Book group: Dementia Essentials, by Jan Hall

Our readers discuss Jan Hall’s ‘Dementia Essentials’, which is based on Jan’s personal experiences as a carer. The book is a guide for people supporting a relative or friend who has dementia.

Jan Hall’s Dementia Essentials, first published in 2013, has been revised and updated to include new research and advice. As Jan writes in its introduction, the book aims to ‘act as a guide and support’ for those caring for a family member or friend with dementia.

‘It covers much of a person’s dementia journey,’ says Tomas René in our Publishing team, ‘beginning with the initial recognition of symptoms (“First Suspicions”) through to a final chapter on care in the later stages of dementia, including care in a hospital or care home. In between, it looks at a range of useful practical, financial and emotional considerations.’

Ann Marie Bird, a reader in West Midland, says, ‘This book is informative and I wish I’d had it before my father was diagnosed with dementia.

‘It has lots of useful advice and contact information, and it’s good to hear from others who are on the same journey so you know you’re not alone.’

Dementia essentials, by Jan Hall

Warm and personal

Anne Cowan in Rutland appreciated the book’s content and style.

‘It’s good and easy reading,’ she says, ‘and covers most topics that I wanted information about.’

Tomas adds, ‘What distinguishes this guide is its warm, informal tone and its focus on personal testimony. Jan herself helped care for her mother who had dementia and writes movingly about this.

‘But she also weaves other first-hand accounts into the text throughout – nearly every page includes a quote from someone who has been caring for a person with dementia.

‘Including these personal accounts is also a recognition that everyone’s experience of dementia will be different.

‘Often, there is no right or wrong approach to a given situation, and in various contexts the book includes caveats such as “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer”. By presenting lots of different people’s voices, it offers several ideas and viewpoints.

‘The book is further enriched by small philosophical moments, including a reflection on the importance of humour, and a passage from Jane Austen about the unpredictability of memory.’

Always more

It wouldn’t be possible to cover everything about dementia in a single book, and the title of this one makes clear that it means to provide the ‘essentials’.

However, Anne notes, ‘I would have liked a little information about people with learning difficulties and dementia, but perhaps the ideas are the same.’

Tomas adds, ‘As dementia is a life-shortening condition, some might feel the book would benefit from a concluding chapter on end of life care and death – these topics are broached only briefly earlier on.

‘Yet there is an eloquent section on the unique “living grief” that carers of people with dementia may experience.

‘Jan writes compassionately about the feeling that, in the later stages of dementia, a person is “lost” twice – first to the condition and then again when they die.’


Key tips are highlighted at the beginning of each of the book’s chapters and there are many links to organisations that could help further.

‘In all, it’s a useful and companionable guide,’ says Tomas, ‘ideal for picking up and putting down as needed.’

Ann Marie agrees, ‘I would recommend it to anyone who would like to gain more knowledge and understanding on what they can do to support the person they love and care for.’

Dementia essentials (updated edition), by Jan Hall (Vermilion 2020), 272 pages, £12.99, ISBN: 9781785043413.

Your turn

For the next issue, we invite you to read Love and Care, by Shaun Deeney (Endeavour 2021), 336 pages, £16.99, ISBN: 9781913068462. 

Tell us what you think about this memoir from a journalist caring for his mother. Email us by the end of 5 September 2021 so we can share it in our next issue.

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Dementia together magazine: Aug/Sept 21

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now


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