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Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer's Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 5, 2002
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This first-person account of Alzheimer's ties several powerful stories together. Losing My Mind blends personal history with the fear and pain of developing the disease at the age of 57; it is both a sadly fascinating account of Alzheimer's progression and an attempt for the writer to remember his past before it is gone for good.
While his history is recounted in chronological order, these memories--of his childhood; marriage to his wife, Joyce; their years in writing and politics; his passion for herbs and the growing of a successful business--are interspersed with unrelated musings on everything from his cat's sudden deafness to losing his wallet. Clips from articles on Alzheimer's research are sprinkled around, and statistics like the $174,000 that a patient spends on the disease over a lifetime are sobering. Throughout the book, he clearly speaks of his diagnosis as a "sentence"; the lack of a cure is dwelt on in many sections, and a story about an accidental overdose of his prescriptions is particularly grim.
This is not a book that supplies any "power of positive thinking" messages, but instead shows the daily struggle of a man coming to terms with a terrible disease. Poignant and thoughtful, DeBaggio's life will hold meaning for anyone who has been touched by Alzheimer's. --Jill Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
"I have a clear sense of history, I just don't know whether it is mine," writes DeBaggio in this moving and unusual memoir. The author, who has previously written about his gardening business (Growing Herbs from Seed, Cutting and Root), documents his mental deterioration from Alzheimer's. Diagnosed with the disease in 1999 at the age of 57, DeBaggio undertook this project in order to increase awareness of this devastating illness from a patient's point of view. He describes how his gradual loss of memory has impacted his life. For example, after he became confused about how to get to his niece's house, he realized he had to give up driving a car. The increased loss of language has been extremely difficult for a man who once worked as a journalist and a freelance writer. Interspersed throughout the narrative are DeBaggio's recollections of his childhood events that may soon be lost to him. He also describes the disease's negative effect on his wife and grown son. Although DeBaggio provides information on the medical advances that are being made to treat this disease, it is clear that a breakthrough will come too late for him. With this rare first-person account, DeBaggio has made a significant contribution to literature on an illness that currently affects four million Americans.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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For these people, what in the beginning looks like absentmindedness becomes frighteningly clear to be a debilitating memory deficit. Author Thomas DeBaggio describes his early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis at age 57 in 1999. The former small-town newspaper reporter turned urban herb gardener channels his fear and anxiety into storytelling, starting a diary that became this book two years later. The stream-of-consciousness style - we bounce between time periods and places, and he drops random quotes and observations in between medical histories or general stories (about his cats, neighbors, and family) – reflects its diary origins.
It’s impossible to know if the text’s disjointedness is due to a lack of editing or the folly of having a memory-challenged person narrate their thoughts without outside structure or oversight. The story's randomness and uncertainty has the unintended effect of having the reader inhabit the author’s confused and discombobulated space. We are as confused as he is: It’s a disconcerting and annoying feeling that I think DeBaggio effortlessly conveys – one of the signposts of his illness - in his year-long journaling project.
“Losing My Mind” is an imperfect first-person narrative that perfectly captures the insidious loss of memory neuron by withering neuron.
Most of the alzheimer's books are for the caretaker. Or written about the person with Alzheimer's. And this makes sense. The stresses on caretakers is off the scale. Anyone who says God does not give a person more than they can handle is not living in the world I have seen.
But too few books are written by the person suffering Alzheimer's. This is needed for those diagnosed in early stages.
Not all with Alzheimer's can express them selves. Some can. This is a good book for anyone to understand what it feels like to unable to remember the name of your next door neighbor for 20 years. To be able to quote Shakespeare but not your address.
It explains what it feels like when someone discovers a person discovers someone has Alzheimers and instantly others talk louder. Good, decent people with the best of intentions. They only act out of inexperience, not cruelty.
They are surprised alzheimer's patients in early stages can still write novels and even teach at universities.
If you have the courage, to see life though the eyes of a person looking into the abyss, this a worthwhile book.
Losing My Mind shifts back and forth between comments on his present condition, excerpts from medical articles, and reminiscences on his past life. This is not an inspirational book. Mr. DeBaggio is depressed, frightened, and filled with despair over his future. Fortunately his writing skills are still intact enough that he can fluently describe his descent into the abyss.
It is not the author alone who suffers. His wife is grief stricken that she is going to gradually lose her life's companion, and she feels totally frustrated in knowing that she can do nothing to help him. His grow son shares her grief, and also worries that he will eventually suffer the same illness.
Increasingly he has to hunt for words to express himself. He raises herbs for a living, and begins to forget their names. He goes to a store to operate a copying machine, and finds he can't figure out how to operate this rather simple device. Writing this book helps him to hold on to our world. He spends a lot of time reminiscing about his childhood, because those memories still are clear in his mind.
Mr. DeBaggio has received, as he puts it, a death sentence, and that thought remains constantly in mind. He courageously tackles each day one by one, but knows he is fighting a losing battle. I am an older person who has a deteriorating condition that gradually causes me increasing pain, so I have a glimmer of what he is going through. What will our status be next month, next year? It is interesting that he mentions that dealing with his diagnosis is one thing, but dealing with some of his well-wishers is often more difficult. There are the people who suggest that if he would just take some sort of sea weed or herbal medicine he would be restored to normal. Folks like that mean well, but their suggestions show a total lack of understanding of the forces at work in his physical condition, and, in a sense, diminish the seriousness of the problem (I've experienced the same thing).
This book is remarkable. It gives us a view of the problems, thoughts and torment that are part of an Alzheimer's sufferer's life. It is anything but a joyous book. It is one that points out how close we live to the threat of ultimate disaster.