‘What Are You Doing Here? Reflections on Dementia’

what-are-you-doing-here-coverWhat Are You Doing Here? charts the journey of my mother from mild confusion to severe dementia, from being cared for at home by my father, to her final years in residential care. I started writing while my mother was still alive, but at that stage I was making notes and writing a few short pieces, with no intention of writing a book. I was trying to understand what was going on in my mother’s brain, and more importantly, how the world must have seemed to her as the disease progressed.

After my mother died, I kept writing. One of the things that inspired me was that I came across people who had looked after a parent or spouse who had dementia, and who later became volunteers working with people with dementia or involved in fundraising or other forms of advocacy. I didn’t think I would be very good at either volunteering or fundraising, but I thought, ‘I can write. I can tell my mother’s story, and I can share the stories that others have told me.’

‘What Are You Doing Here?’ is more than a memoir; it is an unsentimental but compassionate account of dementia that draws on interviews with other family caregivers and incorporates my own reflections about dementia.

It is not a handbook of practical advice for caregivers. Rather, it is about how dementia affects people and how we respond to it. It’s a book for anyone who is interested in memory, ageing, family relationships, and how we look after some of the most vulnerable members of society.


 5-star review by Rocky Hudson at

Book blog by Donna Robertson of Christchurch City Libraries with her review of the book

Book blog by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

The Bookenz programme of Canterbury radio station Plains FM 96.9 interviewed Janet on 26 September 2013. You can listen to the interview at:

Where can I get a copy?

The initial print run has sold out. Copies are available in most New Zealand public libraries.