Cover image for Symphony of spirits : encounters with the spiritual dimensions of Alzheimer's
Symphony of spirits : encounters with the spiritual dimensions of Alzheimer's
Forrest, Deborah A.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
viii, 210 pages ; 22 cm
Added Author:
Format :


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RC523 .F67 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In a culture that worships youth and beauty, more people than ever will be facing the problems of aging. Perhaps the least understood and most feared of the aging diseases are Alzheimer's and the other neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington's and Parkinson's. Because these diseases destroy the mind as well as the body, they seem to rob the victims of all the qualities that once made them human. They engender a hopelessness in the medical profession and families alike, resulting in a sense that these people are already gone. Yet, in Symphony of Spirits Dr. Forrest shows through her unique experiences as a geriatric care giver that if we acknowledge the spiritual dimension of these patients, the "worthless" last years of people suffering from these types of diseases can be the most valuable. When Dr. Forrest took a temporary position at a geriatric hospital in Atlanta, she trusted her extensive medical training to prepare her for the physical and mental challenges of working with elderly patients suffering with dementia. But she quickly learned it just wasn't enough. Working alongside three unique caregivers, Native American nurses with deeply held spiritual beliefs and an uncompromising respect for all life, Forrest experienced a new way of looking at life and death that valued these special patients as "undiscovered treasures." Through her patients, like Momma Sissy, a 102 year-old African American woman who still worked a farm in South Carolina and Stephen Z., a retired engineer whose wife of 50 years still spoke of their ongoing love for each other, Forrest came to appreciate the special wisdom that comes from living life. Working especially with Aunt Mel, an independent strong-willed elder and Granny Ada, the matriarch of an Appalachian mountain clan, taught Forrest the importance of loving relationships for long-term mental and physical health. In the tradition of Raymond Moody and Deepak Chopra, Dr. Forrest proposes a momentary suspension of scientific skepticism and prejudice for a more poignant, humanizing method of caring for Alzheimer's patients.

Author Notes

Deborah Forrest , a Clinical Psychologist and former Registered Nurse, earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology under the tutelage of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Dr. Catherine Sanders and the late Dr. Inge Broverman. She completed a one-year postdoctoral fellowship in geriatric neuropsychology and currently conducts seminars and lectures on aging, bereavement, and spirituality.

Clint Richmond is a veteran freelance journalist and author. His 1995 book Selena! was a #1 New York Times bestseller. His work has appeared in Time and Newsweek among other publications.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

An orchestra must practice before playing a symphony in public, and Forrest, a registered nurse who later earned a doctorate in clinical psychology, had to learn about the shamanic understanding of spirits and its pertinence to health care before she could practice with it. Her learning process is the major theme of her book. She was a contract nurse in a special geriatric ward when her Native American and Afro-Caribbean nursing colleagues gradually introduced her to the world of spirits. She had earlier shown a gift for "knowing what was in people's souls," as had her mother. That capability became evident to her colleagues, and they proceeded to build on it in the ward. They didn't teach Forrest but instead gave her opportunities to learn for herself. She had, however, to readjust her linear and commonsense thinking and open herself to another dimension that helped her and her patients accept death as a natural event, not a defeat. Graduate workshops with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross also broadened Forrest's understanding and empathy. William Beatty