“Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia”

Released 15 September 2016

Released 15 September 2016

The book Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, co-authored with Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low was released officially on September 15 and has been well received.

Professor Henry Brodarty wrote the Foreword for it, which I am sharing here:

Thank you Lee-Fay for the shared twelve months we spent working on this book; it was truly a joy to work with you.

Thank you Henry, for your generous Foreword.

Most of all, my sincere thanks to all those people who agreed to be interviewed or answered our questionnaires to inform this book; without you, this book could never have been as well informed.

“Dementia is never one person’s illness. Its ripples spread wide enveloping family, touching friends and bumping up against professional services and care. Dementia can be cruel – hard for those affected and sometimes even harder for care partners. When Alzheimer’s and other dementia came out of the cupboard in the late 1970s, lots of advice was provided for carers or caregivers (as care partners are commonly called) with support groups internationally focussing on them. In the last decade the voice of people with dementia is now being heard more clearly. In the past, the emphasis was on the negative which of course exists. Now we are hearing about how to live with the positive.

This book is unique! It stands out from the thousands of books that have been published on dementia. It is told from the viewpoint of a person who has been living successfully with dementia and a researcher interested in living well in later life and with dementia.

When Kate Swaffer was diagnosed with dementia before her 50th birthday she rejected the prevailing dogma of Prescribed Disengagement TM. She prescribed her own formula of engagement which includes writing – this book is just one of her contributions, studying for her PhD and advocating. And when Kate is not travelling to Geneva to talk to the United Nations or to a conference, she is a wife and a person who wants to enjoy life. In living with dementia, Kate has developed strategies on how to cope with her disAbility. We can all benefit by learning from her.

Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low has a wealth of experience working first as a nursing assistant in residential care, as a clinical psychologist and as an academic researching dementia. Lee-Fay is creative and empathic. She is on a mission to put fun back into life for seniors and especially for people with dementia. It was Lee-Fay who led the SMILE study which demonstrated that humour therapy could reduce agitation and improve depression and quality of life for residents of nursing homes who had dementia and were rated as behaviourally disturbed. It was Lee-Fay who spearheaded a dance intervention in nursing homes. It was Lee-Fay who conceived and evaluated a program for community workers to positively engage older people receiving community care.

With such a dynamic duo of authors you can expect a book that is constructive and upbeat. But it’s not Pollyanna! It’s realistic and tells it as it is. The difference with this book is that Kate and Lee-Fay offer strategies and solutions. Their account is practical. It takes the reader step by step through the basics and then outlines different issues from diagnosis to legal issues to incontinence. You, the reader will learn about the differences between dementia, Alzheimer’s, Lewy body disease and frontal lobe dementia. You may have had questions about the different drugs for Alzheimer’s and the latest “miracle cures” that regularly appear in media. Does coconut oil work? What are the scams? Does exercise help? Does computer cognitive training work beyond the computer? What is the best diet? When should I arrange Enduring Power of Attorney? How is Power of Attorney different to Guardianship? Are pets good for you?

Dementia requires a partnership over the long haul between persons living with dementia and their care partner, family and friends, doctors, nurses, community services, residential care and sometimes palliative care. Swaffer and Lee describe what services are available. Currently services are set up to be reactive, only coming into play in response to problems or crises. I have long advocated for a system of key workers, who would guide the person with dementia and care partner through the complex often bewildering maze of services. Unfortunately we do not have such a system; yet this book is a personal guide on how to face the challenges that the ever-changing face of dementia presents over time.

I particularly liked the chapter on Living with Dementia. Communication is so important to how couples relate generally; in dementia it’s critical. There is a table in which Kate and Lee-Fay describe a care partner’s communications and actions and the reactions of the spouse with dementia and how these could have been handled better. Here is an example:

Care Partner: I had to tell a couple of shop workers when she wasn’t looking in case she annoyed them

Person with dementia: Are you telling people about me? I didn’t know that. I don’t like the idea of that. You should ask me first. I don’t care if you thought it best.

Care Partner (on reflection): Next time I will ask her permission before telling people about her dementia.

Person with dementia: Remember the phrase, “Nothing about me, without me.

The book does not shy away from the sensitive issues that so often are avoided – all focusing on the viewpoint of the person with dementia. You and your care partner will be interested to read about the right to sexual desire and relationships, how a person with dementia and the person’s care partner handle transition from driving, how to compensate for declining competency when still working, how to handle holidays, how to manage Christmas and family celebrations. And what if you become irritated with your care partner and your care partner becoming irritated with you?

Kate and Lee-Fay beautifully describe dilemmas that arise. Over protective care partners who only want safety for their loved one with dementia but for themselves would prefer autonomy. How should a care partner (and residential care staff) react when a loved one with dementia starts to enjoy an intimate relationship with another resident in the nursing home? And how should a person with dementia (and friends) react, when a care partner starts an intimate relationship with another while his or her spouse is in care?

This book is an affirmation that dementia is a word not a sentence.

A diagnosis is the beginning of a new phase, one that most of us fear, but one that can be met and challenged. There is so much that we – people with dementia, family care partners, friends, or aged care and health workers – can all do to maximise a positive life for many years.”

Henry Brodarty.

13 thoughts on ““Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia”

  1. Hi Kate, i look forward to reading your new book. In terms of diagnosis of younger onset dementia can you please point me in the right direction, or is it covered in one of your books? I am hoping to get tested. Friends and family are worried. Thanks in advance, Geoff


  2. Wonderful foreword from Pr. Brodaty. Congratulations to both of you – it will certainly go on our #KiamaDFC resources list & in the library. I wish I could’ve assisted with the resources list that I’m trying to put in some kind of order, but we had so many issues to deal with at the time that it couldn’t coincide.
    Can’t wait to read it! xx


  3. Congratulations Kate, I look forward to reading your book.

    Some years ago we gave all of our Caregivers ‘Dancing with Dementia’ by Christine Byden because there was one chapter in there with strategies that helped Christine. Whenever we can hear from the person with a dementia and understand their experience and point of view, it is GOLD for us as Caregivers, so I am really looking forward to your book. Well done. Kate Lambert, CEO, Daughterly Care


    • Thats Kate… there is a whole chapter on strategies to support us to remain independent for as long as possible too, ‘Life enhancement aids’! No different to wearing reading glasses in many ways.


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