A Southern Cross staff member’s daily contact with the anguish which dementia causes to families has culminated in the launch today (September 26) of a moving children’s book on the subject.
Sheryl Munday, a nursing home manager, said she was driven to produce the book after witnessing the confusion experienced by children with relatives suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
“I was inspired to write Shining Brightly to help the patients’ grandchildren understand what was happening to their grandparents,” Munday said, following the launch of the book by WA Mental Health Minister Helen Morton at a function to mark Dementia Awareness Week.
“I felt that they needed simple answers to questions like ‘why they have become forgetful’ and ‘why they are moving into care’.
“It is also important to sensitively inform children about what they can expect as the dementia progresses. I found that a children’s book was the perfect mechanism for this.”
The minister, speaking at the book launch at a function in Perth, said Shining Brightly would be a great resource in increasing understanding of dementia.
“I was absolutely captivated by it,” she said.
“It is fantastic!
“What’s most important is that it is written in a way that children can respond – to help them to understand the unusual behaviours of someone with dementia.”
Shining Brightly, which Munday both wrote and illustrated, relates the devastating progression of Alzheimer’s in an elderly woman through the eyes of her young granddaughter.
“It was with great happiness that I read Sheryl Munday’s book, Shining Brightly, which demonstrates how the simple love of a family can bring warmth to the cold reality of dementia, and how the lives of its victims should be celebrated rather than simply mourned before their passing,” said Southern Cross chairman John Bryant, whose organisation arranged publication of the book.
“While dementia is, for now, at least, irreversible, Shining Brightly shows us all that the love and joy in our families need not be diminished by dementia, and that while the condition might shift the goalposts, it doesn’t end the game,” he added, in a speech at the launch.
Alzheimer’s Australia chief executive officer Glenn Rees said: “The greatest enemy of people living with dementia is that their closest family and friends have limited or no understanding of dementia and the possibilities of communicating or relating to them in a way they would with any other person they love.
“This tender and moving book captures the difference love, patience and understanding can make, most importantly from the perspective of children,” he added, in a foreword to Shining Brightly.
“They have much to teach grown ups.”
There were 24,000 Western Australians suffering from dementia last year, according to Alzheimer’s Australia WA, and that number was expected to increase to 36,500 by 2020, and 69,000 by 2050.
The book is available from this website and selected bookshops.
Dementia Awareness Week activities are being coordinated by Alzheimer’s WA, and more information is available at http://www.fightdementia.org.au