Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.
When I reserved books for our current bimonthly theme – Grey and Golden, Young and Fleeting – I wasn’t sure which books would go well together. As I was sorting them several weeks ago, I found two that not only go together but also are good resources on the delicate subject of memory loss. The following passages were taken from the National Institute of Aging (NIA):
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after age 65. Estimates vary, but experts suggest that as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older may have Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities, to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.
I work at a nursing home and I encounter a lot of residents who have dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. People often use the terms interchangeably. It should be noted, however, that dementia is the umbrella term for symptoms that include cognitive impairment and memory loss. Illnesses like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s can cause dementia. Although I’ve interacted with people who are suffering from brain disease, I know very little about it. I’ve read from the Alzheimer’s Association that almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Interestingly, the books I am going to share with you today feature two grandfathers who have memory loss.
Written by: Maria Shriver
Illustrated by: Sandra Speidel
Published by: Little, Brown, and Company and Warner Books (2004)
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.
Maria Shriver teamed up with Sandra Speidel to narrate the story of a young girl named Kate and her grandfather. Kate’s Grandpa was a “one of a kind character.” He loved telling stories and was just full of life. However, during one of her visits, Kate noticed that Grandpa was repeating the same stories and kept asking questions over and over. At one point, Grandpa couldn’t remember the storytelling he did. One day, Kate heard Grandpa yelling and saw him throw books and slam the door. Grandpa’s odd behavior made Grandma cry. Kate was scared that something awful was happening to Grandpa. Kate decided to ask her mother about it. With tears in her eyes, Kate’s mother explained that Grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Kate was stunned. Her grandpa had Alz’s-something-or-other. What did that mean for him? For her grandma? For her mom? For their family? How would she explain this to her brothers and sister? Kate’s mind raced. She had so many questions, so many feelings, so many fears.
While I have not read other books written by Maria Shriver – What’s Heaven?, What’s Wrong with Timmy?, and Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Out into the Real World – I can imagine how beautiful and poignant they all must be. In What’s Happening to Grandpa?, Maria Shriver guides and teaches readers about Alzheimer’s through the loving and encouraging words uttered by Kate’s mother. I like how love, respect, and family support were stressed in the book. Three pages were dedicated to explaining Alzheimer’s and what family members can do to help. The book is heartwarming and encouraging, and it helps children cope with the issues of aging and memory loss.
Written by: Marta Zafrilla
Illustrated by: Miguel Angel Diez
Translated in English by: Jon Brokenbrow
Published by: Cuento de Luz (2012)
Book borrowed from Hudson Library & Historical Society.
The funny storytelling of Marta Zafrilla and the cute illustrations by Miguel Angel Diez make Grandpa Monty’s Muddles a lighter read than What’s Happening to Grandpa? In this book, a young boy tells readers about his grandfather. The young boy is seven years old and an only child. That is, until his grandfather moved in with them.
Grandpa Monty lived alone in a little town after Grandma Louise died. He looked after himself just fine: he cooked for himself, ironed his shirts, and kept the house clean and tidy. But one day, Uncle Andrew found out that in just one week, Grandpa Monty had put a chicken in the washing machine, roasted a sweater, and ironed a piece of fish!
Grandpa Monty wasn’t well, and he needed our help. Uncle Andrew was out all day, so Grandpa came to live with us because we could look after him and keep him company.
Grandpa Monty was lucky to be able to live with his family. More often than not, old people like Grandpa Monty are sent to a place where they can receive special care. The young boy – whose name was Oscar, by the way – tells readers how he helped Grandpa Monty cope with his illness and to stop him from getting in a muddle. Oscar was aware that Grandpa Monty isn’t getting any better but he let readers know that he continues to do their “homework” every afternoon. Although this book is not as serious as the first one, it still incorporates the importance of family support for old people who get in muddles.
I should mention that What’s Happening to Grandpa? provides a list of resources for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some of those resources. You may click the links to learn more about them.
- A comprehensive site with information dedicated to research, causes, caregivers, and links to doctors
- Provides information to find local chapters
- Contact center is available 24 hours
*The copy of What’s Happening to Grandpa? that I borrowed from the library where I work was donated by the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Provides leadership in aging research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs relevant to aging and older people
- Primary federal agency on Alzheimer’s disease research
- Service of the National Institute on Aging
- Links to 29 Alzheimer’s Disease Centers across the U.S.
- Web site is part of a larger Web community that offers information about Alzheimer’s disease research, treatment, and related topics
- More than 25 affiliate schools and universities involved in the study of Alzheimer’s can be linked through the ADCS Web site
- London-based organization with members from 66 countries worldwide
- Encourages research and the formation of new Alzheimer’s associations
- Looks to stimulate public and political awareness on a national and international level, and to support and strengthen member associations in their activities
I have also looked up Web sites that provide a list of children’s books that talk about Alzheimer’s. Click the links to learn more about them.
- Books to Teach Children About Alzheimer’s (from The New Old Age in The New York Times)
- Top Books for Helping Children Understand Alzheimer’s (from A Place for Mom, Senior Living blog)
- Resources for Children and Teens About Alzheimer’s Disease (from the National Institute on Aging)
I hope that today’s feature would help raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and that all these resources would be helpful in understanding more about said brain disease.