Memory's Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia

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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2017 BY NPR "For anyone facing dementia, [Saunders'] words are truly enlightening.... Inspiring lessons about living and thriving with dementia."---Maria Shriver, NBC's Today Show

A "courageous and singular book" (Andrew Solomon), Memory's Last Breath is an unsparing, beautifully written memoir--"an intimate, revealing account of living with dementia" (Shelf Awareness).

Based on the "field notes" she keeps in her journal, Memory's Last Breath is Gerda Saunders' astonishing window into a life distorted by dementia. She writes about shopping trips cut short by unintentional shoplifting, car journeys derailed when she loses her bearings, and the embarrassment of forgetting what she has just said to a room of colleagues. Coping with the complications of losing short-term memory, Saunders, a former university professor, nonetheless embarks on a personal investigation of the brain and its mysteries, examining science and literature, and immersing herself in vivid memories of her childhood in South Africa.
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About the author

Gerda Saunders emigrated to the United States from South Africa in 1984. In 1996 she received a PhD in English from the University of Utah, where she later served as associate director of the Gender Studies Program. Saunders is the author of the short story collection Blessings on the Sheep Dog. She has spoken with the BBC and The Huffington Post about living with dementia, and is the subject of a series of short films being produced by VideoWest and featured on Slate.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Hachette Books
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Published on
Jun 13, 2017
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780316502634
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Family & Relationships / Life Stages / Later Years
Health & Fitness / Diseases / Alzheimer's & Dementia
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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“A brave and illuminating journey inside the mind, heart, and life of a person with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.”—Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice

Wendy Mitchell had a busy job with the British National Health Service, raised her two daughters alone, and spent her weekends running and climbing mountains. Then, slowly, a mist settled deep inside the mind she once knew so well, blurring the world around her. She didn’t know it then, but dementia was starting to take hold. In 2014, at age fifty-eight, she was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s. 

In this groundbreaking book, Mitchell shares the heartrending story of her cognitive decline and how she has fought to stave it off. What lay ahead of her after the diagnosis was scary and unknowable, but Mitchell was determined and resourceful, and she vowed to outwit the disease for as long as she could.

As Mitchell learned to embrace her new life, she began to see her condition as a gift, a chance to experience the world with fresh eyes and to find her own way to make a difference. Even now, her sunny outlook persists: She devotes her time to educating doctors, caregivers, and other people living with dementia, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding this insidious disease.

Still living independently, Mitchell now uses Post-it notes and technology to remind her of her routines and has created a “memory room” where she displays photos—with labels—of her daughters, friends, and special places. It is a room where she feels calm and happy, especially on days when the mist descends.

A chronicle of one woman’s struggle to make sense of her shifting world and her mortality, Somebody I Used to Know offers a powerful rumination on memory, perception, and the simple pleasure of living in the moment. Philosophical, poetic, intensely personal, and ultimately hopeful, this moving memoir is both a tribute to the woman Wendy Mitchell used to be and a brave affirmation of the woman she has become.

Praise for Somebody I Used to Know

“Remarkable . . . Mitchell gives such clear-eyed insight that anyone who knows a person living with dementia should read this book.”—The Times (London)

“A landmark book . . . The best reward for [Mitchell’s] courage and candour would surely be fundamental changes in the way people with dementia are treated by society.”—Financial Times
When Tom DeBaggio turned fifty-seven in 1999, he thought he was about to embark on the relaxing golden years of retirement -- time to spend with his family, his friends, the herb garden he had spent decades cultivating and from which he made a living. Then, one winter day, he mentioned to his doctor during a routine exam that he had been stumbling into forgetfulness, making his work difficult. After that fateful visit, and a subsequent battery of tests over several months, DeBaggio joined the legion of twelve million others afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. But under such a curse, DeBaggio was also given one of the greatest gifts: the ability to chart the ups and downs of his own failing mind.
Losing My Mind is an extraordinary first-person account of early onset Alzheimer's -- the form of the disease that ravages younger, more alert minds. DeBaggio started writing on the first day of his diagnosis and has continued despite his slipping grasp on one of life's greatest treasures, memory.
In an inspiring and detailed account, DeBaggio paints a vivid picture of the splendor of memory and the pain that comes from its loss. Whether describing the happy days of a youth spent in a much more innocent time or evaluating how his disease has affected those around him, DeBaggio poignantly depicts one of the most important parts of our lives -- remembrance -- and how we often take it for granted. But to DeBaggio, memory is more than just an account of a time long past, it is one's ability to function, to think, and ultimately, to survive. As his life becomes reduced to moments of clarity, the true power of thought and his ability to connect to the world shine through, and in DeBaggio's case, it is as much in the lack of functioning as it is in the ability to function that one finds love, hope and the relaxing golden years of peace.
At once an autobiography, a medical history and a testament to the beauty of memory, Losing My Mind is more than just a story of Alzheimer's, it is the captivating tale of one man's battle to stay connected with the world and his own life.
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