Alzheimer’s Book Club: A Review of Aliceheimer’s
Welcome to part 2 of the Alzheimer's Book Club. I hope that you're enjoying it and reading along with me. If you'd like to suggest a book for us to read together, tag me in a comment below!
February's book is Aliceheimer's: Alzheimer's Through the Looking Glass.
Aliceheimer's is part graphic novel part collection of personal essays. It is part art and part storytelling. It is a catalog of days spent on the journey of Alzheimer's and a healing journey among a mother and daughter.
OK, enough fangirling.
This book is a graphic novel, accompanied by essays, that tell the stories that came to be when Alice came to live with her daughter, Dana, for a period of time as a result of her advancing dementia.
The author, Dana Walrath, is an anthropologist turned caregiver for her mother. She is also an artist, as you’ll see by flipping through the pages at her pieces. They include drawings in grayscale and color. She also brings in pages of Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland.
The stories are written as smaller vignettes, some hilarious, some heartbreaking. They are of varying lengths, a few of them are only a couple of lines. This, the author writes in the introduction, is by design. She outlines three ways to read it including cover to cover, just the images, and hopping around from story to story, which is the perfect way for those who have Alzheimer's or their busy caregivers to read it.
I first read this book a number of years ago when I spoke with Ms. Walrath and wrote a piece for Penn Memory Center. At the time I read it cover to cover. This time I relished in bopping around. Both were fabulous.1
The author opens a window into her and her mother's lives during this period of time. The stories are persona and usually, they address specific trials related to advancing Alzheimer's, like in Curiouser and Curiouser when the family has the talk about moving into a care facility and Fairy Pirates when Alice's hallucinations bring on a captive, quite literally.
I especially felt like the images represented what I know to be true about Alzheimer's, specifically the vivid representations of the man in the tree, and of the symptoms of Alzheimer's, as the depiction of Alice can, at times, be missing pieces, appear larger and smaller.
A book made about and for those with dementia
Those who choose to read the introduction will be treated to the author's anthropologist side in full swing.
One of the lines that I underlined in this section was about the illustrations. "A picture's ability to tap into subconscious processes for both the composer and the reader gives graphic storytelling the power. I have found that this power can support those with dementia."
Alice, our subject, enjoyed consuming graphic novels throughout the time she was with Dana. This was something the author says she found comforting, as her mom was always a reader. In creating this book, she wrote one that is accessible to both those who have Alzheimer's and other dementia and their caregivers, perhaps to be able to enjoy together. That fact makes me really happy!
Have you read Aliceheimer's: Alzheimer's Through the Looking Glass? What do you think? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Do you have any caregiving tips that could help the community?