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Top Books for Dementia Patients: Engaging Reads at Every Stage of Memory Loss

By Rebecca Schier-AkameluMay 11, 2022
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If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, they should still be able to enjoy their favorite pastimes, such as reading. For formerly avid readers, or even seniors with dementia who just want to turn a page from time to time, their cognitive abilities may require the introduction of adapted reading materials. Adapted reading materials are books and other reading materials that have been adjusted to incorporate imagery in place of narrative. They may also feature summarized narratives, large print, tonal adjustments that accentuate the positive, or even tactile and audio experiences.

Just because a book is more dementia-friendly and includes more pictures or shorter narratives doesn’t mean the content isn’t still age appropriate and interesting. Readers affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can retain dignity while reading content suited to their life interests and needs.

Overall, reading can be a fun and collaborative way for seniors to reconnect, reminisce, and maintain cognitive ability.


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How reading can benefit your loved one

It may not be apparent why reading benefits someone with memory loss, especially as their cognitive abilities decline. However, simply participating in a favorite pastime — like holding a book and turning the pages — can help your loved one feel at ease by encouraging reminiscence and nostalgia. Stimulating this implicit memory of reading can be a foundational part of your loved one’s overall care strategy, according to the Journal of Nursing Scholarship.

Reading is not only great for reminiscence. The cognitive stimulation of reading can also help seniors with dementia maintain their cognitive abilities, according to research led by Dr. Ryuta Kawashima at Tohoku University. Scientific studies consistently show that a habit of reading and other forms of cognitive exercise can reduce or slow cognitive decline and leads to higher brain density. There is even proof that reading helps to protect the existing memory in people who have brain damage and memory disease.

Read on for a list of dementia-friendly books that are adapted to the varying stages of dementia.

Best books for early-stage dementia

A Dusting of Snow by Emma Rose Sparrow

This story follows a woman who is reluctant to wake up on a cold morning but finds interesting happenings throughout her day. Author Emma Rose Sparrow uses large font, short paragraphs and chapters, and pictures to guide the reader through the story. Readers will also appreciate that this book makes no mention of dementia or memory loss, as it is designed just like any average book.

The Hockey Game a Marlena Books story by Thomas Mateson

This beautifully illustrated book brings the excitement of the sports world to the page. Readers will enjoy finding out which team wins the championship game, with easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs as well as reminders to turn the page. The publisher, Marlena Books, designs books specifically for dementia-affected readers. They also offer a dementia-friendly reading app with more accessibility features to enhance the experience.

Family Thanksgiving by Jamie Stonebridge

This book features short chapters centered around a holiday that will resonate with many readers. Pictures at the beginning of each chapter and positive language throughout enhance the reading experience. This book is also designed to be seen as an average book, and it does not mention dementia or memory loss, which is important for many readers.

Best books for the middle stages of dementia

I Remember the Seasons by Brenda C. Poulos

Poetry and beautiful illustrations make it easy to bring back memories of sledding, swimming, and raking leaves. The verses are easy enough for many seniors to read, but they can also be read aloud by a caregiver. A helpful guide enables caregivers to ask questions to direct the reader and aid in reminiscence.

A Year’s Worth of Yellow by Emma Rose Sparrow

Each picture in this book centers on the color yellow, with short descriptions that are only a few sentences long. It’s also designed to be easy to focus on each page, as the left page remains blank.

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The Sunshine on My Face by Lydia Burdick

This book is designed to be read alongside your loved one as a Two-Lap Book™. Illustrations and short descriptions focus on common, joyful experiences such as being outside or listening to music.

Best books for late-stage dementia

Beside the Seaside: A Share-Time Picture Book for Reminiscing and Storytelling by Judi Parkinson

Large images encourage ocean-loving seniors to reminisce on serene memories of walking along the seashore, building sandcastles, and sunbathing. Beside the Seaside is a title that’s perfectly suited for any setting: It’s adaptable to one-on-one readings or small group sessions.

Autumn Picture Bookby Jamie Stonebridge

This thoughtfully designed picture book features carefully selected images to recall cheerful memories of fall days. Captions and suggested questions in the back of the book encourage caregivers to take an active role in engaging their loved one’s minds in the scene.

The Splendor of Mother and Child Animals by Emma Rose Sparrow

Animal lovers will enjoy this picture book of mother animals and their offspring in the wild. From polar bears to owls, there’s an animal for everyone. Ask your loved one questions about what they see to inspire thoughtful discourse, or simply enjoy these beautiful images together.

Caregiver benefits

Books that are easy for your loved ones to read can give them a feeling of success that boosts self-esteem. Also, reminiscence can put them at ease, and cognitive stimulation may help them maintain their current abilities. Promoting reading is also a way for caregivers to find a moment for themselves while their loved one enjoys the activity. Or, if you choose to read with your loved one, it can deepen the bond you share.

You can also consider these other engaging activities to keep your dementia-affected loved one cognitively stimulated:

Or, if you’re looking for a book to help you understand what your loved one is experiencing, you’ll find numerous resources for caregivers in this article on the best books on dementia for caregivers [New link]. Whether you’re interested in more ways to provide cognitive stimulation or lifestyle tips on diet, safety, or general support, there are books that touch on every subject.

If you think your loved one might need additional assistance or stimulation that you may not be able to provide, reach out to A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors. These experts can help you find professional memory care caregivers in your area, all at no cost to you.

Sources

Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (2014, April 7). Keep reading to keep Alzheimer’s at bay. Alzinfo.org.

Kawashima, R., Okita, K., Yamazaki, R., Tajima, N., Yoshida, H., Taira, M., Iwata, K., Sasaki, T., Maeyama, K., Usui, N., & Sugimoto, K. (2005, March 1). Reading aloud and arithmetic calculation improve frontal function of people with dementiaTheJournals of Gerontology: Series A.

Son, G., Therrien, B., & Whall, A. (2002) Implicit memory and familiarity among elders with dementiaJournal of Nursing Scholarship.

Wilson, R. S., Boyle, P. A., Yu, L., Barnes, L. L., Schneider, J. A., & Bennett, D. A. (2013, July 23). Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive agingNeurology.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and the books selected and described in the article are based purely on the opinions of the author. None of the contents are intended to constitute medical, legal, or financial advice or to create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

Author
Rebecca Schier-Akamelu

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