Thank you to Martha Stettinius, author of Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A daughter’s memoir, for her thoughtful review.

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading — The Best Description Available of Why It’s Important to be a “Care Partner”, July 1, 2014

By 
Martha Stettinius
According to the authors, a “care partner” is someone who receives as well as gives care and affection. While care “giving” can seem one-sided (and never-ending), a care “partnership” is reciprocal and rewarding. “When someone helps care for someone else, we call him or her a caregiver. This is a natural title and one we all understand; however…this title implies that there is nothing left for the person with dementia to contribute.”

Too often we assume as caregivers that a person with dementia is “gone” or incompetent. A person living with dementia is still “here,” still capable of experiencing a full range of emotions, needs, likes and dislikes. They can usually continue to make some decisions in the early stages of dementia, and then, through the final stages of dementia, share love and affection, even if it’s just holding hands or offering a hug or a smile.

Care partners learn, over time, how to support their loved one as a whole human being, not as a dementia “patient.” Care partners also learn—and this is no small thing—to pay attention to their own needs, to care for themselves. The one-sided nature of care “giving” can encourage people to become martyrs and do too much, while care partnerships encourage people to balance their partners’ needs with their own.

“I Care” includes many well-written stories by people who see themselves as care partners. These anecdotes are some of the best parts of the book. One husband of a woman with Alzheimer’s, for example, writes that “dementia has not robbed” his wife “of her personality, and it has not robbed us of each other. We have simply become partners.” His explanation of how they became care partners is quite moving.

Elsewhere in the book Brush and Mills share excellent tips about how to communicate with a person with dementia, find meaningful activities, and encourage socialization. One of my favorite parts is a sample letter in which a care partner writes to her husband’s friends, reassuring them that they are still a vital part of her and her husband’s life, and encouraging them to continue to visit.

Much of the dementia care information in “I Care,” such as tips for making your home safer for a person with dementia, can be found in other guides, but the authors bring a certain hopefulness and lightness of spirit, and specific clinical observations of care partnerships, that make their book unique.

If you have been diagnosed with dementia, care for a person with dementia, or work with people with dementia, “I Care” is one of the best descriptions you will find of care partnerships, and essential reading.