Leigh-on-Sea Anna Chaplain Eileen Simmons has been reading
What I Wish People Knew about Dementia: From someone who knows by Wendy Mitchell with Anna Wharton, (Bloomsbury, 2022) and sends us this book review:
Wendy Mitchell was diagnosed with young-onset dementia at 58. An earlier book, Somebody I Used to Know (Bloomsbury), was published in 2018. She is now 66, and although there is evidence that her dementia has advanced she still lives alone. She has daughters living nearby.
We are all individuals and those living with dementia remain individuals, and their journey with dementia may be very different from that of any other individual.
I commend Wendy’s second book to you. I have not kept the newspaper cutting with the precise figures, but I have read that Bloomsbury’s sales went up sharply after this 2022 book was published.
In her introduction, Wendy comments that when people think of dementia, they immediately associate it with memory (I do). She goes on to comment that it changes our relationships with our senses, our emotions and our communication. There are sections in the book on senses, relationships, emotions, communication, environment and attitude.
The book is brilliant in that there are so many practical suggestions that individuals living with dementia or partners/carers could introduce in their own homes to support their loved ones; for example, bright yellow bowls so that food can be seen and not fall off a flat plate. All her actions support as much independence as possible.
Technology can help enormously: ‘Alexa is my best friend for reminders and she also puts the light on upstairs before I go to bed.’
Dementia distorts reality and aural hallucinations can be so frightening for the individual. Sensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Wendy describes how Rebecca Dunn, a clinical physiologist specialising in audiology at Hull and West Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, suggested hearing aids that would block off the range of noises Wendy found particularly uncomfortable. These proved to be extremely effective.
I have called this article a book review, but really I simply want to say to you that I found the book fascinating, easy to read, laden with research and evidence and yet not in any way a heavy, dense read. I have many books about ageing and dementia on my shelves, but some are only partially-read. This book I enjoyed, found amazing, practical and I learned so much that I can use when engaging with the wonderful people living with dementia whom I meet regularly. It also has helped me so much when listening to their carers and supporting them. Do order it from your library or buy a copy.
Anna Chaplain in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex and Methodist local preacher