In the book “Still Alice,” author Lisa Genova vividly depicts Alzheimer’s from the point of view of the main character. We follow Alice, a linguistics professor, as she struggles with disorientation, memory loss, and her relationships with her friends, family and with words — her stock in trade. The story of Alice teaches us that until we encounter dementia in our own lives, it’s easy to take the ability to read for granted.
People with dementia don’t lose the love of reading or ability to read, even as their illness progresses. They may lose focus or become easily tired, or quit because they find it hard to follow a story. Adding insult to injury, books for dementia patients are often labeled as such, or are really children’s books in disguise.
Reignite the joy
In an inspiring social reading study, dementia residents were introduced to modified books and guided through a reading regimen. Pairs of residents, and then smaller and larger groups, were encouraged to read to each other. There were spontaneous conversations, shared laughter, friendship and collaboration. Residents read again, for the sheer joy of reading.
The same study found that the content and integrity of the writing mattered. People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia were more engaged with stories that reflected their strengths and experiences and wanted to learn new things just as they did when they were younger. The researchers developed books for dementia patients with a title in bold print above a relevant photo on one page, and 10 to 15 lines of text with ample margins on the facing page. They found that the photo, text and title engaged different parts of the brain and overcame reading issues, making it easier for the person to focus.
Helping a loved one with dementia
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, reading every day can help them preserve language and memory longer. Choose books that intersperse clear and intriguing photographs with written content. Books for dementia patients should be an easy read, without being childish or condescending in any way. They should have adult main characters that your loved one can relate to, and stories that are enjoyable and uplifting. A book with touches of humor can be particularly engaging. Start your book search by checking out the series by Emma Rose Sparrow, picture books for adults with dementia from Sunny Street Books, and the list of adapted classics by Dovetale Press.
Read along with your loved one. When reading together, make notes so you can sum up the plot and events in the story. Use clear handwriting and short sentences that your loved one can understand. For people with memory problems, the notes help them review the story and continue where they left off. Make sure the book or reading material is easily accessible so your loved one can pick it up whenever they’re ready.
Whether your loved one loves books, the arts, dance or music, when they’re engaged in activities that are meaningful to them, they’ll have a better quality of life. At Broadview, our innovative memory care is part of a nationally recognized program that celebrates individual interests, strengths and abilities. And we don’t just care for loved ones; we support their caregivers and family members too. Reach out to us to learn more.