Alzheimer’s Association Launches Virtual Book Club for Caregivers

The Hudson Valley and Long Island chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association will be offering a special support group for book enthusiasts caring for loved ones with dementia.

The virtual book club/support group will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. on Mondays starting May 3 and will run for six weeks, ending on June 14. No meeting will be held on Memorial Day.

Program facilitator Deborah Ackerman, who also oversees a caregiver support group for the Hudson Valley Chapter, said participants will read “Elizabeth is Missing,” by Emma Healey. The book shares the story of forgetful Maud – who suffers from dementia – her exasperated daughter and her missing friend, Elizabeth.

Ackerman said group members can discuss and relate to Maud’s story to their experiences loving and caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. She added Maud’s perspective offers caregivers a window into how their loved ones with dementia may be thinking about things.

“I think it gives the caregivers more of a sense of when Mom looks at you blankly or does the opposite of what you asked her to do, here’s what might have gone on in her head,” Ackerman said. “Mom can’t tell you why she just threw the knives and forks in the garbage instead of the sink, but Maud’s thoughts kind of give that answer. And hopefully it helps the care partner — even though it’s a frustrating situation — realize that their loved ones are not deliberately doing things to be annoying.”

The support group will be limited to eight members to create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable interacting. If more people express interest, Ackerman said the program will be offered again.

It was also held previously on Long Island.

“I believe if there is enough interest, they will do it again, and if it goes over, I’d be glad to run it again,” Ackerman said. “I think after we go past eight, it’s hard for people to get their say in.”

Ackerman added the book is a fun read and doesn’t involve any clinical terminology. She said the book doesn’t focus on a diagnosis, rather the symptoms, the character’s point of view and identifying how she processes information.

“It’s six weeks, and it’s an enjoyable book,” Ackerman said. “This is such a great book that it may encourage people who have never tried the Alzheimer’s Association to learn about it and take advantage.”

Participants are encouraged to register by April 19 to receive a free copy of “Elizabeth is Missing” by mail. Registration can be done online or by calling the Alzheimer’s Association at 800-272-3900.

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