapy and philosophy and can easily be combined with religious beliefs. The final section includes articles written by teachers and facilitators of various healing techniques, such as aromatherapy, massage, music and art and water therapy, and so much more. Even a few things I’ve never heard of before. This is a jam-packed book of resources for people open to holistic methods of calming the body and emotions. Pick what sounds good for you as caregiver and for the person with dementia at whatever stage they are in.
I think self-help and nonfiction guides are best when they include life stories, to help the reader understand and to feel the comfort of shared experience. A great many people write their memoirs because they think it will help others in similar situations. As Barbra did, it also helps to include resources—your own learned wisdom and perhaps that of others, and lists of outside resources such as websites, books, or organizations. Even my Poems That Come to Mind book of short poems about the Alzheimer’s experience has some resources listed in the back.
I love Barbra’s reason for writing Calmer Waters. She hopes the book can “make the Alzheimer’s journey less painful and transform it into a profound spiritual experience.” Amen. I experienced some exquisite moments with my mother, and if you are a caregiver, I hope you can find such moments, too. Calmer Waters can help.
Barbra Cohn writes The Healthy Caregiving Blog.
PS: Similar to The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, my mother loved when I read to her from her own memoir, Cherry Blossoms in Twilight. If it is not too late, write down stories!