Monday, 26 December 2016

Still Alice

I really don't know why I hadn't read Still Alice before: I ran a memory clinic; care for someone with dementia and watched my own mother deteriorate from another neurodegenerative condition. 

Still Alice is an honest novel about a woman with early onset Alzheimers Disease. Alice, the protagonist is just fifty.  She is a brilliant academic psychologist at the height of her career, with a successful husband and three adult children,who develops not just memory loss but the other issues that come with Alzheimers: difficulty with executive function, disorientation and mood changes. 

Still Alice is a gripping read. An inexorable decline and scary. The slight dips in memory,the difficulty finding the right word, then the getting lost. The issues around genetic testing and the changing relationships with family: some worse and ironically, one rather better. The story is told from Alice's point of view which makes the story more powerful. Alice's search for other supporters in the same situation makes so much sense and is, indeed, something that is sometimes provided. One of the most powerful parts of the story is how a small group of people with young onset dementia were able to provide support for themselves both in person and on line. Difficult issues are touched on: thinking about suicide, not recognising family, turning the house upside down, perceptual problems, sleep/wake disturbance.

Highly recommended. We all know people with dementia and this book helps to get inside their minds, makes sense of what might make their confusion worse and gives clues about how best to relate to people with this distressing condition. This is an adult book although it wouldn't be unreasonable for an older teenager to read it. There is a little bad language but it is not a major feature of the book.

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  1. Yes, my mother also has this, and coincidentally her name is also Alice. It is a moving and insightful book, but also quite hopeless for two reasons. There are alternative approaches that offer relief for some (not all) people with Alzheimer's. Most importantly, this book does not point to God; especially in such a serious disease, there is hope in God and nowhere else. I plan to put my review up sometime in the new year.

    I wish you strength in your caregiving and everything else you do. May God bless you in the new year.

    1. Hi Annie Kate, I agree that the book doesn't point to God but it does show the devastation that the diagnosis of dementia can cause and gives some feeling of what that might be like especially where there is no hope. I think that it is valuable from that point of view. There has been some interesting discussion on my Facebook page today about what it might feel like to have dementia both as a believer and as an unbeliever. I guess that we have all known believers with dementia where it has been obvious that God was still working in their lives. I know that one of my great uncles was known to be able to pray in a prayer meeting and no one would have known that he had a problem, at a point when he had difficulty remembering that his wife had died. I also known of a case where the testimony of a believer with dementia was used to the conversion of someone.
      Louise Morse has written some books about dementia including Frank and Linda's Story which is around dementia illustrated by the lives of a real Christian couple.
      Thank you for your comment. May you know the blessing of the Lord in all your responsibilities,too.