The best books with innovative approaches to living with dementia

Susan H. McFadden Author Of Dementia-Friendly Communities: Why We Need Them and How We Can Create Them
By Susan H. McFadden

Who am I?

I have been teaching college students about aging since I was in my late 20s. The audacity! Now that I am officially in the “young-old” category I used to describe to my students, I more fully appreciate the social constructions of aging that affect elders, the medical conditions that can derail plans for “a good old age,” and the challenges we all face in attempting to live with meaning and purpose as we grow older. In addition to teaching, writing about, and researching various aspects of aging, especially aging with various type of dementia, my work has addressed the positive and negative ways religious faith can shape how people cope with aging.

I wrote...

Dementia-Friendly Communities: Why We Need Them and How We Can Create Them

By Susan H. McFadden,

Book cover of Dementia-Friendly Communities: Why We Need Them and How We Can Create Them

What is my book about?

Creating dementia-friendly communities can give people with dementia the chance to continue meaningful lives with reciprocal personal relationships. Underpinning successful dementia-friendly communities is an awareness of people with dementia as active citizens and the importance of supporting engagement in community life.

This book offers an overview of the dementia-friendly communities movement, showing the many benefits of this approach. It describes community initiatives from across the globe, such as Dementia Friends, memory cafés, and creative engagement with the arts through organizations like TimeSlips. It tells a story about dementia that refutes the negative stereotypes. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Creative Care: A Revolutionary Approach to Dementia and Elder Care

Why did I love this book?

Anne Basting offers lively examples of how creative care enables people living with dementia to experience joy and connect meaningfully with others. Her ideas about creative care are grounded in solid research and her experiences developing innovative arts experiences in communities and long-term care settings. Throughout the book, she offers concrete suggestions for integrating creativity into all aspects of care. She knows this field well and movingly describes her own mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s dementia.

By Anne Basting,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Creative Care as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A MacArthur Genius Grant recipient pioneers a radical change in how we interact with older loved ones, especially those experiencing dementia, as she introduces a proven method that uses the creative arts to bring light and joy to the lives of elders.

In Creative Care, Anne Basting lays the groundwork for a widespread transformation in our approach to elder care and uses compelling, touching stories to inspire and guide us all-family, friends, and health professionals-in how to connect and interact with those living with dementia.

A MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Basting tells the story of how she pioneered a radical…

Book cover of The Problem of Alzheimer's: How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease Into a Crisis and What We Can Do about It

Why did I love this book?

This fascinating and highly engaging history of Alzheimer’s dementia offers insights into the origins of the so-called “Alzheimer’s disease movement,” and the political and social influences on how post-modern societies deal with the cognitive, emotional, and motivational challenges experienced by people given that diagnosis. It concludes with insights about why the millions of dollars spent on searching for a “cure” have produced so little and it suggests other approaches that can contribute to the well-being of people living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. 

By Jason Karlawish, Jason Karlawish,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Problem of Alzheimer's as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A definitive and compelling book on one of today's most prevalent illnesses.

In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans had Alzheimer’s, and more than half a million died because of the disease and its devastating complications. 16 million caregivers are responsible for paying as much as half of the $226 billion annual costs of their care. As more people live beyond their seventies and eighties, the number of patients will rise to an estimated 13.8 million by 2050.

Part case studies, part meditation on the past, present and future of the disease, The Problem of Alzheimer's traces Alzheimer’s from its…

Book cover of On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear

Why did I love this book?

Lynn Casteel Harper, currently minister for older adults at The Riverside Church in New York City, has written a compassionate book about contemporary fears of aging, dementia, and death. She shows how these fears produce greater social isolation and suffering for people living with dementia and caring for loved ones, whether in private homes or in care communities. She uses personal experiences to illustrate the way our fears of “vanishing” can be overcome when we learn to connect meaningfully with people with dementia.

By Lynn Casteel Harper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Vanishing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An essential book for those coping with Alzheimer's and other cognitive disorders that “reframe[s] our understanding of dementia with sensitivity and accuracy . . . to grant better futures to our loved ones and ourselves” (Parul Sehgal, The New York Times).

An estimated fifty million people in the world suffer from dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer's erase parts of one's memory but are also often said to erase the self. People don't simply die from such diseases; they are imagined, in the clichés of our era, as vanishing in plain sight, fading away, or enduring a long goodbye. In On…

Book cover of Dignity and Grace: Wisdom for Caregivers and Those Living with Dementia

Why did I love this book?

Janet Ramsey’s experiences as a chaplain, therapist, and family caregiver have taught her that people living with dementia deeply desire interactions with others that uphold their dignity and offer them love and forgiveness. She interviewed many dementia caregivers and throughout the book, she lets them express what dignity and grace mean in their everyday interactions with loved ones. Each chapter concludes with a reflection on a different Psalm, reflections that speak directly to the challenges and opportunities for growth that come with caregiving. Readers need not be Christian or in any way religious to appreciate the warmth and humanity conveyed throughout this book.

By Janet L Ramsey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dignity and Grace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discovering how to live with dementia

"I'm a stranger in a strange land," sighed the dignified gentleman Janet L. Ramsey met walking down the care-center hallway. Those words, her first glimpse of the confusion that comes with dementia, led her into a lifetime of work with older adults.

If you have been diagnosed with dementia or you are accompanying someone with this illness, you may find yourself on a journey that began with a sudden diagnosis and an acute sense of panic. Or perhaps your journey started gradually, as you noticed changes in yourself or in your partner or parent.…

Book cover of Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older: Finding Your Grit and Grace Beyond Midlife

Why did I love this book?

Rabbi Dayle Friedman’s wisdom about aging can be appreciated by people of all religions and no religion. Her honest engagement with some of the most difficult issues aging persons face leaves readers with hope rather than despair. Her many years as a chaplain for people living in long-term care with dementia undergird her suggestions on how to make sense of what she calls “dementia’s brokenness”. She concludes each chapter with a spiritual practice readers can employ to engage more deeply with the chapter’s topics, and also at the end of each chapter, she offers readers a blessing for their own efforts to flourish as they age.  

By Dayle A. Friedman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Growing Older Can Be a Time of Growing in Depth and Wisdom

"My sense is that the whole journey beyond midlife is a mysterious blend of light and dark, wholeness and fragility…. We have a chance beyond midlife to become the person we were truly meant to be. We can draw on everything we have experienced so far to contribute to the people around us and the wider world, and to find strength and resilience amid the challenges."
―from the Introduction

Whether you are fifty-five or seventy-five, approaching retirement or age one hundred, growing older brings remarkable opportunities but often…

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