By Gregg Warshaw, MD
Past President, American Geriatrics Society
Professor & Director of Geriatric Medicine
University of Cincinnati
In this fast-paced engaging memoir, Dr. Marie Marley relates vividly and honestly the challenges faced by caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that currently afflicts 5.4 million Americans. The statistics for these patients’ caregivers are even more alarming. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that nearly 15 million family members, friends and neighbors are currently providing care to patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The toll on caregivers is great. Their experience significantly increases their emotional stress, jeopardizes their physical and mental health, and can negatively impact their employment and finances. There is a critical need for information about how to approach the daunting problems these committed individuals face.
This compelling love story offers hope and help to those moving along the path of what can be an overwhelming journey. The author chronicles her struggle with the complex problems that arose as her life partner, Dr. Edward Theodoru, became evermore demented. These are the challenges all caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients typically face, usually beginning with a fierce denial that there even is a problem. Following that other issues typically arise, including dealing with the loved one’s personality changes (which can be negative or even abusive), suspending driving privileges, managing assisted living and/or nursing home placement, engaging hospice services, and making end-of-life care decisions. Two of the most trying problems for caregivers – problems some never solve – are simply coming to terms with their loved one’s condition and finding new ways of relating. Dr. Marley shows us how she overcame her denial, depression and despair and ever so slowly rose to the challenge. In the final chapters she shares the intimate details of her last visits with Ed, during which he was sometimes entirely lucid and freely expressed love, affection and even joy.
I strongly recommend this memoir to caregivers of dementia patients. It will show them it’s possible to find new and creative ways to communicate and interact with their loved ones. It will bring comfort to those going through the same experience, letting them know they are not alone, and it will help validate both their positive and negative feelings about the difficult situation in which they find themselves. This work will also be valuable to health care professionals, giving primary care physicians, nurses, social workers and others a detailed, comprehensive view into a caregiver’s life that will provide insights as they care for dementia patients and caregivers in their offices or long-term care settings.
As a family physician and geriatrician who has provided care to hundreds of dementia patients and their caregivers, I found the book’s information illustrating approaches to caregiving problems to be practical, insightful, and inspiring. Equally important, Come Back Early Today is a true testament to love, devotion and perseverance.