Mam an’ Me: Living a Lifetime in a Day


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In Mam an’ Me, author Kieran Coote draws together, in a beautifully lyrical way, an ordinary day spent caring for his mother with remembrances of times past, and the lively, vivacious woman she was before her diagnosis of dementia.

Alternating between the need to be present in the ‘now’, as he cares for his mother’s needs over a single day, and the story of her life, Kieran creates a timeless record of how the paths of their lives are bound together more tightly than ever before, by love, duty and choice.

Mam an’ Me is a record, in the simplest way, of what a day is like for two people bound by love and the terrible illness of Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. To speak about the frustration and the enlightenment that goes hand-in-hand on any given day. To show the level of care that is required when your good intentions need to be turned into good actions. To express the gratitude to all the people close and not so close who come forward to help and assist in so many ways.

As the author notes in his preface, ‘I know that we are not the first or only people, bound together on this path of duty, choice and love. I write now for all those who have gone before us on this journey, and for the wisdom and kindness they have imparted to Mam and me along the way. I write also, in solidarity, for all the fellow souls who find themselves, in this moment, bound on a similar pathway. And finally, I record our experience for any fellow travellers who may one day find themselves in a comparable situation, and are filled with questions, uncertainties, and a myriad of not so clear choices.’

‘A rare and poignant insight into a typical day for a person caring at home for a loved one with advancing dementia. This is essential reading for family carers everywhere and would also make an excellent addition to the curriculum for professional carer training.’Mary Hickey, Alzheimer Society of Ireland

‘Kieran allows us the privilege of entering the very real world of a carer in such a thoughtful presentation of the minutiae (sometimes uncomfortable) that carers contend with on a given day. The details are carefully intermingled with absorbing reflections on two life stories that hold the reader’s attention. It is a beautiful book that gives a lovely insight into caring for and caring about a loved one.’Prof. Joe Carthy, Director of UCD in the Community

‘Insightful, eloquent and compassionate narrative about the relationship between a son caring for his mother with dementia. It touches on core family values, love, loyalty and commitment. A deeply rewarding book.’Deirdre Hayes, family therapist, lecturer in Masters in Systemic Psychotherapy, PPDI co-ordinator and clinical supervisor, UCD School of Medicine

‘Kieran’s book is written with great tenderness and sensitivity. It respects and returns the care to him through his life. This book will evoke many memories for the reader.’ Dr Bernadette Mangan, member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, retired psychiatrist and board member of St John of God Hospital and St Joseph’s Dementia Care at Shankill

‘What an expression of the unconditional love a son has for his mam. Kieran’s expression of his love is going through a time most sons wouldn’t envisage for themselves, but he is lucky as he remembers all aspects of his mam and what makes her, her. Honouring his mam through his memories of her life eases his burden of care, but, importantly, it reminds us all that behind the fragility and loss of dementia the person is still there. Thank you, Kieran, for beautifully capturing that even when physical ability, cognition, recognition, and expression is taken away by dementia, love remains.’Siobhan Grant, St John of God Dementia Care at St Joseph’s Shankill, Ireland’s largest dementia-specific home

‘Kieran Coote has written an extraordinary book describing a family’s experience of dementia through the device of a single day. When his mother is diagnosed, Kieran is told he has “the right stuff” to manage, but a wise man also tells him: “You cannot do it from the outside, Kieran. You will have to go into your Mam’s world.”

Kieran writes incredibly movingly of his daily caring routine. In the tiny details he encompasses whole worlds: the strangeness of becoming a parent to your parent; the depths of patience and resilience needed to counter the daily frustrations; the brutal assaults of anticipatory grief, that grief for a loved one who is still alive but who also has somehow left you behind.

He never doubts why he continues on when in the depths of his being he longs to give up, describing how the basic instinct of nourishing loved ones “is deeply built into our DNA”. At the worst times, he remembers how, as a young man at his lowest, he “went home again, to my centre, to Mam”.

Kieran and his mam make their way through a day that also embraces a life. And when there are “too many memories in the silence”, they play the radio and let the music sustain them and carry them forward.’Máire O’Dwyer, author of At the Coalface: A Family Guide to Caring for Older People in Ireland

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Kieran Coote


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