David Loewenstein, Ph.D., is Professor and Director of Neuropsychology at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Research Director at the Wien Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. In a previous post, I wrote about his research on cognitive rehabilitation for people with Alzheimer’s.
As part of his job, he writes articles about Alzheimer’s for scientific and medical journals. But he’s also written a book about his special needs daughter, Rachel, who was born four months early. For the Love of Rachel: A Father's Story is written from a personal, rather than a medical, point of view.
The early chapters of the book cover the ups and downs of Rachel’s months in the neonatal intensive care unit, her setbacks and her surgeries, and her fight to live. The next few chapters detail her family’s ongoing work to provide the help she needs to do things most of us take for granted – chew food, dress herself, and go to school.
But it’s the last two chapters that prompted me to review this book on a blog about Alzheimer’s and dementia. In those chapters, Dr. Loewenstein writes that having a special needs child has caused him to re-examine his assumptions about life, and society’s emphasis on appearance, money and winning. He says that by accepting Rachel’s limitations, he has come to accept his own limitations and those of others.
“To understand that we all struggle with limitations and fallibility is to finally embrace our true humanity,” he writes. Could it be that Alzheimer’s and dementia can teach us this same lesson?