I love to read. Put me on a porch, by a beach or lake, and I can
spend the day musing over the characters and plots in a good novel.
Two of my favorite books include “The Shell Seekers” (I’ve read it
three times)” by Rosamund Pilcher and “The House of Special Purpose”
by John Boyne, both with historical backdrops. I also enjoy the
authors Anita Shreve (all she’s written), Jodi Picoult (“Leaving
Time”), David Baldacci (“The Last Mile”) and Nelson DeMille
Reading opens your mind and elicits emotion. We learn many things
about ourselves and the world around us as we participate in the
lives of the people placed before us. This is especially true when
it comes to reading books about individuals and families faced with
the challenges of Alzheimer’s.
Caregiving is never an easy task but we feel less isolated,
guilty and frustrated when we share the experiences of other people
going through the same things we are. In the hopes of giving you a
brighter day, support and compassion if you are caring for someone
suffering from Alzheimer’s, I would like to share a few books with
you. Two deal with early onset of the disease and one is for
children trying to understand what is happening to someone they
In “Jan’s Story,” Barry Peterson, a CBS correspondent, shares the
story of his and his wife’s journey with her diagnosis of early
onset Alzheimer’s. Former first lady, Rosalyn Carter, calls this
book “a story of immense love…that will give comfort to those
already caregiving and offer insight to the many who don’t know
today that this may be their life and their story tomorrow.”
Peterson’s book is based upon his saved notes, his “Jan Updates”
and the emails sent to him by friends and colleagues. According to
Peterson, the book measures how he lost Jan yet keeps alive the
shared memories they had.
As I read it, I could not help but cry for the loss of such a
beautiful, young woman but even more so for the courage and strength
Peterson exhibited taking care of someone he loved so deeply. The
book emphasized that we are all capable of rising to meet the
challenges placed before us.
“Still Alice” by Lisa Genova is the story of Alice, a happily
married professor with grown children who struggles to stay
connected to who she once was while dealing with early-onset
Alzheimer’s. This book is told from the vantage point of Alice
instead of from the caregiver’s perspective. We get a better
understanding of what the person afflicted with the disease is
struggling with. The book shows the strength and creativity Alice
displays fighting the disease that is slowly taking her away. It
does not romanticize Alzheimer’s but is an honest portrayal of the
day to day toll it takes on someone’s life and that of their family.
The book was brought to life on the big screen with exceptional
acting that won Julianne Moore an Oscar nomination.
Children have a difficult time dealing with the concept of
illness and death. Oftentimes, adults are afraid to share with a
child what is happening to a loved one for fear of frightening them.
In reality, the more that is shared with a child in a loving, simple
way, the less afraid they will be. In “What’s Happening to
Grandpa?,” Maria Shriver tells a poignant story through the eyes of
Kate, a young girl who tries to understand what is happening to her
grandfather who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The book shares the many questions that Kate has about her
grandfather’s future, how her mother tells Kate about the
progression of the disease, and how Kate finds a way to connect with
her grandfather through the telling of stories so that the “bond
between them forever remains in their hearts.” It can be read to any
child by a parent who wants to demystify the disease.
These books are not meant to make us sad even though that emotion
will surface throughout each page we read. They are not meant to
scare us about the unknown future we all face. They are meant to
fortify us as families and friends who will ultimately become
caregivers to those we love. They are meant to comfort us, heal our
hearts, and enable us to live on in the face of loss. There is
strength in knowing we are not alone.