Healing Thyself

A doctor’s novel way to discuss elder care

By Cecily Hastings
December 2021

I first met Christopher Price 25 years ago when he became our family doctor. He was straight out of medical school, and I recall him making the case for a family practice. Here’s what I recall: When one physician treats all members of a family, the doctor can interact with the family more frequently. In the process, the physician sees people when they are healthy, not just sick.

This idea made sense to my husband and me. At one point, Dr. Price saw me, Jim, our children and my elderly mother. It worked out for everyone, and I had the opportunity to get to know our doctor.

One thing that always struck me was his ability to ask meaningful questions and truly listen to the answers. He never rushed.

Years ago, when I was overwhelmed by the stress of caring for an elderly neighbor who had no family, Price shared a lovely story about his elderly neighbor and how he helped out. Sadly, our health plans changed a few years ago. We had to find new doctors.

When I heard Price had written a novel about dementia caregiving, I wasn’t surprised. I knew he wanted to help others, drawing on his experience treating and observing Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their caregivers.

Based on those experiences and his own thoughts about end-of-life care, hospice and supportive care, and how they affect patients and caregivers, Price wrote “Allison’s Gambit.” He says the book’s primary mission is to explore these shared, difficult experiences and provide better care for our loved ones in the future.

The novel was published in October. “Allison’s Gambit” follows Allison Raney as she deals with existential questions that arise after caring for her mother throughout her decline from Alzheimer’s.

Concerned she will succumb to the same fate—putting her family through the experiences she had as a caregiver—Allison decides to take up a terrible habit: smoking. The decision shapes the novel’s foundation.

With “Allison’s Gambit,” Price hopes to open discussions around Alzheimer’s treatment, end-of-life care options, and the emotional and physical toll of caregiving.

“Exploring this philosophy through writing helped me explore my own thoughts about dying,” Price says. “And oddly, this led to a recognition that I wanted to start living differently as a result. When I got to the end of the book, I recognized that I had a great deal of sympathy and understanding for Allison. I realized that no matter what is going to happen to me in the end, I wanted to live my life differently now.”

I can relate. After being rear-ended in a collision two years ago, my husband suffered a concussion that triggered dementia. It has slowly worsened. Every month brings new challenges.

He’s manageable for me to care for because he’s sweet, grateful and loving. And he still wants very much to be helpful, to care for himself and enjoy life. But his short-term memory is fleeting. He cannot follow directions or manage his time and daily activities without help.

Dementia takes many forms. My husband’s condition affects his ability to process spoken words. Hearing aids help, but he misses about every one out of five words. Our miscommunications are exhausting!

In the book, Allison says, “What I had not expected was the mental aspect. I didn’t really understand what it is like to watch someone’s mind regress. Not just anyone’s mind, but the mind of the person whom you have the most love for in the world.”

I feel fortunate because of Jim’s good nature. But we don’t know what tomorrow holds. One thing for sure is Jim has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to live when his mind is gone, or if he ever mistreats his loved ones.

At times “Allison’s Gambit” made me anxious. But in the end, it brought a sense of peace. And it reminded me to be grateful for the amazing physician Christopher Price had been for our family.

Dr. Chris Price is a family physician at Price Family Practice on Scripps Drive. For information, see Dr. Price’s website at chrispriceauthor.com. “Allison’s Gambit” is available at most local and online bookstores.

Cecily Hastings can be reached at publisher@insidepublications.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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