Reading Readit – A humorous, loving guide to dementia etiquette 27



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Many in the Starts at 60 community are facing the dilemma of what to do when a loved one starts to forget. Many more of us may face this in years to come, either with our parents, our spouse or partner.  It may be our family who will face our forgetfulness and dementia.

It is so difficult to watch and be part of someone’s mental deterioration. What are the rules? Are there any rules? Where do you go for assistance? How should you speak to the forgetful one?

In Forgetiquette, Joan Sauers with her sage advice and trademark irreverence helps to relieve the frustration of dealing with dementia sufferers while offering practical advice that will help you help them.

When Forgetiquette arrived, I sat down and read it from cover to cover, in one sitting, then I turned back to pages marked on the way through and read the advice again. Joan is not preaching, but she does what few have attempted – she assists us confront dementia and learn to laugh with, not at, the sufferer and ourselves. Memory loss is not laughable, but looking at the situation with a little humour can help. Above all, she reminds us that, though it may feel like the loneliest job in the world, we are not alone.

Importantly, Joan speaks from experience and, in fact, dedicates her book to Don Sauers and Ted Heery. The first page tells us: “… when someone you love has dementia that relationship (and your sanity!) can be even harder to maintain. Over the years my once quick-witted father gradually lost his memory, and the strain on his caregivers was excruciating. As he neared the end of his life, my wonderful father-in-law also started to lose touch with the here and now. Both have passed away, and I miss them every day.”

So much of what Joan writes immediately resonates, such as “Talk about dementia without judgement. The stigma is what keeps people from accepting they have it. And don’t be afraid to be upbeat and even funny! Who cares if it’s in questionable taste if it makes your old man smile?”

How much should you share with your loved one? Should you correct their memory of an event? Should you allow them to play (safely) with your children? Treating the person with respect is stressed many times, such as: “Even when they act like a seven year old, don’t treat them like one. They’re not children; they’re adults with memory loss”; and “As the disease progresses, use simple words and short sentences. But never talk to them in a baby voice”.

Something that happens with dementia sufferers is they do not audit their words. Joan’s advice is: “Unintentional slights to loved ones are inevitable and must be forgiven. On the spot. Accept you will occasionally feel hurt. And then man up and deal with it.”
Every person suffering from dementia and their families will face this disease differently – they could do worse than to keep a copy of Forgetiquette handy – it is a good read and may just offer advice which helps smooth the day. Even if you don’t know someone with dementia, it is such a worthwhile book I highly recommend it to anyone.

Forgetiquette, by Joan Sauers is available to purchase from Dymocks

Joan SauersAbout the author

Joan Sauers is the author of fourteen books, including Mothers & Daughters, Ageing Disgracefully and Sex Lives of Australian Women. She is a screenwriter, consultant and lecturer in screenwriting in Australia, Europe and Morocco and lives in Sydney.



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Karen O'Brien-Hall

I've had many careers in my life and loved each one! My new career blossomed when I retired and become an OAP. I am passionate about childhood literacy, books in general and my garden. I love Ballet, Opera, Concerts, Theatre, (both professional and community) and Movies. I tend to have opinions on most things and enjoy a good debate about the topic, not the person. In my thirties, I married my GOM (Gorgeous or Grumpy Old Man) the love of my life.

  1. One of the cruelest things is people constantly correct the person with memory loss or give them mini tests. This is so distressing for the person suffering and causes them to withdraw and lose confidence. People with memory loss often have good long term memories. Allowing them to reminisce and comment on things they remember gives them great enjoyment and importantly remain social and able to join in. Kindness and tact are the keys to caring for the memory impaired.

    3 REPLY
    • my dad used to tell the same stories over and over….I just used to provide a different audience for him…lol…but I did learn an awful lot from his long term memories…and his jokes were hilarious….lol

  2. I’m the one with short term memory loss lol

    3 REPLY
    • Me too. Especially names. And Mindlessness. I put something down somewhere and am surprised when the thing is not still in my hand. I have to stop and concentrate to retrace my steps to find it.

    • Recently I needed to buy new Pledge Grab It refills took me 2 weeks to remember what they were called and that was only when I was standing in front of them in the supermarket.I have been using these for well over 10 years !!

  3. Well said Jane Chessman. I am always sad to see dementia sufferers “quizzed” as in ” do you know who I am/who this is?” Just say your/their name each time you meet and please stop correcting their reality.

  4. There are certainly two essentials involved, love and laughter. Ten and a half years teach you a lot and take you through many degrees of change in a loved one. Dignity and respect, with an understanding of what is going on in their mind are all important. Laughter can be triggered by things that happen intentionally or unintentionally but is an important tool as it can act as a circuit breaker, easing potential tension. Love provides the empathy and the understanding through which the carer’s coping mechanism grows. This is especially important when the abusive phase kicks in.
    Karen, this sounds a worthy book. I will certainly get a copy to read. Thank you for your review.

  5. You never know when a window of clarity is going to pop up. I had a wonderful visit with Mum as Mum. The next visit, the “not my Mum” person was back again. ( She was very agitated because she said I’d come to kill her dog) She should have been in care but Dad couldn’t do it in case she had one of those rare sanity moments and he wasn’t there for her. Physically she seemed quite fine as in walking and toileting but as it turned out, she actually had un-diagnosed ovarian cancer and that took her off within a couple of weeks of diagnosis. I was pleased for her to go. She would have stepped out of her faulty body and not looked back.

  6. It does worry me, i lost my mum with dementia 2 years ago and now my husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson Disease, neither of us know quite what to expect in the future

  7. Candice Sharman
    Vanessa Lee
    Sara Brideson
    Elaine Barrett
    Interesting advice though you don’t need it foe me just yet girls, I hope.
    Do tell me if I start to get bad and don’t recognize it.

  8. My Mum died from dementia (she was also 90 ) eighteen months ago. It scares me and my children that it might happen to me. Every time I forget something it worries me.

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