National Read A Book Day

September 4, 2020

Reading, whether fiction or non-fiction, can be a great way to increase understanding and empathy. It can provide a useful activity with people with dementia to help stimulate and maintain connections as well. This National Read a Book Day (Sunday 6th September), our Admiral Nurses have put together a list of their book recommendations.

Debbie Callow, Helpline Admiral Nurse

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Although this novel has been made into a successful film starring Julianne Moore, the novel provides the characters with internal monologues that the film lacks. This is an interesting story of Alice, a 50-year-old linguistic professor, who is diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer’s.

Salt on my Skin by Sarah Kennedy Norquoy

This is a touching biography about grief and loss. In the space of two weeks, Sarah experiences two huge losses: the loss of a close friend and her mother’s diagnosis of dementia. Through the grief that follows, Sarah finds joy and release in wild swimming.

Karen Harrison Dening, Head of Research and Publications

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

This book was recently made into a BAFTA award winning film starring Glenda Jackson. The book gives a moving account of Maud’s search for her friend, who she believes is missing. She feels that no one will take her concerns seriously. The events of her search for Elizabeth become entwined with past memories of her missing sister. What I love about this book is the power of the relationship Maud has with her granddaughter and how affirming it is of the power of these types of intergenerational relationships. Whilst the film does not focus on this aspect so much, the book is well worth the read to understand how meaningful family relationships are in the experience of dementia.

Take Care Son by Tony Husband

This tells the story of Tony Husband’s father as he advanced in his dementia, right through to the end of life. The difference is, this story is told in cartoons of scenarios along the way; Tony is a famous cartoonist and this is a very moving portrayal of his story.

Afloat by Nigel Baines

This is a graphic memoir of Nigel’s experience caring for his mum, who had dementia. I love the way this is presented visually and I would highly recommend this graphic novel, especially for teenagers.

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey

This novel centres on a character called Jake who has Alzheimer’s disease. He is experiencing several losses: the death of his wife, the imprisonment of his son, and the loss of his memories. As the disease progresses, the key events of his life shift and become muddled with surreal imaginings. He doesn’t know if his daughter is dead or alive, and he fails to remember why his son is in prison. Images and memories come to him, but they no longer make sense. The writing shows an amazing insight into what it might be like to have dementia and how it may affect a person’s memory.

The Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

This novel is centred on three women across generations, all of whom have secrets; Katie (a teenager), Caroline (her mother), and Mary (her grandmother). Mary returns to the family after several years away, now with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The novel tells the story of Katie and her grandmother learning to live together and resolve their differences.

Caroline Scates Head of Professional & Practice Development

Somebody I Used to Know by Wendy Mitchell

Wendy is a member of the Dementia UK Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP) who has early onset Alzheimer’s. In her book she writes about the experience of losing herself and records her progress through diagnosis, the lack of follow-up and taking early retirement (when she felt flexibility could have enabled her to continue). The book contains some very insightful, moving and hopeful moments. I found this a very inspiring read.

Emily Oliver, Consultant Admiral Nurse

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

This book follows the life of Joe O’Brien, a 40-year-old policeman and father of four. He starts to experience problems with his memory and orientation, as well as uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements of which he later discovers are symptoms of Huntington’s disease – an inherited condition that causes dementia. The book explores the everyday challenges faced by the whole family as they come to terms with the diagnosis. The novel navigates the moral and ethical dilemmas associated with genetic illness and highlights the importance of family and ongoing support. The book is an eye-opening read, accurately portraying the unique problems that Huntington’s Disease-affected families face.

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