Louise Carey, writer, speaker, wife, and mother of four, paints an endearing portrait of caring for her ninety-four-year-old father-in-law with dementia in The Hedge People. She and her husband, Tim, are members of the Wycliffe Bible Translators and have worked in Guatemala for twenty-eight years. Tim’s father, Art, comes to live with them during the last twenty-seven months of his life.
Despite caring for Art during the last (and most difficult) stages of Alzheimer’s, Louise finds the strength within her and with prayer finds ways to make the journey enjoyable.
When Art, a retired reverend, steps outside to minister to a row of cypress trees in the front yard, Louise joins him, but does wonder what the neighbors think.
Together they share precious moments when Art:
- becomes the oldest pediatric patient when he is referred to a pediatric doctor for a test his doctor does not have.
- goes to the dentist expecting a haircut.
- won’t stop talking about the (imaginary) dog that jumps on and off the hood of the car and runs along side while Louise tried to overcome the distraction to drive (safely) to the grocery store.
Louise draws on the power of prayer (each chapter concludes with a brief Caregiver Prayer) to cope with caregiving. Unlike Confessions of a Caregiver, her goal with The Hedge People is to cast the rays of cheery sunshine on the drudgeries of caregiving. She views caregiving as God’s glory.
Yet, Louise acknowledges the importance of taking breaks when Art’s repeated questions, attempts to run away, and nighttime woes get to be too much. A break, she explains, allows one to regain perspective and to complete the “marathon” that is caregiving. She even arranges a day-long respite at home by hiring a caretaker to look after Art while she goes into another room with a thermos of coffee and a bag lunch for the day.
While Art lives in his world, Louise is left guessing what role he’s playing and where he thinks he is. She writes of his choice of all-purpose words like “outfit” or “section” when he cannot recall the correct noun to use. During the two-and-a-quarter years Art lives with her and his son, he doesn’t recall who Louise is.
But the one thing this loving, kind, and giving man does recall is his wife of sixty-six years. He asks for and doesn’t forget his beloved Leah Belle. Nor does he turn his back on all the (imaginary) people who need his help or food, including the hedge people.
His daughter-in-law devotes her days caring for him, praying that God will help her to schedule her days lightly to make time for caregiving. She does this until Art enters heaven.
Reviewed by Brenda Avadian, MA on April 28, 2010
Editor, The Caregiver’s Voice Book Review