When the author’s wife, Judith James, was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in her sixty-first year, they’d been a couple for close to four decades and together had constructed an enviable life. Her diagnosis threatened to up-end that life by casting them adrift in a territory for which they had no map, no compass, and no foreknowledge. Slowly, by trying and failing and trying again, they would navigate that territory, discovering the scale and scope of the challenges her disease presented and, with love and commitment, figuring out how to hold on to the best quality of life possible.
In Dear Judy: A Love Story Rewritten by Alzheimer’s, the author reconstructs, honestly and with great sensitivity, their shared experience through the multiple advancing stages of the disease, their accommodation of the successive and accelerating losses and the accompanying grief, and the eventual acceptance that allowed light to dissolve the darkness into which their relationship had been unexpectedly cast. We are privy to some of the most intimate moments in a marriage upended by this disease and by the curve balls it would throw, so often when the author and his wife least expected them. In this unflinching meditation and reflection, we learn that life can indeed be enriched by adversity, and that love can, against strong odds, expand, deepen, and ultimately reach its fulfillment.
For anyone newly encountering the myriad uncertainties of dementia caregiving, and for those who are close to sufferers and their caregivers no matter where along the journey they find themselves, this heartfelt memoir offers practical guidance and reassurances that the challenge of dementia caregiving can be deeply rewarding. It describes the territory that is Alzheimer’s, instructs the reader on what to expect as the disease advances, and suggests approaches that may optimize quality of life for both patients and caregivers. For professional care providers including paid home-based attendants, primary care physicians and specialists such as geriatricians and neurologists, and other members of the skilled health care workforce, Dear Judy – A Love Story Rewritten by Alzheimer’s provides an unflinching view of younger onset Alzheimer’s from ground zero, through the eyes and hearts of those experiencing it as their day-to-day condition. It is a haunting narrative of love, of loss, of compassion, and of resolution.