Are The Keys In The Freezer?

An Advocate’s Guide for Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias

By Patricia Woodell, et al.
Reviewed by Patricia Hemingway


are-the-keys-in-the-frezeerHow do families sift through the overwhelming amount of evidence and advice on dementia to determine what is relevant to them and their loved ones? Pat Woodell and her sisters did just that, sharing the results of five years of research, doctors’ visits, testing, and visits to care facilities, so that others may “know now what we did not know then.”

Alzheimer’s is the most common type (60-80%) of dementia, an umbrella term for a neurological disease with several forms. Some types of dementia are reversible. Alzheimer’s is progressive, and has serious physical health consequences.

Woodell’s mother showed signs of dementia prior to age 80. A woman who lived a full and competent life, no one noticed she was losing her way while driving to familiar places. When she suffered a mini-stroke, the family gathered and the testing began.

Family members suffer quilt at not recognizing early warning signs. These subtle cues are often misunderstood. And as Woodell states, “many people won’t confront a reality that might change their lives in ways they cannot yet imagine.” She emphasizes the importance of understanding the course of the disease and its outcome, a knowledge which gives family members—as advocates for their loved one—the tools to plan ahead and provide the best possible care.

A recent Kirkus Review of the book states, “It is these tools the authors generously share in a tightly organized, well-written work…they detail the types of available care facilities…address paying for dementia care…cover hospice and palliative care, and include a chapter on advance care directives. Every chapter ends with Lessons Learned…insightful observations.”

As a reviewer, I was touched by these insightful observations. The authors share their first impressions of a memory care facility:  shock, at the painstakingly slow pace of activity. A profound silence filled the corridors. As the family visited over the months, their appreciation and respect grew for those who worked and lived there. The facility seemed like a “large, quiet family, interacting in muted tones, all intertwined. Today’s innovative memory care settings facilities are more patient-centered, put many decisions in the hands of patients, and promote fun-filled social activity.

What lies ahead for the future? What about those families who cannot, even with the most careful planning, afford the cost of years spent in a care facility? There is heartening news in a final chapter of the book. A village approach is underway, the goal of which is for persons with Alzheimer’s to remain in their own home for as long as possible, in a community supported by friends, neighbors and families who discreetly monitor their lives and help them stay on track. This is the “Village Movement,” and communities across the US are helping seniors age in place.

Then there is “The Alzheimer’s Café,” located in a community center, care facility, or other venue that offers an environment free of embarrassment and judgment. The Café is an informal meeting place for families and professionals to exchange ideas, discuss experience and ideas, and cope with a new reality.

The book is available in the LCS Library. To order, go to,, or


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