A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is utterly devastating. It takes away the most fundamental parts of a person — his or her memories. Families must watch their loved ones slowly disappear, even while they remain physically present. Coping with these changes can be challenging, and often leaves caregivers feeling isolated. Many authors have used fiction to explore the experience of losing someone to Alzheimer’s. The library has several books that provide insight into the Alzheimer’s experience, both from the perspective of those who suffer from it and those who take care of them.
“Elizabeth Is Missing” by Emma Healey is told from the perspective of an elderly woman named Maud who is gradually losing her memory. Maud becomes more and more flustered when she can’t find her friend, Elizabeth, or remember any reason why Elizabeth should no longer be in her house. As Maud’s memory degenerates further, she begins to confuse the disappearance of Elizabeth with the disappearance of her older sister Susan,which occurred right after WWII when Maud was a young teenager and was never solved. Healey’s novel is full of suspense that will pull readers in, while also enlightening them on the challenging experiences of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Fredrik Backman’s novella “And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer” follows a grandfather who is in the throes of Alzheimer’s. Each day he loses a little more of his memories. He is aware this is happening, and it scares him. The story follows his struggles to share his thoughts and memories with his grandson, Noah. Backman offers a poignant look at family bonds, the power of love, living with regret and the heartbreaking process of letting go.
“The Things We Keep” by Sally Hepworth follows 38-year-old Anna and 41-year-old Luke, who are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and a form of dementia known as frontotemporal dementia, respectively. The two have moved into an assisted living facility, and the story explores the relationship that develops between them and with Eve, a cook at the facility. The book delves into the loss of loved ones, not only to death, but the loss of their very being as they are no longer able to recall their memories. It also examines the caretakers who are willing to care for those people who can no longer take care of themselves.
“The Wide Circumference of Love” by Marita Golden follows the Tates, a prominent Black family who live in Washington, D.C. Diane, a successful judge, is faced with the slow loss of her husband, Gregory, a talented architect, to early-onset Alzheimer’s. The disease takes a toll on their marriage with Diane serving as his primary caretaker, and changes the lives of their adult children who must come to terms with the loss of their father.
Individuals who are interested in learning more about the disease may want to attend the program Alzheimer’s Disease: Know the 10 Signs on Thursday, February 15 at 2 p.m. in the Friends Room of the Columbia Public Library.