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The Barry Petersen Interview  (Page 1 of 3)

An Interview with Barry Petersen

Gary Barg: The thing about Alzheimer’s that is so insidious is your loved one is still there, but they are not there. It is the true long goodbye and denial is so easy to do. Could you talk a little bit about how you walked through that process?

Barry Petersen: The worst part was realizing afterward what I had done; and not realizing at the time how people were reaching out to help me see it, but I could not. I guess I am not unusual in that sense. How could it be Jan? She is young. She is really vibrant. She is great. There is no way she deserves to get this disease. It cannot be happening. I think that drove a lot of my decisions, some of them good, some of them bad; but it is a huge part of this denial and this disease feeds it, just feeds it.

Gary Barg: You mentioned our Reverse Gift List concept in the book, which is asking someone not only to come to dinner, but bring dinner, do things, give me gifts. As a caregiver, I need to manage this and I need you to work for me. How did you get that kind of help from your friends and family members?

Barry Petersen: Caregivers are people who are incredibly focused on what they are doing in a solitary, lonesome way. Every day, their world shrinks a little more because the person dealing with Alzheimer’s needs more attention, needs more care. Life responsibilities keep shifting over to the caregiver side—writing the checks, getting the groceries, picking up the kids, whatever you want to call it. They increasingly fall on the caregiver at a time when the caregiver is increasingly in demand because the disease is taking more and more of the person away. I think people who are caregiving in the situation lose themselves. So if you call them up and say, “Can I help,” their answer is going to be, “No, I am fine. I am doing great.” Do not call them up and say, “What can I do?” Call them up and say, “I am bringing dinner on Thursday night; go to a movie” or “I am coming over on Tuesday afternoon to take care of the person. Go shopping, go have a cup of tea, just get away.” I think it does two things: it obviously helps break the process with the person who is giving care; but the other thing is that it allows the caregiver to step away and realize how he or she is doing.

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