Peter and Me

By Helene Ritchie

Review by Vivienne Boyd, Education Co-ordinator, Alzheimers Canterbury

This book is Helene Ritchie’s courageous and intimate account of her journey with her husband Peter through the final four years of his life as they faced the doctor’s initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, then the diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia.

She articulates clearly the strains, agony, distress and isolation she experienced as she supported her husband throughout this period, and the challenges she faced ascertaining and accessing support beyond that offered, on request, by family and friends. Extracts from her diary notes add to the power of her narrative.

This is a most timely book. As the author notes, p157, quoting from Alzheimers New Zealand’s Updated Economic Impact Report 2011 ‘the numbers of people in New Zealand with dementia have increased and will continue to grow, from 48,182 in 2011 to a predicted 147,359 by 2050’.

Yes, this is a quick to read book (160pp). No, it’s not fiction, nor is it a book portraying the situation for families affected by dementia in another country far away from New Zealand.

The author has fulfilled her objectives of sharing Peter’s and her story and exposing issues here in New Zealand for family ‘carers’ and for people with dementia. Her challenge to all of us remains - to seek solutions that will result in ‘clear coherent positive, practice and funding’ (pvii).