Books look at challenges of dementia in elderly

  • Mon Feb 8th, 2010 5:10pm
  • Life

By Mimi Andelman St. Petersburg Times

Here’s a look at a few books exploring the mental decline that the “oldest old” experience. One is by a geriatric physician now facing challenges at home. A second is an eloquent story by novelist John Thorndike. The third suggests lifestyle changes to stave off dementia.

“Memory Lessons: A Doctor’s Story,” Jerald Winakur, $24.95: The author, who has practiced internal and geriatric medicine, spent three decades helping others adjust to the challenges of aging. Yet that didn’t prepare him for becoming a father to his own father.

Winakur warns, “Stop deluding yourself. It’s time to have some tough decisions — sisters, brothers, Mom and Dad. It’s time to make plans.”

“The Last of His Mind: A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s,” John Thorndike, $24.95: An account of the author’s father’s last years and what a family faces when memory and ability are destroyed.

Novelist John Thorndike moved from Ohio to Cape Cod to care for his father, Joe Thorndike, at home. The elder Thorndike was once the managing editor of Life at the height of its popularity after World War II; later, he was publisher of American Heritage and Horizon magazines.

“But so far,” Thorndyke writes, “it’s been no different from raising my son: The more I take care of him, the more I love him.”

“Beyond Alzheimer’s: How to Avoid the Modern Epidemic of Dementia,”

Scott D. Mendelson, M.D., Ph.D., $24.95: The author, a psychiatrist, posits through demonstrated evidence that dementia is avoidable. His view is that dementia is often the result of bad diet, stress, lack of mental and physical exercises, and other poor lifestyle choices.

Decreases in cognitive function may be as likely to be due to major depression than to genuine neurodegenerative dementia.

Sample chapters: “The Presentation and Diagnosis of Dementia”; “What Causes Dementia?”; “Vitamins, Herbs and Nutraceuticals”; “When Medication Is Necessary.”