Looking for Lionel: How I Lost and Found My Mother through Dementia

Looking for Lionel: How I Lost and Found My Mother through Dementia

Sharon Snir, Allen &Unwin

Looking for Lionel is a beautiful and unusual book. I have read a few books on living dementia lately. They have all been informative, interesting and full of harrowing stories of parents not eating, having personality changes, forgetting who they are, forgetting people they know well and forgetting how to use the toilet and keep themselves clean. This is also true of Looking for Lionel, but it is different because Sharon’s mother’s personality change was from an almost indifferent mother to a loving, affectionate mother. As Sharon observes, “How ironic that dementia gave me the mother I always wanted.”

Looking for Lionel is full of irony, which makes it a very funny book, as well as a thoughtful one. Sharon Snir writes vividly, with a good dash of black humour, of the happenings at the nursing home that Lily Snir lives in. These include the day the nurses had to persuade a patient to stop passionately kissing another patient because he was someone else’s husband. Or the time Lily persuaded all the other patients, including those “who spent most of their days staring into their own private worlds” and the resident Casanova to search the unit for her husband, Lionel.

Sharon also weaves useful advice into her descriptions. I found the information she provides on how to speak to someone with dementia very interesting. It was something that I had wondered about myself, after having observed a nurse utterly failing to convince a hysterical patient that her old dog was not barking outside the unit to come in. Sharon recommends connecting with their reality rather than reasoning with them logically and gives a number of examples of how she dealt with very difficult conversations.

I thoroughly recommend Looking for Lionel for families with relatives with dementia or just for people who love to read a wonderful book.

Katy Gerner

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