Top 10: Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Week

February 15, 2023 by Tahmina Afshar

February 14th - 21st marks Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Care Week. If you have someone in your life living with Alzheimer's or Dementia, find support and commiseration with this mix of books that’ll get you in the know.

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The cover of Reverberations by Marion Agnew.

1. Reverberations by Marion Agnew (Signature Editions)

After Marion Agnew’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, her world changed. Marion’s mother — a Queen's and Harvard/Radcliffe-educated mathematician, a nuclear weapons researcher in Montreal during World War II, an award-winning professor and researcher for five decades, wife of a history professor, and mother of five — began drifting away from her. To remember her mother, Marion began paying attention and writing what she saw. After her mother's death, she wanted to honour the time of her mother's life in which she had the disease, but she didn't want the illness to dominate the relationship and memories she shared with her mother. This moving memoir looks at grief and family, at love and music, and is a coming-to-terms reflection on the endurance of love and family. 


The cover of True by Rosa Laborde.

2. True by Rosa Labordé (Scirocco Drama/J.G. Shillingford)

Three sisters - Marie, Cece and Anita - are taken back in time when their estranged father, Roy, wanders back into their lives, in his pyjamas. The sisters run a small coffee-and-clothes shop in Toronto, but when their father comes clutching a note explaining that he has Alzheimer’s, he is reprimanding them for abandoning him in his time of need. In this moving story, the women must decide whether to forgive his parental sins just because he has now forgotten them. This contemporary play explores how children deal with a parent struggling with Alzheimer’s. 


The cover of Jim Forgetting by Col Cseke.

3. Jim Forgetting by Col Cseke (Scirocco Drama/J.G. Shillingford)

This is a portrait of the year in the life of Jim and Donna, a middle-aged couple, struggling with Jim’s early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Donna’s patience and love are pushed to the limit as she watches her husband slowly disappear. In this touching story, we see what happens to a marriage composed of shared memories and futures when those things are no longer shared by both partners. This play is a memorable and powerful glimpse into how Donna copes with her husband’s illness. 


The cover of Tangles by Sarah Leavitt.

4. Tangles by Sarah Leavitt (Freehand Books)

What do you do when your outspoken, passionate, and quick-witted mother starts fading into a forgetful, fearful woman? In this powerful graphic memoir, Sarah Leavitt reveals how Alzheimer's disease transformed her mother and her family forever. Sarah shares her family's journey through a harrowing range of emotions, all the while learning to cope, and managing to find moments of happiness. Tangles provides a window on the complexity of Alzheimer's disease, and ultimately opens a knot of moments, memories, and dreams to reveal a bond between a mother and a daughter that will never come apart.


The cover of Be With by Mike Barnes.

5. Be With by Mike Barnes (Biblioasis)

Be With: Letters to a Caregiver draws from the author’s seven years of caring for his mother through Alzheimer’s. In brief passages that cast light on what it means to live with dementia, Barnes shares fresh inspiration. Meant to be a companion in waiting rooms, on bus routes, or while a loved one naps, Be With is a dippable source of clarity for harried readers who might only have time for a few lines or paragraphs. Mike Barnes writes with sensitivity and grace about fellowship, responsibility, and joyful relatedness—what it means to simply be with the people that we love. 


The cover of Four Umbrellas by June Hutton and Tony Wanless.

6. Four Umbrellas by June Hutton and Tony Wanless (Dundurn Press)

In this moving biography, we see how signs of Alzheimer’s are all around despite the diagnosis being seven years away. Forty-eight-year-old June watches her 53-year-old husband, Tony, walk away from the life of journalism into an unknown future, until he has a fall that ends the life they had known together. The couple starts probing the past and hoping to find answers, and answer the question of how far back signs of Alzheimer’s go. 


The cover of Losing Me, While Losing You.

7. Losing Me, While Losing You by Jeanette A. Auger, Diane Tedford-Little, and Brenda Wallace-Allen (Roseway Publishing)

Losing Me, While Losing You is a long-needed resource to those providing care for people living with dementia — and for those providing care to the caregivers. In this book, caregivers speak from their own experiences of caring for loved ones with dementia; they cover when they first noticed behavioural changes, what they did and how their roles changed when they received the diagnosis, how the experiences changed their perceptions of themselves, especially in cases where important ones no longer recognized them or their, often long-standing, relationships. The caregivers also talked about what resources, if any, were available to support them through the caregiving journey and what recommendations they would make to government policymakers and to others in similar situations. 


The cover of The Manana Treehouse by Bruce McLean.

8.  The Mañana Treehouse by Bruce McLean (Thistledown Press)

In this story, Connie is a caregiver and is finding ways to help her husband, Max, cope with what’s happening to her as she struggles with Alzheimer’s. As she sees the devastation that her husband is going through, she pushes him away and ultimately divorces him. We witness new people coming into their lives; however, they ultimately end up back together again. We see the switch in their relationship as Max matures and steps into the role of caregiver, while they are looking after each other in a mirroring of love back and forth between them.


The cover of The Unravelling.

9.  The Unravelling by Clem Martini and Olivier Martini (Freehand Books)

The Martini family's lifelong struggle with mental illness is suddenly complicated immeasurably as both Olivier and his mother, Catherine, experience a health crisis at the exact same time. They begin to navigate the convoluted world of assisted living and long-term care, while no longer being able to assist each other as they’ve done before. With anger, dry humour, and hope, The Unravelling tells the story of one family's journey with mental illness, dementia, and caregiving, through a poignant graphic narrative from Olivier accompanied by text from his brother, award-winning playwright and novelist Clem Martini.


The cover of The Carpenter by Vittorio Rossi.

10. The Carpenter by Vittorio Rossi (Talonbooks)

The Carpenter is part three to Rossi’s autobiographical A Carpenter’s Trilogy: A Chronicle in Three Plays. Set between 2002 when Silvio’s terminal dementia is diagnosed and his final days at a hospice in 2004, there is something timelessly old-fashioned in Rossi’s stagecraft as he cuts through the Gordian Knot of this family’s ties. As events from Silvio’s past come back to torment him, his hauntingly staged hallucinations grow more frequent, his moments of lucidity become fewer and fewer. When Carmela stares down her son and two daughters in a showdown over whether the Alzheimer’s-stricken Silvio should be placed in palliative care, the heart-wrenching but beautifully cathartic story of a family, including Silvio, coming to grips with itself unfolds with an unmistakably poignant honesty.



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