Sandwich Generation: Book breaks down Alzheimer’s disease

It takes a very difficult topic to digest and breaks it down into bite-size pieces. The story is based on the author's mother's life...

A big thank you to Evelyn Gillespie from Laughing Oyster Bookshop for generously giving me a copy of the book, “Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, my Mother and Me” by Sarah Leavitt.

The unconventional comic format of the book, I think, is its greatest asset. It takes a very difficult topic to digest and breaks it down into bite-size pieces. The story is based on the author’s mother’s life with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

What makes the book unique is the combination of drawings and written word. Reading through the book, I easily identified with the emotions on the characters’ faces and equally recognized the description of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The book has three parts; each one representing the illness at different stages. It tackles many different topics from family conflict, long-distance caregiving, grieving, loss, denial, etc. This book would be an excellent resource for young adults to read when struggling with a parent with early onset Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Reading through the book reminded me of my Grade 7 and 8 home economics teacher, Mrs. Richards. Despite my on-going battles with the sewing machine, she continued to encourage me with such positive statements as “your effort is super duper Wendy.” When I accidentally perforated my finger nail with the sewing machine needle, she didn’t dissuade me in the least. She simply bandaged me up and said, “Let’s move on to a different project now.”

Over the years, Mom would speak about her colleague and friend with a great deal of concern.  Eventually there was a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Mrs. Richards was in her late fifties.

Early-onset dementia is used for people who develop dementia under the age of 65 and it affects one in every 1,000 people under the age of 65 years. The most common form of early onset dementia is Alzheimer’s disease followed by frontotemporal dementia.

In the case of Mrs. Richards, getting a diagnosis was difficult. There was a great deal of denial on the family’s part and for them, the initial diagnosis was depression.

Early onset Alzheimer’s affects the entire family. In Mrs. Richards’ case, her adult children were raising young children at the time and working full time, limiting their ability to help with the day-to-day care. It also affected her husband’s ability to work. Mrs. Richards’ behaviour markedly changed. My Mom noticed it most when they went out for their weekly movie night. Mrs. Richards had difficulty ordering food and sitting through a movie, and was at times very angry when someone corrected her behaviour.

There are some great resources online for family caregivers and individuals affected by early onset dementia:

Alzheimer’s Society of Canada: http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/Dementias/early-onset-dementia

National Care of the Elderly Initiative has a very good resource for early onset dementia: http://www.nicenet.ca/files/EOD_Tool_Caregivers.pdf

Canadian Dementia Resource Knowledge Broker has a powerful video showing four individuals living with early onset dementia: http://dementiaknowledgebroker.ca/events/healthy-living-health-promotion/early-onset-dementia-4-different-journey%E2%80%99s-early-onset

When Dementia is in the House is directed at teens living with a parent with early onset: http://lifeandminds.ca/whendementiaisinthehouse/

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Thursday.

Just Posted

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

North Island Tour De Rock rider Benjamin Leah leads team to Port Hardy

“You don’t have issues and problems when you look at these kids and how much they’re going through.”

Denman Island awash with plastic debris

After 14 years of Community Beach Cleanups, the little Gulf Island of… Continue reading

Supports service tax helping homeless in Courtenay

Latest count indicates greater number of homeless seniors

Associate pastor made early connections in Courtenay

Central Evangelical Free Church opens at former Record office

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Whitecaps see playoff dreams fade after 2-1 loss to FC Dallas

Goal in 87th minute seals Vancouver’s fate

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

B.C. man fined $15,000, barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill in Kootenays

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Family, friends of B.C murder victim want killer sent back to max security facility

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

B.C. VIEWS: Looking under the hood of ICBC’s war on crashes

Is our accident rate really soaring, or is it inefficiency?

Most Read