Healthy Living

Alzheimer's: Writing on the Edge of Forgetfulness

David Shenk's The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic

Science writer David Shenk’s non-fiction book The Forgetting: Alzheimer’s: Portrait of an Epidemic provides a tour of the disease and explores the findings of neurologist Alois Alzheimer in the early twentieth century. Specifically, how he detected plaques and fibers in brain autopsies of victims who, just before their deaths, had been bedridden with symptoms of dementia including delirium, memory loss, and the deterioration of their sense of self, alongside their capacity to perform the most basic tasks. At the point, these findings didn’t spark much interest. However, the book also explores famous Alzheimer’s cases such as Ronald Reagan, Jonathan Swift, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and states that more than coincidence, Alzheimer’s has grown to become an epidemic, not unlike AIDS. However, unlike HIV and AIDS, there was not—and still isn’t—a method to prevent Alzheimer’s. The book is depressing and dark, but also gives a very realistic overview of the disease, which could benefit those that are caring for a loved one afflicted by Alzheimer’s.