Alzheimer’s Trippin’ with George
By Susan Straley
Genre: Travel, memoir, Eldercare, Alzheimers & Dementia, Bicycling
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
“What would you do if you learned that your spouse or partner has progressive dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s disease? This is the brutally honest journal of one spouse and reluctant caregiver that “ran for the hills.” Of course she took her husband George along.
What challenges did Susan encounter? How can she enjoy the present — a journey across the U.S.A. – while worrying about the future? How do she and George deal with his increasing dementia symptoms?
And the biggest question of all, after 40 years together, can they remain married and loving through it all? Travel along with George and Susan. You will learn, you will laugh and maybe shed a tear as you too go Alzheimer’s Trippin’ with George.”
Right off the bat I would like to extend a very heartfelt “THANK YOU!” to the author of Alzheimer’s Trippin’ with George, Susan Straley. This has been a difficult yet cathartic book for this blogger to read and review. I can only imagine what it was like to write it on their journey…what a wonderful way to do it.
My grandfather suffered with Dementia/Alzheimer’s partly due to strokes he suffered…but I believe, also due to a predisposition to this affliction; so I am all too familiar with the journey one takes as your loved one’s mental faculties decline. And, while I loved my grandfather dearly I obviously had a different relationship with him than the one he had with my grandmother…and my journey with him was difficult enough for me. I never could really imagine how my grandmother must have felt. I’m certain that’s because I became too mired down in how I felt about the situation when I was in a sense forced to step up and make decisions on their behalf that I wasn’t sure I was ready to make. Fortunately for me, I had a network of family who often helped and supported me along the way, so it’s not as if I were navigating those waters alone.
Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to do my part to help my grandparents but I will admit to having similar feelings to the author at times. Sometimes, I just wanted to run away and forget about those responsibilities. I didn’t ask for them and I really didn’t want them either. I was a young, single, fairly selfish woman who ended up spending a large portion of my weekends visiting my grandfather in his nursing home or driving my grandmother to see him so she wouldn’t wear herself out and her health wouldn’t suffer as a result.
Did I mind doing that? In all honesty, no; most of the time I did not. Most of the time, I enjoyed the time with my grandparents, but there were times I resented it. The time I had to change my own grandfathers diaper jumps right to the forefront of my mind. Oh, and then there was the time I was driving my grandparents to my folks house for the holidays through an ice storm and I had to try to run across a slick parking lot to prevent my grandfather from urinating on the front door of a restaurant. While, that memory evokes a bit of a smile and laugh from me now…at the time…MORTIFYING!
But that’s how life goes isn’t it? You don’t always get what you bargained for. Sometimes, just because you love someone you have to suck it up and be there for them…no matter how inconvenient doing so may be. Looking back on that time, I’m glad I was able to do that for them. It wasn’t always easy and my grandmother and I would butt heads at times out of mutual sheer stubbornness, but we always knew we loved each other. This book helped me remove myself from the situation so that I could understand her potential perspective towards my grandfather just a bit better. Truthfully, it also showed me that the way I felt wasn’t so wrong either, just human.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to absolutely anyone finding themselves in a similar situation with a loved one. It won’t be easy for you to read but I guarantee there are going to be moments you think “I’ve felt exactly like that” and see that what you are feeling is simply a part of that difficult journey.
Speaking of journeys, I enjoyed the actual journey Susan and George went on. I loved that they did something they had always loved to do together…cycling. I also enjoyed that they took their amazing trip on a very small budget and she explained how she made that trip happen. She really gave some great tips!
It still makes me smile after reading the book to think that Ms. Straley had the fortitude to do what she did, to make the hard choice and follow-through with it. Now, she never has to regret that decision.
The simple and saddening fact is this; it is not easy to care for someone afflicted with Dementia/Alzheimer’s. It’s a commitment many aren’t prepared to make when really faced with it. It’s easy to say “in good times and bad times, through sickness and in health”…but can you really do it?
Ms. Straley faces the stark realities of what George is going through, both medically and financially. And she faces them head on during this heartbreaking journey. She also shows us that good times can still be had, humor can still be found, and that life continues to go on.
If I had to pick something to criticize it would be two items. The first is that the journal style of writing can be very jagged in feel, but if you keep in mind that this is more of a journal…not so much a story that helps. I feel this could have used a bit more editing simply to help it flow a little bit better.
The second item would be formatting. This is a very large book and since it is published via Createspace or KDP, whatever they are calling themselves these days, it is possible the formatting was intentionally done the way it was to keep the page count a bit lower. If you don’t know this, Createspace/KDP has a cap on the number of pages for print books and since this book is chock full of photos I can understand that issue. Still, the formatting on the pages with photographs and captions kind of drove the OCD book formatter in me a little nuts. There are ways to deal with that issue and keep the book attractive and flowing well at the same time. Hey, we all have our crosses to bear, don’t judge me. As a graphic artist and book formatter I wanted to reach out and reformat this book in print format so badly. I’ll seek help for this I promise. But still, can I just……
Sorry, I digress. As I mentioned above, I absolutely would recommend this book, to anyone really…not just those dealing with these issues. It’s a wonderful illustration of what loving someone means. You may not go into a relationship intentionally thinking something like this would ever happen, but things do happen. You may even be someone like Ms. Straley who would say “I’m outta here if something ever happens to you” to your spouse. But if you love the person you are with, it’s not so easy to just walk away either.
Pick up a copy of this one…you’ll be glad you did! I rate this one at 4.5 out of 5. Yes, I know I’m being a Star Grinch, but my OCD Formatter is just not happy! No worries though…I’ll bump this up to 5 on Amazon and Goodreads.
Taken from Chapter – “Sex and the Demented”
“We will do that tomorrow morning then,” George says.
I searched through my recent memory. We had been silent, was there anything I had mentioned about tomorrow? I had mentioned using the fitness room at the community center. Was that it? I had told him we were going to take the back roads to Carbondale, Colorado. Was that it?
“What will we do tomorrow morning?” I ask George.
“Have sex,” he says.
I look at him, he hadn’t said a thing during our whole walk other than to echo what I had said or agree with something I had said.
We were getting close to our cabin and the end of our walk. Maybe he came along on the walk because he had expectations?
“Did you think we were going to have sex on this walk?” I ask.
“No,” he shakes his head and grins.
I am puzzled. This just came out of the blue, like he had been having a conversation in his head and thought I was listening in. I shrug askance. He mirrors my action.
“Are you just giving me a warning?” I ask.
“Yes,” he nods and he smiles at me.
“Ok then! Thanks for the advance notice!”
That conversation occurred at the end of this day, our last day in the condo near Rocky Mountain National Park…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan Straley started to journal at age 16. In 2016 she journaled online to provide a platform to bring her family and friends with them on their road trip across the U.S. As their trip progressed Susan began to share more about their other journey with her husband’s dementia symptoms. This journal is now being published into two books
Her first book, Alzheimer’s Trippin’ with George, Diagnosis to Discovery in 10,000 Miles, shows her passion for openness, honesty, and sharing what she learns along the way…. from sex to incontinence.
Her second book, Alzheimer’s Trippin’ with George – The Journey Continues, Dementia Caregiving with Friend, Family and Community Support is scheduled for release in June 2019.
Susan resides in Inverness, Florida and still enjoys riding her tricycle with friends.
George disappears at the Zoo: https://youtu.be/Rr3DQ4xBym0
This book is available on AMAZON.COM today!
A portion of the author’s proceeds for each sale (paperback or ebook) will be donated to Alzheimer’s Research and/or Caregiver Assistance.”
NOTES FROM A GRAPHIC ARTIST REGARDING THE COVER
Here we have another really good cover, kudos to the graphic artist. This time it’s the color I really like about it. It effectively conveys that regardless of the books potentially depressing content this book is going to be uplifting. The graphic artist also shows how to effectively treat the fonts on the cover by not over-working them. The orange font could be difficult to work with but the simple drop shadow and very thin outline really helps the font stand out. Had the graphic artist over-worked these fonts they would have competed with the photograph …instead the viewers eyes flow from the top of the cover to the bottom. Really well done!