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Surfing the Waves of Alzheimer’s: Principles of Caregiving That Kept Me Upright

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A compassionate memoir of younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease with thoughtful guidelines for caregivers.

On a family vacation in 2009, Dr. Renée Brown Harmon felt the first jolt of fear that something might be wrong. How could her husband, Harvey, a highly intelligent physician, marathon runner, and devoted father, be struggling to keep up with their guide’s simple instructions or unable to do simple math to calculate their daughter’s age? The heartbreaking truth was confirmed nine months later when he was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age fifty.

Soon after, Harmon felt she had no choice but to inform the state medical board that it was no longer safe for her husband to see patients in their shared practice. Suddenly forced to manage both the family and business they’d built together, she stayed afloat by leaning on friends, family, and her faith through Harvey’s illness.

Part personal story, part instructional guide for caregivers, Surfing the Waves of Alzheimer’s is an essential primer for anyone facing the tremendous challenge of caring for a loved one with memory loss. Each chapter ends with a different principle of caregiving and offers readers suggested best practices to bring greater balance to the role of family caregiver.

Drawing upon principles of compassionate caregiving—from her own experience caring for her husband and her nearly thirty years as a family practice doctor—Harmon offers a uniquely clear-eyed account of how this disease manifests itself and shares her feelings of loss and heartbreak with honesty, grit, and grace.

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