Twelve questions with author Pip Desmond


The New Zealand Herald caught up with Pip Desmond to talk about her book Song for Rosaleen:

Author Pip Desmond writes about the difficulties of caring for a mother with dementia in her book Song For Rosaleen. The former parliamentary press secretary also documented her work with gang women in her book Trust.

1. In Song for Rosaleen you write about the struggle to get your mother’s dementia diagnosed. Is that a common problem for families?

Since the book came out, quite a few people have told me similar stories. I'm not sure why doctors are reluctant to diagnose dementia but it was extremely unhelpful in our experience. We spent a year trying to find out what was wrong with Mum but the hospital geriatrician kept telling us it wasn't dementia. Part of the problem was that he didn't listen to us, her family. Also the test he used for dementia didn't work: Mum could still tell the time, the day of the week and the Prime Minister's name even in advanced stages of the disease. It wasn't until I rang the Alzheimer's Society that the field worker said to me: ‘Everything you are telling me sounds like dementia.’

2. What difference did the diagnosis make?

It was a relief to have someone put a name to it. It was helpful to be able to access information and support. The field worker taught us that with dementia the rules change; there’s no point arguing with the person or trying to get them to see your point of view because their ability to reason has been affected. Instead you do what's called ‘therapeutic fibbing’ and respond to the emotion behind the words. I found that really hard to do because I’ve always believed in telling the truth and Mum still looked like the same intelligent, eloquent person she’d always been.

Read the full interview here.