Our Dementia Journey by Patrick McTaggart

To say I loved this poetry collection sounds a bit disingenuous considering the subject matter as dementia is not cheery at all or anything to be loved; quite the opposite. But I did love this collection, and this is because of the relatability of it. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and whilst I was not her carer, the feelings that Patrick McTaggart’s poems evoke are ones that I have seen play out in front of me in my own life experience and can empathise with to a great degree.

This collection is many things: it is an expression of love for parents; it is a declaration of emotion; it is a sorting through of feelings; it a collection of grumbles; it is a lament for things lost; it is a guide to advise; it is a reflection of experience; it is a philosophical discussion. There is a lot contained here and that is understandable as getting to grips with a life living with dementia and what that entails is extremely involved on many levels.

I like reading things where I feel like the writer is honest; that what I am reading is heartfelt and not contrived and McTaggart’s poems are full of true feeling. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried when reading some of them, like “Hold on to Me”, “Love conquers all” and “Silent Scream”, recognising in the words the difficulties faced by a carer for someone with dementia along with the reserves of human spirit that it draws on on a relentless basis, without respite; and seeing the people you love diminished before you, whilst still containing the essence of the person you have always known and loved.

It is a serious issue but McTaggart is also keen to emphasise that it is not all gloom. There are moments of joy, happiness that must be grasped and his poems highlight these and how important they are, like panning for gold, the glints in the seemingly inexhaustible detritus.

What I got mostly from this book, emphasized by the fact that Alzheimer’s Research UK will benefit from sales, is the sense of solidarity that McTaggart is keen to transmit with his words: that this is something that we might all face and it will be hard but not insurmountable and that there will be help and support, highs as well as lows: there will be a way through.

This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC. This review is a fair and unbiased representation of my opinion of the book.

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