Unique Alzheimer’s Resource Revives Hidden Abilities

Imagine never hearing your loved one’s voice again and struggling to Photo of an older woman smiling at the camerafind ways to interact or spark a connection—that was the disturbing reality for author Lydia Burdick and continues to be the reality for millions of people caring for a parent, spouse, or friend diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. As cognitive abilities decline, communication skills diminish and conversations with family members and friends can become extremely difficult and infrequent. Searching for new ways to connect with her mother, Lydia created The Sunshine on My Face: A Read-Aloud Book for Memory-Challenged Adults, the first in the Two-Lap Book® series that has become a valued resource for Alzheimer’s caregivers, both family and professional.

The Sunshine on My Face is designed to be read aloud while spread across the laps of a person with dementia and a caregiver. With its colorful illustrations and simple text, the book serves as a springboard for reminiscence and conversations about the simple text and playful illustrations portraying common pleasures such as going for a ride in the countryside, smelling fresh apple pie, and taking warm bubblebaths.

Interior book pages from The Sunshine on My Face by Lydia Burdick“One of the challenges in caring for someone with dementia is knowing what to talk about,” says Peter Rabins, co-author of The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss“Lydia Burdick and [illustrator] Jane Freeman provide vivid conversation starting points that are fun to look at.”

And because the book is a shared experience, it can be enjoyed whether or not the person with dementia retains the ability to read the words on his or her own. Over and over again, caregivers have reported surprise and delight in discovering that their loved one can still read and converse—when offered the right material. “All of my research,” says internationally known speech-language pathologist Dr. Michelle Bourgeois, “demonstrates that [many] people who were literate maintain their ability to read until the end stages of dementia.” Research shows the importance of activities for people with memory impairments to remain engaged, and words with large print in particular can help support conversational interactions.

Reading and enjoying the illustrations aren’t the only ways to use a Two-Lap Book®. Since its initial publication, The Sunshine on My Face has gained international recognition and inspired caregivers from all over the world to share their stories of using the Two-Lap Book® with their loved ones. This feedback is incorporated in the 10th anniversary edition, which includes sections on ways caregivers have used this book, as well as conversation prompts, song suggestions to accompany each illustration, and games that can be played using the book.

“It is a truly transformational book,” says Ken Ross, a family caregiver from New York who has used the book with his mother who has dementia. “While reading it together with my mom, in very little time her mood changed. She became very engaged and very alive.”

A mother and daughter with their arms around each other and smilingThese truly special moments of connection are what Lydia says is the legacy of her series. “The impact of Two-Lap Books®,” offers Lydia, “has been to bring smiles, conversation, and engagement in a simple, portable, universally appreciated format. I don’t think anything means more to someone caring for a person with dementia than to see a smile and hear a few happy words. The Sunshine on My Face can provide both, with every page, illustration, conversation prompt, and song.”

In the past 10 years, Lydia has created an additional two books for her series: Happy New Year to You! and Wishing On a Star. This 10th anniversary edition of The Sunshine on My Face is a celebration of the timelessness of these books, and of their power to help caregivers and their loved ones bridge the gap of dementia to connect with each other.

For more information on The Sunshine on My Face, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Read-Aloud Book for Memory-Challenged Adults, please visit www.healthpropress.com/twolapbooks.


About Health Professions Press
Health Professions Press, Inc. (Baltimore, Maryland) is a publisher of high-quality educational resources for professionals interested in wellness and aging, long-term care, elder care, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and healthcare management. Visit www.healthpropress.com to learn more about this independent company, its vision, mission, and ever-growing list of publications.

About the Author
Lydia Burdick, M.A., has a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and her career has been in human resources. She is president of her own executive search firm and she also communicates about making lifestyle choices that may minimize the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

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