Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer's
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Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist and leading Alzheimer’s advocate Meryl Comer’s Slow Dancing With a Stranger is a profoundly personal, unflinching account of her husband’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease that serves as a much-needed wake-up call to better understand and address a progressive and deadly affliction.
When Meryl Comer’s husband Harvey Gralnick was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 1996, she watched as the man who headed hematology and oncology research at the National Institutes of Health started to misplace important documents and forget clinical details that had once been cataloged encyclopedically in his mind. With harrowing honesty, she brings readers face to face with this devastating condition and its effects on its victims and those who care for them. Detailing the daily realities and overwhelming responsibilities of caregiving, Comer sheds intensive light on this national health crisis, using her personal experiences—the mistakes and the breakthroughs—to put a face to a misunderstood disease, while revealing the facts everyone needs to know.
Pragmatic and relentless, Meryl has dedicated herself to fighting Alzheimer’s and raising public awareness. “Nothing I do is really about me; it’s all about making sure no one ends up like me,” she writes. Deeply personal and illuminating, Slow Dancing With a Stranger offers insight and guidance for navigating Alzheimer’s challenges. It is also an urgent call to action for intensive research and a warning that we must prepare for the future, instead of being controlled by a disease and a healthcare system unable to fight it.
recoil. I felt stung by his unspoken admonition that he did not need my help. He asked about his car again and why he couldn’t drive himself to the office. I told him it was in the shop so we’d have to commute together, but the only place he was going that day was home. Even after we arrived back at the house, I remained terribly shaken by the turn of events. I called work and canceled the rest of my meetings for the day. With Harvey now home all day, I tried hard to keep things as normal as
for a weekend racing school that we had given him one Father’s Day, boxes of old cancer slides, and safe deposit keys that opened doors I knew not where. Why hadn’t I pushed him harder to share important documents and keep information up to date? I turned my anger inward; there was nowhere else to direct it. I had so wanted to believe Harvey when he said that he wanted to take care of me. I was trusting, and it was now coming back to haunt me. How could I have missed his lack of concern,
self-preservation dissolved into a crushing sense of guilt. It was time for me to assume the parental role in our relationship. I just hoped it wasn’t too late. I arrived early the next morning, after a sleepless night shift, to find my mother too weak to answer the door. I let myself into the duplex apartment three blocks from the seashore of New Jersey, unsure of what I might find and with the apprehension of every adult child who has respected an elderly parent’s wishes too long. After my
if the changes in mood were due to pressures at work. This situation is not uncommon in early-onset cases. These cases don’t fit the face of Alzheimer’s: too young, too physically fit, and too self-aware for anyone to realize that something is not quite right. Work that was routine becomes exhausting because the disease infiltrates and destroys the neural connections responsible for executive function in the brain. The hippocampus goes into overdrive, and the process of hiding out begins. Where
I did a search online but was hard put to find much information. I presumed the trustee preferred it that way. As it turned out, we were both scheduled to attend the Rita Hayworth Gala in New York later that week. At registration, I asked what table he was seated at and went over before dinner to quickly introduce myself. Three weeks later, a call came from his executive assistant with an invitation to meet at the Park Avenue Café in Manhattan at one o’clock. I pieced together that Hutton had