A Lynn artist has teamed up with an American author on a book which she hopes will help children to understand the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on their elderly relatives.
Joann Sands has provided illustrations for the book called My Grandma Has Alzheimers, which tells the story of a woman’s battle against the condition through the eyes of her grandchild and has now been published online.
Mrs Sands, of Milton Avenue, said she was approached by the book’s author, Lola Carlile, after posting examples of her work on social media websites.
And she believes that more needs to be done by both charities and public authorities to support young people who are seeing grandparents living with the condition.
She said: “I feel it’s something that needs to be addressed, perhaps in the schools.
“All the time, the support refers to adults and carers. How do we know it’s not a child carer, although they may be 15 or 16, looking after a grandparent?”
The 28-page volume describes an elderly lady, Betty Rae, in her struggle against Alzheimer’s disease through the thoughts of her grandchild, ending with her death. Mrs Sands said the character is based on a relative of the Oregon-based author.
The book portrays Betty believing she was eating a meal with her husband who was not there and using words which she would not have said prior to being struck down with the disease, describing that as Alzheimer’s “fault.”
It also includes space for readers to express their own feelings on the story and draw a picture of Betty, who is shown to be reunited with her husband in heaven following her death.
Mrs Sands said that, while she was initially unsure about getting involved, she was inspired to take part in the project through her previous work in the care sector, where she saw the effects of the disease for herself.
“It’s a good cause and it’s important to put it out there really.”
She explained that the illustrations had been specially designed to interest children and encourage them to look closely at them, in order to see how the disease affects a sufferer’s behaviour in ways that the actions of a person who is not affected by the condition is not.
She said: “It gives them a better understanding as they see a grandma or a granddad becoming somebody completely different.
“I have never illustrated a book before and the subject is quite a challenge.”
Proceeds from the book will also go towards the continuation of an art therapy programme in the United States called Masabi, which is designed to use art as a means of coping with a range of mental health problems. Dr Carlile is an art therapist.
Officials from the Alzheimer’s Society estimate that around 850,000 people in the UK currently have forms of the disease and warn that figure could rise to one million within a decade. There are thought to be around 670,000 people caring for dementia patients.
As many as one in six people aged over 80 currently have the disease and up to 80 per cent of people living in care homes are thought to have some form of dementia.
The charity also claims that as many as 60,000 deaths every year can be attributed to dementia.
Mrs Sands said she would be happy to take the book into schools to talk to children about the disease and its effects.
She said: “At the end of the day it could be any one of us whose children are getting used to that.”
Mrs Sands, who has osteoarthritis, added that she is also considering producing a similar book to help youngsters understand the effects of that condition as well.
The book is currently on sale via the Amazon website, where the description of the book reads: “The hope of the author is that others will be better prepared to endure and deal with this “long goodbye” to their loved one by reading and interacting with the book.” Anyone interested in finding out more should contact Mrs Sands on 01553 763890.