Here in Melbourne, we are in the midst of a huge heatwave with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius for the past two days, with two more to go before a cool change this weekend. When it’s too hot to move, what better time is there to pick up a book/watch a movie and sit in front of a fan? Here’s a selection of recent releases and popular titles on the topic of dementia for your consideration.
Remember: want anything? If you’re a member we can post it out to you. Many of these titles should be available from your local library as well. Don’t leave that position in front of the fan unless you are heading back to the fridge for more ice in that water!
Fiction: Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage, Alice Munro
This book includes 9 short stories by Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Alice Munro. One story describes the generosity and grace with which a husband accommodates the blossoming romance his wife, a person with dementia, enjoys with a fellow nursing-home resident. Each story is gripping, beautifully detailed and elegantly constructed. I dare you to set this book aside with anything but reluctance once you have opened it.
Teen fiction: Downeast Ledge: A novel, Norman Gilliland
Changing times and personal failings have brought life to a standstill for the natives of Ashton, Maine. On the far side of the river that divides the coastal town, the prosperous summer residents come and go, seemingly complacent, without having much to do with the locals.
But when Amber Waits crosses the river to take a job as a caregiver to a person with dementia, Walter Sterling, all bets are off. She finds herself thrown into the troubled lives of Walt, his distracted wife Geneva, and their resentful and reckless daughter Karen.
Walt begins to exert a strange influence on Amber and her friends. Karen becomes determined to make a dream come true by taking up with Robin Dunning, a local seafarer with a shadowy past and questionable future. As Amber tries to fend off one catastrophe after another, she has to muster her courage and resourcefulness to save her friends and herself.
DVD: Away from her
After forty years of marriage, Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) are still deeply in love and live an idyllic life of tenderness and serenity. It is only when Fiona begins to show signs of memory loss that cracks in their relationship show. Helplessly, Grant watches as he becomes a stranger to Fiona as her memory rapidly starts to deteriorate. Lyrical and heart-wrenching, Away From Her is a poignant love story about letting go of what you can’t live without.
Fiction: Still Alice, Lisa Genova
This is a very popular book in our library. The story is told from the perspective of the person with younger onset dementia, Alice Howland. It has been translated into 25 languages and this year will be made into a feature-length film starring Julieanne Moore (love!). Here’s an excerpt from the précis:
Alice Howland is proud of the life she has worked so hard to build. A Harvard professor, she has a successful husband and three grown children. When Alice begins to grow forgetful at first she just dismisses it, but when she gets lost in her own neighbourhood she realises that something is terribly wrong. Alice finds herself in the rapid downward spiral of Alzheimer’s disease. She is only 50 years old.
While Alice once placed her worth and identity in her celebrated and respected academic life, now she must re-evaulate her relationship with her husband, her expectations of her children and her ideas about herself and her place in the world. Losing her yesterdays, her short-term memory hanging on by a couple of frayed threads, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice.
Memoir: Losing Clive to Younger Onset Dementia, Helen Beaumont
Clive Beaumont was diagnosed with Younger Onset Dementia at age 45, when his children were aged just 3 and 4. He had become less and less able to do his job properly and had been made redundant from the Army the year before.
Clive’s wife, Helen, tells of how she and the rest of the family made it through the next six years until Clive died: the challenge of continually adapting to his progressive deterioration; having to address the legal implications of the illness; applying for benefit payments; finding nursing homes; and juggling her responsibilities as a wife, a mother and an employee. She also describes the successful founding and development of The Clive Project, a registered charity set up by Helen and others in a bid to establish support services for people with Younger Onset Dementia.
Younger Onset Dementia is comparatively rare, but not that rare. This story is for the family and friends of people with the condition, for the people themselves, and for the professionals working with them.
Judi Dench and Kate Winslet bring to the screen one of the most extraordinary women of the 20th century, celebrated English author Iris Murdoch. As told by her unlikely soulmate, husband John Bayley, Iris first became known as a brilliant young scholar at Oxford whose boundless spirit dazzled those around her. Then, during a remarkable career as a novelist and philosopher, she continued to prove herself a women ahead of her time. Even in later life, as age and illness robbed Iris of her remarkable gifts, nothing could diminish her immense influence or weaken the bond with her devoted husband.
Fiction: Left Neglected, Lisa Genova
Whilst not about dementia, this novel outlines acceptance of a dramatically changed life and provides wonderful detail on the cognitive and perceptual processing changes that accompany neurological change. Here’s the précis for more information:
Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermum in the affluent suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob and three children. Between excelling at work; shuttling the kids to football, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, high-flyer has time to breathe.
Sarah carefully manages every minute of her life, until one fateful day, while driving to work, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In an instant all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt. A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world. For once, Sarah must relinquish control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. As she wills herself to recover, Sarah must learn that a happiness greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.
Teen fiction: Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, Jordan Sonnenblick
After an injury ends former star pitcher Peter Friedman’s athletic dreams, he concentrates on photography which leads him to a girlfriend, new fame as a high school sports photographer, and a deeper relationship with the beloved grandfather who, when he realizes he has dementia, gives Pete all of his professional camera gear. Here’s some more from the précis to whet your appetite:
Pete’s freshman year doesn’t turn out as planned. A pitching accident over the summer ruins his arm. If he can’t play baseball, what is he supposed to do? If he isn’t the star pitcher, then who is he? Pete’s best friend and pitching partner, AJ, doesn’t believe Pete—he tells him he’ll be back to his normal self by spring training. To make matters more complicated, there’s something going on with Pete’s grampa—he’s acting weird and keeps forgetting important things, and Pete’s mother doesn’t want to talk about it.