September 2018 marks the 7th World Alzheimer’s Month. World Alzheimer’s Day is September 21. In honor of World Alzheimer’s Day, I’m publishing a list of my favorite books and movies about dementia. These books and movies offer realistic as well as hopeful insights for people with dementia and their loved ones.
One in three American seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Depending on which poll you believe, Alzheimer’s disease is either the most feared or second most feared disease in the US (after cancer).
Get the facts on dementia
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60%-80% of the cases. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a wealth of information about the disease. It connects you with local resources, provides free online education videos, and offers suggestions for how you can get involved in the fight against this disease.
A similar organization based in the UK is the Alzheimer’s Society. They also are an excellent source of information.
For World Alzheimer’s Day, Home Instead Senior Care has put together a webpage of short reads and longer webinars to help you learn about caring for a loved one with dementia. Home Instead is the largest senior care organization worldwide, with over 1000 franchise offices in more than twelve global markets.
My post on what to do if you suspect a loved one has dementia suggests more resources you may find useful.
5 great books on dementia
Although there are many books written on the topic of dementia, I want to highlight five of them. One of these is written for people with early dementia. Most offer tips for caregivers and loved ones. All are worth looking into if you have a relative or friend who may have Alzheimer’s.
By Joanne Koenig Coste, 2004. Based on Koenig Coste’s personal and professional experiences, this book teaches you how to enter your loved one’s reality. She offers tips on how care partners and people with dementia can communicate better and lessen frustration.
By Lisa Snyder, 2011. In this book, the author addresses the person who has mild cognitive impairment or early-stage dementia. She doesn’t “talk down” to people with Alzheimer’s the way much of the “real world” does. She offers tips on how to manage your life in light of short-term memory loss, as well as encouragement for finding purpose and planning your future.
The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss*
By Nancy L. Mace & Peter V. Rabins, 6th ed. 2017. This book is considered by many to be the definitive dementia care guide. It has sections on caregiving strategies, legal and insurance issues, choosing a residential care facility, finding support, and more.
By Jolene Brackey, 5th ed. 2016. Revised and expanded, the latest edition of this book offers suggestions and encouragement for families and caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s. Since dementia robs a person of being able to experience anything beyond the present moment, the book’s focus is on creating moments of joy. Reading it helps you shift your perspective on what matters in light of this disease.
By John Dunlop, MD, 2017. This book by a geriatrician affiliated with Yale School of Medicine offers a Christian perspective on dementia. Dunlop reminds us that every human being is made in the image of God. As such, each person has inherent dignity and worth. This faith perspective posits that God can be honored, even in light of dementia’s tragedy. And that caring for someone with dementia can allow the Christian to experience God’s grace.
5 favorite movies that deal with dementia
The film genre doesn’t communicate caregiving tips and may not even portray dementia with complete realism. But it helps us connect with our conflicting emotions about cognitive decline. If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s, have lost a loved one with dementia, or are worried about your own cognitive health, you probably experience lots of different feelings when you think about this condition.
One minute you may feel angry or frustrated, then sad, then wistful. Then something will make you laugh. Then you’ll feel lonely or afraid. People living with dementia have wide-ranging emotions, as do the people who love them.
These five films allow you to immerse yourself in the experience of dementia.
(Note: All are either included with Amazon Prime Video or can rented and viewed online via streaming. Netflix and other services may also have access to these movies.)
With Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Kate Winslet, 2001. True story of the lifelong romance between famous British novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley. Flashbacks to young Iris and John (played by Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville) juxtapose Iris’ youthful beauty and dazzling intellect with her slow descent into Alzheimer’s Disease. Emotions drive the movie forward: joy, frustration, confusion, sadness, fatigue, and more. Most of all, love that never ends.
With Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, 2004. While not a movie depicting the Alzheimer’s journey per se, this story of star-crossed lovers is wrapped within a story of dementia. It portrays the enduring power of love to overcome all kinds of obstacles.
With Julianne Moore, Kristin Stewart and Alec Baldwin, 2015. Alice Howland is a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University. But she starts to have memory problems and is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Alice and her family struggle with the disease and the toll it takes on their lives.
With Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, 2007. A brother and sister who don’t get along well must come together to care for their abusive, absentee father who now has dementia – and whose girlfriend refuses to care for him. The movie gives a realistic and sometimes comic portrayal of the challenges dementia presents and the range of emotions it brings out. It’s especially relevant in light of far-flung, less-than-perfect families.
With Dan Cohen, Louise Dueno, Nell Hardie, 2014. An inspiring documentary about the power of music to combat memory loss and restore a sense of self to people with dementia. Dan Cohen, the founder of the non-profit organization Music & Memory, sets up iPods and headphones for people with Alzheimer’s.
The film shows different individuals’ responses to hearing their personalized playlists. And it will leave you wanting to buy music players and headphones for your local nursing home!
Enlarge your understanding of Alzheimer’s
Start with one of these books and movies about dementia. Then move on to another one. As you learn more, you’ll expand your appreciation for Alzheimer care partners and people who are living with dementia. You may even start to clarify your own wishes and priorities, should Alzheimer’s ever affect you or your spouse.
For practical tips and information, the books in this post are among the best ones available. The movies I’ve listed have outstanding actors and present mostly realistic portrayals of the Alzheimer journey. Alive Inside is especially uplifting.
Connect with dementia-related emotions
The books help you deal with the range of emotions that dementia evokes. And the movies let you connect with the feelings you experience in yourself or others.
In all, with these 10 books and movies about dementia, you get the full range of human emotions. After all, Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects human beings. It forever changes the people who have it as well as the people who love them.
Take time today to learn something new about this very human condition.
Images via: Shutterstock
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