When Susan MacLeod accompanied her 90-year-old mother through a labyrinthine long-term care system, it was a nine-year journey navigating a government within a heart in a system without compassion. Her family, much like the system, erected walls rather than opening arms. She found herself involuntarily placed at the pivot point between her frail, elderly mother’s need for love and companionship, the system’s inability to deliver, and her brother’s indifference. She had also spent three years as a government spokesperson enthusiastically defending the very system she now experienced as brutally cold.
MacLeod’s tone is defined by a gentle, self-effacing humour touched by exasperation for the absurdities and the newfound wisdom around expectations. Dying for Attention, is the latest memoir in the graphic medicine field, shelved alongside Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? or Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles. MacLeod includes helpful tips for communicating with nursing homes as well as background research to provide a larger context for this under-discussed experience.