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Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. A Harvard professor, she has a successful husband and three grown children. When she begins to grow forgetful, she dismisses it for as long as she can, but when she gets lost in her own neighbourhood she knows that something has gone terribly wrong. She finds herself in the rapidly downward spiral of Alzheimer's Disease. She is fifty years old. Suddenly she has no classes to teach, no new research to conduct, no invited lectures to give. Ever again. Unable to work, read and, increasingly, take care of herself, Alice struggles to find meaning and purpose in her everyday life as her concept of self gradually slips away. But Alice is a remarkable woman, and her family, yoked by history and DNA and love, discover more about her and about each other, in their quest to keep the Alice they know for as long as possible. Losing her yesterdays, her short-term memory hanging on by a couple of frayed threads, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice.
By Pamela Hogan & Connie Shulman
What would you do if you started to disappear? At the age of 45, our friend Laury Sacks, an ebullient actress and the doting mother of two small children, had a reputation as the quickest wit in the room. At the age of 46, she began forgetting words. Soon she could barely speak.
*The changes were subtle at first. She asked Pam to meet for coffee one day, but it was surprisingly difficult to engage her in conversation. To the question “What’s going on, am I boring you?” she answered prophetically, “No! I’m just in my head. ” Then she offered a reassuring hug – which wasn’t reassuring at all.
*Everyone misread the cues: “We’re not as close as we used to be;” “She must be mad at me;” “Maybe she’s depressed.” As Laury’s friend Nelsie said, “I don’t think it ever occurred to us she couldn’t access language, that she was trapped in her brain and couldn’t access it.”
*But Laury was an actress, and she was acting the hell out of her new part – a woman disappearing.
*Following Laury through her day to day life over the course of a year, conversations begin to resemble the famous Abbott and Costello comedy sketch “Who’s on First?” as Laury gives rapid-fire “Yes!” “No!” “No-Yes!” answers, and confusion reigns.
*Her husband Eric senses that not only does she grasp the absurdity of the situation, but “at some level she thinks its funny.”
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My husband has Semantic dementia, which is disease of the brain in the FTD (Frontotemporal dementia) group and “the banana lady” and other stories of curious behaviour and speech is one of the best collection of case studies I have read on this subject. Semantic dementia is quite rare, and I felt very supported by reading this book as the descriptions presented are so similar to what I am experiencing as a Carer.
There has been quite a lot mentioned about language/comprehension problems, but this book also highlights the behaviour issues which can be very challenging indeed.
It is easy to read and there is an excellent chapter on Tips for Caregivers..