An introductory guide for carers of people with dementia

From the June/July 2016 issue of our magazine, readers comment on a book that speaks to carers, and we invite you to read What the hell happened to my brain? for next issue.


When someone you love has dementia, by Susan Elliot-Wright, was first published in 2010 and a new edition has been released this year. The author is a novelist who has also written a range of non-fiction books on health-related subjects.

Janet Baylis, Manager of our Dementia Knowledge Centre, says,

'As the title makes clear, this slim book is not written with the person with dementia in mind as its reader.

'I would suggest it as an introductory guide for people with limited knowledge of dementia who want an overview of what life as a carer may be like. This could be at the point of seeking help or when going through a dementia diagnosis as a carer, relative or friend.'

Carmen Jones, a former carer in Buckinghamshire, says,

'I read the book with great interest – it brought back a number of my own experiences. How much easier life would have been, if I had read this useful little book before life sent us along the "dementia road".'




The book introduces different kinds of dementia before looking at diagnosis and options for treatment and care, including residential care. Chapters are short, factual and written in a straightforward way, and some case studies are included which tell personal stories.

Carmen says,

'This book is well written, clear, concise, yet with sufficient detail to cover all aspects – practical and financial as well as emotional. The sections are linked by references, and a number of pertinent examples make the subject more tangible.'

However, another reader found it to be on the wordy side and noted a lack of any illustrations or photographs to complement the text. She adds,

'More personal stories would be welcome and make it easier to read.'

There's a lot of useful practical information here but using checklists, more tips and action points could better encourage carers to translate some of the ideas into practice.


Readers had differing views about the tone and language of the book.

Carmen says,

'I like the gentle empathy that is evident throughout, and the fact that it is not too long – a carer rarely finds time or energy to indulge in reading.'

Another former carer thought that this empathy was directed more at carers than people with a dementia diagnosis, taking issue with some of the language used, particularly in chapters about coping with practicalities.

She says,

'The author talks of "problems" rather than "challenges", and some of the words used could grate and show a lack of empathy for the person with dementia – terms like "odd behaviours" and "wandering" instead of walking.'

Despite this, Carmen concludes,

'I would definitely recommend this book to someone at the beginning of an unexpected journey with dementia, as it is full of handy tips and references.'

When someone you love has dementia by Susan Elliot-Wright (Sheldon, 2016), 218 pages, £8.99, ISBN: 9781847094032.

Recommended by Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia and widely available in libraries as well as our online shop.

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