We hear about a book from a former carer that reminds us that ‘no time spent together is wasted’.
Complications caused by the pandemic meant we couldn’t get books out in time for our usual range of feedback, but Tom René, Writer/Editor in our Publishing team, kindly stepped in to review this book for us.
Will Martin Dewhurst’s book be your cup of tea?
In his preface, the author describes how, because his mother Joan had advanced dementia and care options were limited, he gave up his job and moved in with her. He cared for her until she died in October 2019.
While it was ‘a rollercoaster journey of ups and downs,’ Martin adds, ‘this precious time spent with Mum was absolutely priceless.’
The book compiles a selection of diary entries, originally a series of blog posts that Martin published on social media. Each short, anecdotal chapter offers a small but valuable insight into the daily life of a dementia carer.
Martin doesn’t shirk from difficult topics. He writes about his mum’s memory loss, disorientation, delusions, frailty and fluctuating energy levels. He succinctly sums up the impact dementia can have both on the person with the condition and on their carer.
‘She must be really tired, I’m tired and I’m 35 years younger’, he reflects. He writes eloquently about grief, and about the bittersweet memories that can be triggered by an old pop song.
Warmth and joy
But the overall feeling of the book is of warmth and often joy. Martin has a gift for finding the positives in tough situations – he manages to see an ‘upside to the story’ even after a stressful trip to A&E, for example.
Variously comparing their situation to a Tom and Jerry cartoon, Star Trek, The Grinch, MasterChef and Laurel and Hardy, among many other references, the diary is full of what Martin describes as ‘coping humour’:
‘“Would you like some cereal M’Ladyship?” I ask.
“Oh yes, that would be lovely James!,” she replies, playing along with the game we’ve co-created to get us through these times.’
The humour often comes from Joan herself, and her lively and spirited character is lovingly documented throughout. In one of several delightful photographs, she is pictured with a glass of wine in her hand and a glint in her eye.
There are notable moments of anger and frustration towards the end of the diary. When Joan’s health worsens following a hip operation and she must move into a care home, Martin describes the crippling financial costs as a symptom of a dysfunctional social care system, and expresses an understandable dissatisfaction with UK politics.
Yet this is by nature a gentle, generous book. At its heart is a recognition of the value of simple, everyday rituals – it keeps returning to the act of having ‘another cup of tea’.
It shows us that just sharing a moment with someone is a way of connecting; that no time spent together is wasted. ‘As we know here in Britain’, he writes, ‘the answer to any problem is a nice cup of tea.’
Read more about Martin and an excerpt from his book in a recent blog.
Another cup of tea: Diary of a dementia carer by Martin Dewhurst (Panoma 2020), 232 pages, £14.99, ISBN: 9781784529093. Also available as an ebook.
We invite you to read Slow puncture: Living well with dementia by Peter Berry and Deb Bunt (Book Guild 2020), 200 pages, £9.99, ISBN: 9781913208936. Also available as an ebook.
Tell us what you think about this account of a year in the life of a keen cyclist diagnosed with young-onset dementia, written with the support of a newly made friend. Email us by 9 November 2020 so we can share it in our next magazine.