Wednesday, September 21, 2022

World Alzheimer's Awareness Month

September brings the equinox and autumn. It's also World Alzheimer's Month. 


By accident (or a grand design of which I'm unaware), two of my Alzheimer's-related publications have come out this month.


Here, read my review at Minola Review of Four Umbrellas: A Couple's Journey Into Young-Onset Alzheimer's. It's an exceptional book by June Hutton & Tony Wanless, in which Tony shares insights into his experience of dementia. Here's an excerpt from my review:


We all have a near-inexhaustible capacity to fool ourselves. No one wants to acknowledge their own mental confusion. No one wants to see dementia in the face that is resting on the pillow next to theirs. It took great courage to write this book.


We should all read it. Statistics suggest that if you don't know someone with dementia now, you will soon. 


Luckily, people -- generous, motivated, creative people -- with lived experience, people who love someone with dementia, and perhaps have cared for them, also write books. 


Here's an interview in the Miramichi Reader with Sheridan Rondeau, author of Dear Braveheart: A Caregiver's Loving Journey Through Alzheimer's Dementia (Crossfield Publishing).   


She cared for her husband, "Tony," at home during his time with dementia. Her insights and perspective can be a gentle companion for others in that situation. It was a pleasure to read her book and speak with her. 


I wrote recently about the pleasures and curiosities of "pulling back the curtain" and peeking behind the scenes. Sometimes it's fun (a movie's outtakes); sometimes it's engaging (creative competition show). 


And sometimes it's a responsibility for those of us who haven't been there to go there. That's why we broaden our reading habits to seek out #ownvoices whose experiences in society are different from ours. That's how we learn what we don't know. That's where we get ideas and energy and courage to change unequal power dynamics.


In some cases, that's how we prepare to be a better member of our community, or a better parent, sibling, friend, or "offspring" (my father's word when his "children" were adults with children of their own). 


That's why you should read books like these -- not for the curiosity or because they're scandalous, like some clickbait article on co-stars who are also having an affair. But because they let you see more fully.


If you've read a book like this, you might better understand what you're looking at. For example, when a woman filling a prescription huddles with a pharmacist for the "this is the first time for this medication" conversation, you might have insight into why she and the pharmacist both have tears in their eyes. 


Or on other errands: You might have more patience for the steely-haired older woman in the bank who's trying to keep her companion, a blank-faced white-haired woman, engaged without bothering others. The patient fifty-something woman in the coffee shop who repeatedly hands an elderly gentleman his handkerchief.


They're all part of the full range of human experience, often invisible, but still there. Where someone we know and love -- or ourselves -- might be someday.


Read these books, and books like them. Please.