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Donald Nichols, A Perspective on Memory: An Artist with Alzheimer's (Self Published:2021), 92pp.Donald Nichols, A Perspective on Memory: An Artist with Alzheimer's (Self Published:2021), 92pp.

The first sign that Alice A. Nichols (1939–2020) was entering a five-year bout with Alzheimer's was her trouble with spelling. A note to get groceries, for example, read "Buoy foood." Before long the other dreaded symptoms came: memory loss, disrupted sleep, mood swings from euphoria to outbursts of uncharacteristic anger, loss of body control, wandering lost in the neighborhood, the occasional burst of lucidity and language, etc. Early on in this experience my friend Don Nichols "resolved in my remaining years to tell the world about the tragedy of Alzheimer's," in the hopes of raising awareness, providing support to others, and demanding more resources for research, prevention, and treatment.

There is almost nothing about Alzheimer's that Nichols does not cover in his deeply personal book, which appears to be an edited version of a daily diary that he kept—including the very different perspectives of the caregiver and their suffering loved one. The complexities of insurance bills and the mountain of paperwork. The complicated regimen of medicines.  Numerous 911 calls. The necessity of adjusting expectations and modifying your behaviors and routines accordingly. The importance of being connected with friends and neighbors who can help, the healing power of humor, the call for compassion, "the absolute feeling of helplessness," the emotional rollercoaster of stress and sadness, the loss of privacy when you need total strangers in your house to help, and "the dreaded H-word" (hospice) when the inevitable end is near.

This book is difficult reading.  It is a deeply personal perspective on what Alzheimer's does to people and their caregivers. In his case, Nichols was buoyed by his Christian faith, a close family, connectedness to friends and neighbors who helped, and his career as a psychologist and professor that helped him understand his own experiences. For more on this important subject see my review of the book by Gerda Saunders, Memory's Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia (New York: Hachette, 2017), 272pp; our JWJ Conversation Interview with Saunders; and her blog about her experience with Alzheimer's.

If you would like to read this book, please contact Dan Clendenin:

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