B. Smith Book Examines the Challenges of Alzheimer’s

I am reviewing books through the Blogging for Books program in an effort to support my community’s Little Free Library, thus the addition of book reviews outside of the usual sexual health topics to Your Sexy Librarian postings. After being reviewed, the book gets stamped “Always a Gift, Never for Sale” and placed into a Little Free Library for others to enjoy.

My latest book selection is Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s written by B. Smith and Dan Gasby with Michael Shnayerson, which was released on January 19, 2016.

Smith is the B. Smith who, in her youth, became America’s first African-American supermodel who went on to experience stunning restaurant and home goods fame before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013.

Gasby, Smith’s husband since 1992, is Smith’s business partner at B. Smith Enterprises. He became and remains Smith’s primary caregiver after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Shnayerson is a long-time contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author or co-author of seven books. It is unclear exactly how Shnayerson contributed to this specific written work.

Before I Forget is beautifully written from the heart. The format of the book is in chapters that start with Smith’s perspective on her disease in italics before moving on to Gasby’s experiences, thoughts and feelings as Smith’s primary caregiver and ending in lessons learned that include knowledge about Alzheimer’s itself and tips for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. The book’s tips of how to be a better caregiver are insightful and can even translate to any disease state in which someone is a caregiver in the home to a relative who is ill.

Gasby tackles the difficult subject of having a sexual relationship with someone who has Alzheimer’s. He openly discusses how the disease changed his wife’s sexual awareness and how this change impacted their marriage.

One of the best things about Before I Forget is how much knowledge is presented about Alzheimer’s itself, from how the disease was first discovered in 1906 before it was left largely untouched and ignored by scientists and researchers, the mechanisms behind the disease which involves amyloid plaque protein build-up in the brain and tau tangles that disrupt the pathways of the brain itself and how the disease is now “the most underrecognized threat to public health in the twenty-first century.”

Gasby candidly takes on society’s perspective of Alzheimer’s, especially in the African American community. African Americans are proportionally more likely to acquire the the disease than Caucasians, yet Caucasians represent the vast majority of drug trial participants. Gasby is out to increase the participation rates of African Americans in all Alzheimer’s drug trials so scientists will have a better picture of why the disease is more prevalent in their population.

Trumpeting the efforts of Dr. Michael Weiner, who works in the San Francisco Bay Area, Gasby encourages every reader to sign up for Dr. Weiner’s Brain Registry, which is a bank of people willing to participate in future drug trials for various diseases, including Alzheimer’s. The Brain Registry allows participants to take simple online tests used to collect information on how our brains work and draws from registered users to help simplify the search for clinical trial participants because finding participants in the past has been an uphill and expensive battle for researchers.

Towards the end Before I Forget, Gasby discusses the drug trials that were taking place in late 2014 and in early 2015. One of those trials, Eli Lilly’s solanezumab, which targeted amyloid plaque build-up in the brain, was considered a failure by the company in November 2016, which is why its failure is not mentioned by Gasby. Other drug research not listed in Before I Forget, notably Pfizer’s drug called PF-06648671, which acts to decrease the amount of amyloid protein in the brain, is showing incredible promise against the progression of Alzheimer’s.

The front cover of Before I Forget is just as beautiful as the words contained within. The font choices are elegant, just as B. Smith herself is, and easy-to-read. The back cover copy is wonderful enough to convince browsing book store shoppers to buy the book and read it. At $16 for a paperback copy, this book gives more for the reader’s money than previous books I have reviewed at this same price.

If you are a caregiver to someone who is ill or your family is struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you simply must read Before I Forget. I have had two aunts die from dementia; having read Before I Forget gives more meaning and clarity to the ends of their lives and reminds me of how much they loved me even as their disease progressed to its final stage.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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