Blue Hydrandeas is a novel, but I wouldn’t call it fiction. Yes, Sciucco has created the characters in her book; but the events she portrays are very real. I don’t mean that every Alzheimer’s family experiences the same things that Sara and Jack and their family have encountered; however, any family with a loved one diagnosed with dementia will easily recognize the issues they face.
The story introduces us to a loving couple who run a B&B in “a picturesque Cape Cod village on the edge of Nantucket Sound.” Sara is a painter who loves the Blue Hydrangeas of that part of the country. Jack has retired from a successful business career. All is well until Sara begins to show signs of Alzheimer’s. In the balance of the book, Sciucco relates the many challenges faced by the couple as Jack struggles to maintain life as it once was.
For me there are several things about the book that make it worth reading. First, Sciucco realistically captures so many of the behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and caregiving. Her background as a writer and a nurse have come together to bring out a real sense of what it is like to live with Alzheimer’s. That includes not just the symptoms of the disease and the response of the caregiver, but also the way in which a caregiver’s thought process works or fails to work.
That leads to my second point. The story brings out an important message for all caregivers. Caring for a person with dementia requires a delicate balance between what I call “head” and “heart issues. Jack’s heart is in the right place. He loves Sara deeply. He wants to do what is right for her as well as for them as a couple. His heart overshadows his head until he finds himself in trouble. Fortunately, there is a happy ending.
A few weeks ago, I saw something about the need for a caregiver to have a team to help with this journey. It can be too stressful to do it all alone. Jack had a team of doctors, family, and friends who could help him, but he had difficulty making the best use of them. I think there are many people just like Jack. All of us can take a lesson from his experience. We need a team, and we need to listen to them carefully as we make what we hope are the best decisions.
Finally, despite Jack’s struggles, this is a heartwarming story. As the book’s title tells us, it is “An Alzheimer’s Love Story” from beginning to end. If you are a caregiver of someone with dementia, you might benefit from reading their story as much as I did.