Friday, June 15, 2012

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

Genova is an expert in Alzheimer's disease.  She has a Ph.D.  In neuroscience from Harvard. In this book she tells the story of a Harvard professor afflicted by Alzheimer's. This is a strong story and a relatively easy read focused on both the patient's and family's experiences as the disease progresses.

I cannot be an unbiased reviewer on this topic.  My mother suffered from Alzheimer's and I have moved to this story. I think Genova does an excellent job of capturing the experience. I particularly appreciate her inclusion of the patients point of view.  Thinking back to my family's journey I wish we had asked my mother more directly what her experiences were like.

Every instance of Alzheimer's is somewhat unique.  I will never know for certain, but I believe that my mother still recognized me even near the very end of her life.  It's very hard to tell what the patient knows and what she doesn't know as the disease progresses.

This is a book that I will recommend to all I meet who have to contend with Alzheimer's in their family or social circle. It is also one that my brothers, children and I will need to discuss.  I had always thought that if I were to be diagnosed with this disease, that I would make arrangements to end my life at the time I chose rather than dragging my family to the bitter end. Genova includes a sequence of events that makes it clear this decision may be difficult to successfully complete.  I will be a little more careful in my planning as a result. On the other hand there may be value in sticking it out.  The main character is able to enjoy much of her family life even after the point at which she would have committed suicide.

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