World Book Day on 3rd March 2022 is all about celebrating the magic of books and reading. Reading can help to increase our understanding and empathy. It is a wonderful way of discovering a new world and although our primary motivation might be escapism, it broadens our knowledge too.
For some people with dementia, reading can be challenging. Changes in the brain can make understanding visual information more difficult and some people may struggle to concentrate for long periods or follow a plot in a story.
However, living with dementia doesn't mean you have to lose your enjoyment of books and reading. Even though reading itself may become difficult, short articles or books with concise sections, audio books and podcasts that you listen to online can all be enjoyable.
This World Book Day, our Empowerment Officer Hazel Haworth shares some books you may find helpful if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with dementia. We've also asked our members, who live with dementia, to share some of their favourite books and top tips for continuing to enjoy reading after a diagnosis.
Recommendations from Hazel Haworth, Dementia NI Empowerment Officer:
"This book provides a good overview for families, professionals and people living with dementia. It is easy to read, laid out in bite-sized pieces and really helps to explain what someone with dementia may be feeling. I particularly liked the chapter What are friends for? which gives excellent advice for people who have a friend with dementia."
"This is the first of two books written by Wendy Mitchell, who lives with dementia. This (along with her second book) provides a deep insight into the lived experience of dementia and valuable advice for those in the same boat. For example, reading this book taught me about the sensory experiences that those with dementia might face, including changes in smells and tastes. Wendy recommends eating from a smorgasbord of different bite-sized flavours, rather than facing a full meal – a tip I have shared widely."
Caring for a Loved One with Dementia: A Mindfulness-Based Guide for Reducing Stress and Making the Best of Your Journey Together, by Marguerite Manteau-Rao
"This is a really lovely book. Easy to read. Nicely laid out. It gives really good hints and tips, and practices to follow. Particularly useful for anyone who is trying to understand distressing or confusing behaviour from their loved ones. I found Chapter 5, dealing with the senses, particularly helpful to recognise what might be causing over or under stimulation."
"I haven’t read this yet, though I have a copy on my desk that I can’t wait to get stuck into it. However, members of the public have phoned me to tell me how wonderful the book is and about how much they’ve learnt which will help them to support their loved ones."
Dementia NI members share their favourite books:
Liz Cunningham - Becoming by Michelle Obama
"I loved Michelle Obama's autobiography. It's the most amazing thing I have ever read in my life and I would recommend it to anyone. I felt so impressed when I listened to her audiobook and learnt about all the things she went through. She's a wonderful woman for quotes and I love a good quote! Every time I need an inspirational quote I go back to that book."
Davie McElhinney - Somebody I Used to Know by Wendy Mitchell
"I love the way she takes you on a journey through being diagnosed and living with dementia. You really get a feel for her own personal experience of dementia, it's a very powerful account."
Allison Batchelor - Josephine Cox
"I could read anything by Josephine Cox. The way she writes she really brings the characters to life and paints a scene very well."
John McErlane - The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith
"I used to do a lot of reading and the book that stood out for me is a book about he 1845 Irish Potato Famine called The Great Hunger."
Chris Higgins - Plague by Kent Heckenlively
"This is a fascinating book about modern medicine. I wish everyone had known about this book before the pandemic and they would've known how to handle it."
Our members share tips for continuing to enjoy books after diagnosis:
Liz Cunningham - "Listening Books is a postal and online audiobook lending charity for anyone with a disability or illness that impacts their ability to read. It's easy to use and they have a huge range of titles."
Allison Batchelor - "I download books onto my Kindle and play the audio book at the same time as I am reading. I find it really helps to make reading easier and a more enjoyable experience."
Stephen Kennedy - "I enjoy the Ireland's Own weekly magazine every week. The format is great. It's full of jokes and short stories and is easy to read."
Thank you to Hazel and our members for sharing their recommendations with us.