Did you know that 1 in 3 seniors die each year as a result of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia related illness? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s estimated that more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s in 2021 (www.alz.org). While this disease continues to increase in prevalence and severity within our society, it is often a misunderstood disease. For both those struggling with the disease and loved ones looking for answers and guidance, being able to identify key symptoms, behaviors, and solutions is crucial for their overall health and wellbeing.
Lisa Skinner, known as the “Alzheimer’s wizard” and behavioral expert in the field of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, navigates the heartbreaking challenges of having a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias in her new book, Truth, Lies, and Alzheimer’s: It’s Secret Faces, a recent revision to her previous book, Not All Who Wander Need Be Lost.
The author begins the book by setting the hope that the book “will vastly improve your ability to manage the challenging symptoms and behaviors associated with brain disease” (Skinner i). The introduction is then proceeded by an infographic that states facts that are not always well-known about the disease, such as there are over 50 known causes of dementia, with many of them being reversible (Skinner ii). After a statistical introduction, the reader is invited into the home of several families learning how to navigate the landscape of Alzheimer’s disease.
In these stories, Lisa Skinner not only normalizes the experience of dementia in various environments, but also describes how diverse the appearance of the disease can be within each individual. Stories vary from the daughter trying to understand her mother’s preoccupation with birds being in her mattress and police officers calling her a ‘nut’ (Skinner 2), to the care facility staff trying to find ways to support a patient who attempts to find his ‘office’ daily within the facility believing that he needs to go to work despite no longer having a job (Skinner 10). Each story contains further thoughts for consideration, such as thinking creatively about creating a safe space for the patient that needs his ‘office’ or establishing a relationship with the loved one’s physician to monitor medication for the mother believing there are birds in her mattress. Whether family members, or staff working with someone living with dementia, the author provides compassion and invaluable information for caregivers. The book even has a dedicated section to help caregivers get a sense of what dementia may look like from day to day while also breaking down each stage of Alzheimer’s and related disorders. Further, the author discusses environmental factors that caregivers could benefit by being aware of, such as the varying instances of care that various nursing home facilities may provide. The author does not provide false hope, but instead chooses to discuss ways to adjust to the reality of the situation and make the most of the present moment.
This book reminds us that we are all human and acknowledges the challenges that both the loved one experiencing Alzheimer’s, as well as their caregivers, experience. By normalizing these experiences, the author creates a safe space for people to learn more about the disease and feel a sense of support by the sense of understanding that may arise, such as feelings of guilt regarding releasing care to someone outside of the family. The book also highlights facets of dementia that might not commonly come to mind, such as dogs experiencing cognitive dysfunction. While explicit resources for caregivers may not be included in this version of the book, there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom resources provided from front cover to back cover and is a great addition to anyone’s toolkit when navigating Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases.
More information on this book, and other writings by Lisa Skinner can be found here.
Chante’ Gamby is a writer passionate about social justice and empowering others to live their best lives. You can follow her on Facebook at Fringefam, Instagram@fringegram, or on her website, www.fringefam.com.