Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Living Without Memory: Fictional Accounts of Alzheimer's Disease

Last year, for World Alzheimer's Day, Alzheimer's Disease International debuted a Facebook app to raise awareness of the disease.  This app, according to Adweek, caused "all of the information in your Timeline to temporarily vanish for the day. All of your posts and pictures [were] still saved, but inaccessible...and replaced by this message: 'Imagine your life without memories. For 36 million people living with Alzheimer's disease, this is reality.' Facebook profiles are such an intrinsic part of some people's lives that 'losing' years of deeply treasured cyber-mementos, if only for a day, could provide at least of small taste of what Alzheimer's patients endure."

There are many books in the library catalog about Alzheimer's Disease: history, biography, patient care, prevention, treatments.  But there is also a growing body of fiction that includes Alzheimer's patients, either as protagonists of their own story or characters is someone else's. Some authors hope that these fictional stories will help start conversations about the disease - for author Alice LaPlante, "diving into the heart and soul of Alzheimer's was...cathartic. 'My mother is in her last stages right now...I wanted to put myself in that position, to understand what my mother's going through, and I just imagined myself into it.'" A reviewer of Lisa Genova's Still Alice asserts:

And what gives it the greatest impact is the fact that the vast majority of it is from Alice's own perspective. We share her own perceptions of the world and then feel them change as her mind deteriorates... it's as close as you could possibly get to experiencing the effects of Alzheimer's disease without having it. That might sound like too much to take... and I can't really disagree, it is like that at times... but if we really want to be able to help our loved ones and others with Alzheimer's, what could be a better start than to understand what they're going through as much as possible?

With Alzheimer's Disease and dementia a very real worry for today's aging population, we have compiled some fictional accounts of living with catastrophic memory loss, ranging from literary fiction to mystery, with a couple of recent non-fiction titles tucked in at the end.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Someone Not Really Her Mother by Harriet Scott Chessman

Bill Warrington's Last Chance by James King

Looking for Lily by Africa Fine

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey

The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays

Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott

Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's by Andrea Gillies

I Still Do: Loving and Living with Alzheimer's by Judith Fox

For more information about Alzheimer's Disease, try the New Mexico Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another wonderful title, and the library does have it, is The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean.