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Posts Tagged ‘The Little Girl in the Radiator’

The Radio 5 phone-in this morning is all about terrible conditions in some care homes, and the suggestion that hidden CCTV cameras might be installed in some of them to keep an eye on the staff. It sounds Orwellian, but I’m not sure that I’d be against it if I were one of the old folks.

In The Little Girl in the Radiator, Martin Slevin talks about the decision to have his mother taken into care, a decision which made him feel as though he had ‘betrayed and abandoned’ her. In the end, she went through three homes, with varying standards of care. She was treated reasonably in the first, though her clothes were all lost or ruined; in the second, the treatment was exemplary; in the third, to which she was admitted following a stroke, it was terrible.

On her admission to the hospital where she died, following another stroke which happened at that third home, Martin was taken aside by a doctor:

‘What can you tell me about the nursing home she has just come from?’ he asked.

‘Not a lot, really,’ I said. ‘She only just moved in there a few days ago. She was in Walsgrave [Hospital in Coventry] for about 10 weeks before that. Why do you ask?’

I had the strangest feeling there was something he wasn’t telling me.

‘She was not admitted in a favourable condition,’ he replied. ‘The nurse who first admitted her commented on her condition.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Heather. ‘What condition?’

‘The admitting nurse wrote some comments in the admittance book, which is a very unusual thing for a nurse to do. I think she was covering herself.’

‘I still don’t understand,’ I said. ‘What was mum’s condition when she arrived here?’

‘I didn’t see her personally,’ he said, ‘but the notes written by the admitting nurse state that she was covered in faeces. Some of it had dried onto her legs, and looked as though it had been there for some time. There was also dried faeces under her fingernails, again indicating that she had not been washed in some time. Also the feeding peg on her stomach was caked in dried blood, again indicating a lack of personal care.’

I thought I was going to be sick.

‘I’m sorry to have to tell you this,’ he said. ‘You can go through and see her now.’

Meanwhile, there is another excellent review of the book, this time in the GPs’ trade magazine, Pulse (written by Dr Natalie Smith, a practising GP at The Manor Surgery in Headington, Oxford):

‘Both medics and laymen alike stand to learn an awful lot from reading this book’ says Dr Natalie Smith

This book is a heart-breaking account of the author’s personal experience of coping with his mother’s deterioration with the cruel disease that is Alzheimer’s.  It is not meant as a medical text, nor should it be taken as one, however both medics and laymen alike stand to learn an awful lot from reading this book.

Don’t be put off by the subject matter; the book is incredibly well written and is very entertaining and even amusing in parts.  Mr Slevin manages to recount some of the more distressing aspects to his mother’s condition with a hint of humour, and throughout you feel that he is sharing his experiences in order to help others to cope.

Some of the more harrowing episodes relate to the lady’s treatment in a care home, which opens our eyes to the distressing and harsh attitude that some of these supposedly caring places may have. Fortunately, in the end [as above, this is not quite correct], Mr Slevin finds a wonderful home for his mother, where she is suitably cared for and lives out her last days in relative happiness, unaware of her condition, and talking always, to the little girl in the radiator.

Having read this, I for one, shall look at my patients with dementia in a new light, as well as treating their carers with even more respect, admiration and sympathy than I have done until now.

9/10

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Sheila Hollins – that’s Professor the Baroness Hollins to you – has posted up this very nice piece about the recent BMA Awards, and in which The Little Girl in the Radiator won one of the leading prizes.

I was honoured to choose the Board of Science Chairs prize and I had no hesitation in recommending Martin Slevin’s moving and humorous book The Little Girl in the Radiator: Mum, Alzheimer’s and Me, an account of caring for his mother after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

It provides a great insight into a carer’s perspective and any reader would get a great sense of connection and empathy with Martin Slevin’s story about the decline of his mother and this illness. It not only covers Alzheimer’s but also the terrible dilemma of deciding to place a family member into residential care.

This is a funny but heartbreaking account of a mother’s decline into the world of serious memory loss and Alzheimer’s in particular.

I laughed and cried. It is very well-written and would bring many useful insights to doctors, as well as to other people dealing with similar life experiences.

I know Martin is very grateful for Baroness Hollins’ support, and so are we.

Incidentally, I wasn’t aware of her very sad family history; perhaps having faced even greater sadness in her own life helped her to understand Martin’s situation.

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Martin Slevin’s The Little Girl in the Radiator has won the overall Chairman’s Choice award at the annual British Medical Association book awards for 2013 – beating much-fancied titles including Ben ‘I Don’t Read Books’ Goldacre’s Bad Pharma.

It was also Highly Commended in the popular medicine category (which was won by Chris Williams’ I Feel So Bad I Can’t Go On*).

The book tells the story of Martin’s struggle, as a newly-divorced father of two, to care for his mother as she fights Alzheimer’s disease.

It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but it’s actually extremely funny.

The Daily Mail described it in a serialisation as ‘Deeply loving yet wryly comic… The most moving portrait of this cruel disease you’ll ever read’.

It was up against some strong competition; 641 titles were entered for this year’s awards.

Meanwhile, it continues to garner fantastic reviews from readers on Amazon.

*My kind of read.

Little Girl In The Radiator-AI cover v2

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I had an interesting discussion with the Observer‘s complaints guy the other day (see blogs passim). (As an aside, what a way to earn a living: dealing with people whingeing about stuff all day long, while knowing that your newspaper, and your job, probably won’t see out 2013.) He, in turn, had spoken to Nick Sherbert: Sherbert maintains (apparently) that he was told by ‘someone in the Home Office’ that Gadget was not an Inspector. Obviously, this person was mistaken – we’re, of course, not suggesting Herbert is a liar. The very idea.

However, he made the statement and it has the aforementioned implications for us. We’re now wondering whether or not to take matters further. Our lawyers advise us that we would not have to prove that Gadget was an inspector (or above). It would be for Herbert to prove the opposite, which he could not.

However, when you pull the pin on a grenade like this, the shrapnel can hit people other than the intended target. Could Gadget be damaged, collaterally-speaking? I’m not sure. We’re sleeping on it for a bit.

Meanwhile: what would happen if you jumped in a swimming pool full of booze?

Finally, no apologies for mentioning yet more very positive reviews of The Little Girl in the Radiator. Eight have been placed on Amazon since Christmas Eve alone, all five stars (barring one four star).

To take a couple at at random,’Yimsakin’ says, ‘This is the best book that I have ever read… I could not put this book down once I started reading it.’

Nicola Eggleton writes, ‘Very well-written book, I work in the care industry and it was fascinating to read the experiences Martin had with his mum and his struggle in understanding and coming to terms with this terrible illness.’

We still haven’t achieved the cut-through that this title deserves; it’s selling well on Amazon, and as an eBook, but I think Waterstone’s should be doing more with it. Possibly a superrmarket, too. People don’t just like it, they love it. One chap has bought nine copies.

In related news, Bobby Womack has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Here’s one of my favourite Womack 70s tracks:

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More excellent reviews (on Amazon from readers) of Martin Slevin’s The Little Girl in the Radiator. I’ve never know a book engender such warmth from the readers; it’s burning quite slowly, but I think it will become one of our best sellers. Here are a few from the last week or so:

5 stars A book for anyone who has been/is affected by this condition, 17 Dec 2012

By IRENE

This book is excellent reading for any person affected by this cruel condition.

It was recommended to me and likewise I have recommended it further. It has funny and sad chapters but captures the true everyday experiences that any family face with their loved ones. It would be an ideal book for a Doctors Surgery and Hospital Staff Personnel.

5 stars very moving, 17 Dec 2012

By Brucie

My father has frontal lobe dementia and I found this book to be moving, loving and also very sad. I can relate to so much in this book and helped me knowing that I am not alone and that no one is immune to this terrible illness. Well written with dedication, love and a bit of much-needed humour.

4 stars highly recommended, 16 Dec 2012

By Miss S Small

I work with people who have dementia and I am also a carer. This is one of the best books I have read. It really highlights the ‘hidden’ difficulties that carers have to deal with on a 24 hour a day basis. I recommend this book for both carers and professionals; it gives a very human perspective on living with and coping with dementia.

5 stars True to life, 15 Dec 2012

By piglet

I really enjoyed this book. It made you laugh at the things she did. If you didn’t laugh you would sit down and cry. It was a true account of living with some one with Alzheimer’s. I care for my Mum who has this illness and the book made me feel I was not alone. A great read. Written with a good understanding of caring for a loved one. I highly recommend this book for anyone going through what I am at present and what the author went through.

5 stars Insight, 13 Dec 2012

By CHRISMP

As a nurse I thought I had an idea how Alzheimer sufferers behaved – I didn’t have an a clue! Thank you for writing this book Martin and sharing your experiences. What a trial you had, but I think you did your best for your mum. Now by writing this book you are helping others to understand the burden of responsibility that comes with having a relative with this debilitating condition, and of course giving some helpful information for carers. A very interesting read, and yes ‘funny’ at times as I know you intended it to be! and R.I.P Rose

5 stars Very good book!, 12 Dec 2012

By G A Simmons

I enjoyed this book because I felt the Author really wrote about caring for his Mum as he had experienced it, warts and all. This is a devastating subject but he still managed to project some humour into some of his situations that had me laughing out loud. At other times I wanted to cry with him and his Mum.

I think this book would be of special interest to anyone caring for someone with dementia, but it is also just a good read.

5 stars Martin Slevin please take a bow, 11 Dec 2012

By bookworm

I started this book this afternoon and at 1am have just reluctantly finished it. It was so absorbing and wonderful I want to start it again from the beginning. I am going to tell everyone I know about this warm wonderful funny and sad book that deals with such a tragic subject in such sensitive and loving way. I wont lend anyone this book though I want them to buy it so they can keep re-reading it. This devastating illness can strike any one of us and we need to fight for better conditions for the sufferers and more help for the carers.

I wont forget what I have read. You will have helped so many people through this book Martin. Thank you.

5 stars Read it, cry laugh but so true, 6 Dec 2012

By Peter Holmes

A must read. This is an amazing true to life read, there were so many similar experiences to my mum. We all thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Laughing then crying the next minute. It actually helped us all understand what our mum was going through showing what an awful illness this is and the actions done by mum were not of her doing. Sadly we no longer have our mum and miss her dearly but this book shows you are not alone.

littlegirlintheradiator-blogfullcover-WEB

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That September 6 deadline came and went, thanks to BT. However, yesterday afternoon we finally got back on the grid, as the kids say, I think.

Apologies to all those who have not received proper replies to emails in the last few weeks. It’s been a nightmare for us, too. (On the plus side, the pubs of Cheltenham have been doing a roaring trade.)

While we’ve been hors de combat, The Little Girl in the Radiator has been selling well – there are now 17 five star reviews on Amazon. Mrs Olwyn Venables, to take one reviewer at random, writes:

I have just finished this book…what a brilliant read. Having lost my mum to this awful condition I could see myself in the author’s position. If it was not such a serious subject I would say it’s hilarious. It’s hard enough for a woman to nurse a parent with this but for a man it’s doubly hard. Martin has my complete admiration for the way he looked after his mum.

The rest of the world has been quietly moving along. We’re out of copies of A Paramedic’s Diary: Life and Death on the Streets, and wondering whether to reprint. Gadget, Copperfield, Bloggs, Chalk etc continue to sell through.

We’ve been editing, too. Among the things on the horizon are a book about stupid criminals, a new paramedic’s book, a book about teaching Spanish kids in English in Spain, a book by a London copper about working with various police forces in the USA and a political polemic by the blogger David Thompson. More details as and when.

There’s also another Dalrymple on the way, this one an entirely new collection of essays not printed anywhere else, which will focus on what he sees as the moral and intellectual corruption of modern Britain. Speaking of the good Doctor, he has a new column on the Salisbury Review‘s website, called The Hilarious Pessimist.

This one is very amusing, in a mad and maddening sort of way:

A friend of mine recently gave a lecture at a university and sent his bill for his (modest) expenses. He received by return a form asking him, in order for him to be paid, for his race, religion and sexual ‘orientation’.

Not surprisingly, he was displeased by this. He demanded to know why the information was needed, and requested the race, religion and sexual orientation of the person who sent the form and also of the vice-chancellor of the university. In reply, he was told merely that ‘Human Resources’ needed the information before it could settle his bill. No other explanation of why or for what purpose this information was ‘needed’ was offered; presumably, it was deemed self-evident to the writer of the reply.

My friend persisted in his refusal and in his demand for the same information as that demanded of him. Eventually he received a further reply informing him that Human Resources no longer required the information, and that he would be paid forthwith. There was no explanation, much less apology, in this reply for the change of what Human Resources would no doubt call ‘policy’; nor was there the faintest hint of shame or embarrassment.

What brought about the change in Human Resources’ attitude? Why was information thought essential one moment for the payment of a small bill deemed completely unnecessary shortly afterwards? Had legislation or society changed in the meantime? Had Human Resources had a crisis of conscience, realising that their questions were intellectually stupid, psychologically aggressive, and morally against the commonest of decency?

Of course not. With the instinctive cunning of dullard bureaucrats, they realised that if they persisted in their questions with this particular man, they might cause a lot of trouble for themselves. He would kick up a fuss and draw public attention to their activities, as welcome to them as kitchen light switched on to nocturnal cockroaches. Best, then, to retreat into the cracks. Most ‘difficult’ customers, that is to say those not automatically intimidated by a form into filling it, are satisfied by such a retreat, and make no public comment.

If any semblance of our freedom is to be preserved, the dictatorial idiocy (and, I fear, wickedness) of our bureaucracy should be constantly exposed to public mockery and reprehension, before it becomes too powerful for us to dare to do so.

We’re also going to do some filming with TD, to get him out there a bit more on the internet via the auspices of YouTube etc. Showing him as he is – ie a very funny, warm-hearted and precise man – rather than as some people assume him to be can only be good for sales.

 

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The Daily Mail ran a two-page digest of The Little Girl In The Radiator yesterday. The standfirst to the print version included the above line, which will certainly make it onto the jacket of the reprint.

Some of the comments below the online version are well worth reproducing.

What a beautiful article. Sometimes the only way to deal with heartache is humour…

This story bears an uncanny resemblance to my own dear dad’s journey through dementia. I’ve laughed and cried reading this very touching and incredibly honest account…

I never cry at anything but I’m here sobbing like a baby…

How sad, but what a lucky lady to have a son who cared about her so much…

Beautifully written, Martin… I’m glad that you found out that once you joined your Mum in her world, and stopped trying to use “normal” reason or rationalisation that we without dementia use to make our world work, the two of you found a way to get through the days… I’m glad that her hallucinations didn’t cause her unhappiness, and that you were able to identify the little girl in the dark radiator – a fitting euphemism for dementia…

It makes such a change to read a touching, heartfelt article… Although terribly sad for the victim and their families, as a psychologist I find the intriguing symptoms of the disease fascinating, as is often the case the only way to help is through extreme love, patience and positive regard. Well done Martin…

I worked in a care home and looked after a 101 year old with this disease and every time I went in to her she would ask for her mum and where her eggs were. I was only 18 and the time and it was heartbreaking… This is one of the best articles I’ve read in this paper. Well done Martin…

I feel very honoured and humbled to read such a touching personal story…Thank you…

I don’t think I have ever cried as much as I did reading this. Beautifully written and astonishingly honest…

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