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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Behind Closed Doors: One Family's Journey through the Australian Aged Care System by Sarah Wallace is a non-fiction memoir that details the author's horrifying experience when she sought additional help in caring for her husband with Lewy Body Dementia. More than just a memoir, this is an exposé. Wallace starts by telling us of her and her husband Bob's life, both personally and professionally, which they shared over years as a couple born in Scotland who chose Australia to live and raise a family. Upon retirement, changes consistent with LBD start to occur in Bob and get progressively worse. As this happens, so too does the treatment Bob receives. This is followed by persistent and downright deceitful attempts by Australia's care system to strongarm his wife into simply giving Bob up. For as long as she can, Wallace demands the help she and Bob cannot be denied and the dignity and compassion Bob deserves. This is ignored and the outcome is catastrophic.
Behind Closed Doors takes some time to unpack as Sarah Wallace's story is equal parts infuriating and heart-breaking. Bob could be anyone. He could be my husband, my son, my father. And sadly, the realities Wallace shares with raw, profound honesty are those experienced by tens of thousands of others who do not have Wallace's strength after the series of battles they endure. All I could think of is my father, this man who has always been so strong and loving. Fiercely independent. And then I cried, imagining him being told he must go to bed at 6 pm and being subjected to every cruel indignity imaginable. How does one reconcile this? How is it even possible? The writing is easy to read and understand, and the photographs make Bob's story even more personal to a reader. This is the book that nobody should ever have to write, but I am grateful to Wallace for sharing and for continuing to fight the good fight.