Strolling through Paraparaumu library I came across this book in the dementia section. Curious about the content I borrowed it. I more or less expected to read another helpful book on care givers' experience while caring for their loved ones with dementia. After reading the first chapter I came to realise that the contend happened to be something much more profound.

Jan Weststrate reviews Travelers to Unimaginable Lands, by Dasha Kiper

Reviewer: Jan Weststrate

To imagine what it is to care for a loved one with dementia is not just difficult, it is nearly impossible. We can only scratch the surface: how this is when we have a conversation over a cup of coffee with someone that is living with dementia. After one hour we feel exhausted and are left with more questions than answers.

Dasha Kiper, in Travellers to Unimaginable Lands, tries to explain why interacting with people that have dementia has this effect on us. Without giving too much away, she compares caring for a loved one with dementia with the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who was eternally doomed to roll a boulder up a hill only to watch it rolling down again. In a similar way, caregivers have the same experience as they forget what did not work yesterday and repeat what did not work the last time. This all adds to the frustration and pushes the love we have for our loved one to the limits.

Kiper explains how our healthy brain has evolved to automatically expect others to have the same self-reflection capacity, and to be capable of learning and absorbing new information. This is the brain's default position, which does not simply disappear when we become caregivers for people whose brains have begun to falter. One of the most difficult aspects of this is that our brain is constantly reminding us of what once was and then expecting it to function again.

The book is well written and provides plenty food for thought. It is definitely a book that a caregiver for a loved one with dementia will want to read more than once, as it inspires a sense of "I understand where you are going through". At the same time, it is brutally honest and points out the dilemma caregivers face: they have to view their loved ones as both sufficiently different from themselves and yet sufficiently familiar , so as not to lose sight of their humanity.




Contact Jan Weststrate on 021 897 605 or email