Book Jacket


rank 1195
word count 11675
date submitted 22.04.2013
date updated 16.04.2014
genres: Non-fiction, Harper True Life
classification: moderate

Joan's Descent into Alzheimer's

Jill Stoking

Joan had Alzheimer's disease. Her husband hid the truth. He died. The children are left with a legacy of care and a catalogue of abuse.


This is a book that had to be written for Joan, who had Alzheimer's disease, which robbed her of a voice of her own and who was the victim of abuse and neglect.
And for every carer, an undervalued workforce, who struggle to survive the daily grind of caring for a loved one, often with little acknowledgement and less thanks.

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abuse, alzheimer's, dementia, despair, healing, heartbreak, memoir

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Shiloh Yazdani wrote 39 days ago

It's a heart-wrenching experience to see someone one loves struck down under such a debilitating illness as dementia. You've written about your personal experience well. I'm sorry for the struggles you and your family have had.
"Courage Through Faith"

BarbShaya wrote 71 days ago

HTLF comment
Hi Jill- I have read through chapter 7 of Joan's Descent. This is a sad, unfortunately common, story which will gain you much readership as others will clearly relate.
You have a nice story telling voice, though sometimes there is more 'telling' rather than painting the picture for us to become part of.
Also, you do not mention Joan's earlier outgoing personality until the end of chapter 7. I would like to be first introduced to the alive and vivacious Joan and then journey along with you into her descent. I want to feel the loss along with you as she unravels. The way it is told here I found myself unclear that her behaviors were signs of Alzheimer's as they are also indicative of someone experiencing depression.
This is a story that wants to be told...and read.
Thank you for sharing.
Barb ( Not Really Gone)

Fontaine wrote 76 days ago

I've now read eleven chapters of your book. I only stopped because of time restraints.

This is painful to read as the subject, that of your mother's descent into Alzheimer's, is so tragic. I like the straightforward style you have adopted and also the flashes of humour, which keep the reader from going under.
'Push and run' for instance. I also like the background information you give the reader about your position in the family, your relationship with your father and also with Robert. When Robert turns out to be a 'sickly' child, the fact that you got 'double rations' of chastisement is heart rending.

I found it very moving that you and Robert found some kind of reconciliation and new found closeness, while sorting through your father's effects. That rang a bell for me, as did much of this book.

Endearing glimpses of you as a child, herding tennis ball sheep on the lawn. Lovely touch.

The silent treatment you received in your marriage is so painful to read and, as someone who experienced that, I found it rang very true. It is soul destroying to be treated like that but throughout this book you show a toughness that gets you through.

The tantrum in the car, was also a moment I will never forget. Yes, the parent/child roles were reversed.

The strength for me in this writing is your sheer honesty about your emotions. The part where your mother fell over the car park wall, was so vivid.

I think the start of chapter seven repeats some of the previous chapter where you write about Robert inheriting the name Bob, after your father's death. This is just an editiing glitch. Personally, I feel you should continue to refer to him as Robert as, elderly readers like myself, might become confused.

I did feel for you during the disastrous holiday at Butlin's. I know that feeling of being the only adult around.

There are so many other moments that stand out for me. The holiday in Harrogate with the bike crash, the lovely friendly male doctor you found to help you, the support of Pam, so very important in these situations.

Throughout, you casually speak of your own struggle, keeping going, carrying on working and caring for your mother. One problem after another presents itself. I'm not surprised you found the factory work a pleasant change!
This is a well written book on a very difficult subject. Thank you for sharing your experiences with your readers. Many will be helped through similar situations, by reading this.
Highly starred.

Elizabeth Kathleen wrote 139 days ago

How sad. My heart was breaking reading about your hard life. I felt so sorry for you and your family. I'm sorry things didn't go very pleasantly for you in your childhood then on into adulthood. I'm sure your mother appreciated your concern and help, though. Sometimes those with dementia can't express their thankfulness, but they feel it none the less. My own dear mother has faced and is facing those struggles and it breaks my heart to see her so.
God bless you and your book,
Elizabeth Kathleen
"If Children are Cheaper by the Dozen, Can I Get a Discount on Six?"
"The Sticks and Stones of Hannah Jones"

Spilota wrote 154 days ago

My heart goes out to you, Jill. True Life is not my favourite genre, but you tell this so well, and without self pity.

Sue Harries wrote 210 days ago

A brave and well written book, added to WL and rated highly, will back as soon as space. Sue ''It's a Dog's Life''

Up The Hill wrote 225 days ago

Up The Hill
An excellent read.
You have the ability to draw your reader in, a real gift.
I just had to finish it.

Su Dan wrote 226 days ago

your honest style is very likable and makes this book a real joy...
read SEASONS...

Lighter wrote 239 days ago

This book is a very enjoyable read. It has a great ring of truth about it; I recognized some of my own family in these people. Think it is a story many people will relate to. We all have parents who are aging.

KoriBates wrote 245 days ago

This is a good read to far. The fact that it is a true story just makes me want to read it more. From what I've read so far, I can't see why this won't end up on my shelf. For now, it will be going on my watchlist until I have more time to read it.

Vittorio wrote 276 days ago

Hi Jill,
Good job, well written and interesting. You might want to remove some unnecessary details that tend to slow down the flow of the storyline, but this is just a subjective comment. I wish you all the best.

Kate Steele wrote 277 days ago

Jill, I have quickly read chapter one of your book. I shall be dipping in and out of it. Your story is an all too familiar one - I now live with my mother who has fairly advanced Alzheimer's. You paint a vivid, honest picture of how this cruel disease first manifests itself and begins to impact on its victims (i.e. both sufferer and family and friends). I will try and get back to you when I have had a chance to read more. Meanwhile, good luck with your project.
Kate Steele, Is that All There Is?

Tom Ericson wrote 280 days ago

This is a very warm and yet realistic portrayal of life 'around' a victim of Alzheimer's disease. I have read up to Chapter Ten and will certainly be reading more. You have a gift of bringing what is essentially a subjective story into the light and it feels as if you are allowing us (the readers) into your most private thoughts - a rare and difficult skill which I believe you have mastered wonderfully.
On the structure side there is a good deal that requires attention (sorry, I am a proofreader and I find it difficult not to see things ... ). For example, each PART should be headed Part One, Chapter 1, Part Two, Chapter 8, Part Three, Chapter 19 and so on - 'PART' should come before 'CHAPTER' and it is always a good idea to alternate between words and figures - either way, depending on your preference.
However, proofreading/copy-editing will only add to the appearance and structure of the book. The real gem here is the story and the way in which you tell it - which is quite beautifully - and too much editing work, particualrly by a third party, might intrude into the originality of the text.
Thank you for writing this book, it truly is an inspiration ... and a damned good read!!
I have 'starred' highly and will back when I have read further.
My very best wishes,

Tom Ericson
The Anger Within

R. Dango wrote 296 days ago

Dear Jill,

First of all, I congratulate you for having gathered enough courage to sit down and write about it, and second of all, to have completed your memoir. It must have been hard to stay detached enough to write about something which had affected you so much. I don't think I could have done it. I've had (and still having) somewhat similar life story but I really think I can write it unless I wait for a couple of decades until the reality fades away.
As a reading, I found it clearly written and there was no part which was difficult to read or understand or confusing, from the three chapters I have read.
My critics would be that I felt some details could be omitted or shortened.


carol jefferies wrote 300 days ago

Hi Jill,

Joan's Descent

This is by far the best thing I've read for several days on this website. I was hooked and read the first ten chapters straight off.

I very much enjoyed your blow-by-blow account of events leading up to your father's death and your mother's increasing agitation, confusion and memory loss.

As a former nurse I know it could not have been easy having the patience to deal with your mother's increasingly irrational behaviour when being emotionally involved.

I must admit I think you have real courage to write so honestly about the way you responded to her behaviour.

I was glad to discover that your relationship with your brother, Bob, improved following your father's death. He certainly sounds an awkward man to live with, so much, that you had learnt the warning signs of his impending loss of temper by reading his body language.

I did wonder if you fell in love with your husband, Ray, because he shared some of your father's personality traits?

If anyone is reading this and is concerned about a relative suffering from spontaneous falls, like your mother did, and they do cause loss of confidence, try talking and walking the person you are concerned about. If they have a tendency to falls, they will struggle to talk and walk at the same time.

Well done, high stars and backed.

Carol Jefferies
(The Witch of Fleet Street)

Janet/Helen wrote 305 days ago

Joan's Descent. Ch 1 to 10.

An excellent read so far. I can associate with so much of this and the writing is good, drawing you into this life. This is a book I would purchase if published.
Two very minor errors that caught my eye -
Chapter 6. '......but Mum seemed not to be feeling anything, accept her inability to deal with life.' I think this should be 'except'
Chapter 10. '......I answered the insistence ringing of the doorbell....' [insistent]
Otherwise error free and extremely readable. 6 stars. Onto watchlist for backing in future weeks. Janet

The Stranger In My Life

Cheryl_Shepherd wrote 316 days ago

Ok, I'm hooked!!.. Your writing draws a person in to read more, a sign of a good writer I think. You paint pictures with your words which I love, I can see your dad sitting in the chair just as you described.
My Nan had dementia and it was so sad to see the woman I loved disappear into a world of her own. Will be coming back to read more!!

Cheryl, (When love is not enough')

Cheryl_Shepherd wrote 316 days ago

Ok, I'm hooked!!.. Your writing draws a person in to read more, a sign of a good writer I think. You paint pictures with your words which I love, I can see your dad sitting in the chair just as you described.
My Nan had dementia and it was so sad to see the woman I loved disappear into a world of her own. Will be coming back to read more!!

Cheryl, (When love is not enough')

BeeJoy wrote 316 days ago

Omgoodness. So sad. My Grandpa who passed away was one of my best friends. He too had Alzheimers. You wrote this so well and I could relate to it. Thank you so much for sharing. Top starred. Amazing book. Thank you for your comment on Facing the Truth as well. I really cannot tell you how much that meant to me.


ShirleyGrace wrote 319 days ago

Dear Jill:
I enjoyed reading your book. I realize that may sound strange due to the content.
I will explain. First of all I enjoyed it as it is well written and polished and secondly because I can so relate to the content. The "true life" people have a problem getting read on this site and I feel it is the should- be readers loss. I remember as a child people saying of the older person, "they are just getting old and forgetful". I also see people even poking fun at the older person and their "ways". How unfortunate. It is later than they think.
My father (I had a horrible relationship with him and he was extremely abusive) died and my mother was helpless. She was in the early stages and somehow it is usually left to the daughters. I was one of five with three brothers and one sister. The daughters-in-law are usually very sympathetic but somehow never there except for a quick "pop in". To be perfectly honest, I can't say I fault them for this. My mother had never paid a bill, had never worked an outside job, could scarcely write a check and didn't know where any records or receipts were. This was just the tip of the iceberg. She was somewhat of a hoarder and it took weeks to sort and pitch the "junk". Some boxes would have a tiny, valuable, antique dish amid huge amounts of trash so everything had to be gone through..
I was raising two grandsons at the time my father died and my mother, like yours, had never taken care of any responsibility,, not even a light bulb. I closed my house, took the grandsons and moved in with her. The result was a fast decline in the boys grades and a near breakdown for me. It allowed her to stay in her home for two more years. I remember at least twice when I was physically attacked and many times verbally. Finally the house was sold, torn down, my mother placed in a nursing home and soon died.
Your book is sad to be sure as you were going through a very difficult time in your own life and how strong you must have been to be able to cope with all this. I got the feeling when I read your work of resolve and one day taken at the time.
Not my desire here to tell you my life story but to let you know I totally understand what you went through and have a great deal of respect for anyone who has taken on what you did. You are getting high stars from me. remain on my watch list and it will be my pleasure to shelve your work soon.
The kindest regard,
Shirley Grace
The Devil's Stepchild

Around the Corner wrote 331 days ago

Jill, My aunt recommended I read your book as I also am a witness looking after my mother who has Alzheimer's. I found your book really interesting and most helpful to me, both in giving me an idea of what i might expect (although I know not everyone is the same), but also in reassurance that many feelings I sometimes have are normal in the circumstances. You have also made me realize I should take advantage of my mum's present abilities while she still has them. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Sheena Macleod wrote 343 days ago

Joan’s Descent by Jill Stoking.
Comments based on chapters 1-8
Jill, I had your book wl to read and have been reading through it. There are many areas that I can relate to in your memoirs. Did you keep a diary? Your memory for details, including times is very good. I felt for you, and your family as the picture of your parent's decline began.
I will read on as I am interested in your comments in the pitch about the care system. I read a book form the late 60's called 'Sans Everything' which caused a sensation- it was the first time a relative had exposed the care system, and it made for shocking reading.

Some typos/edits
Chapter one- 1 tell-tale signs ?
Chapter two aged eighty-one
Robert had no religious affiliations - reduce to more than one sentence.
Chapter three forty-three years
the Popish Plot

Cathy Hardy wrote 344 days ago

Hello Jill.

Just read your first chapter. It's very captivating and down to earth... Love it. Was it wrong to laugh when you said your mother always loved a medical drama?...I know people like that .. Just off to read some more. You have drawn your characters so well, I feel such an empathy with them. I will be back to comment when I have read some more. Top stars!!

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Grace Lyssett wrote 345 days ago

Hello Jill,
I noticed your post in the Harper True Life group and took a look at your profile and book. Straight away I am captivated by your story. Perhaps it is because I have had similar experiences, but, as you said, “We've all experienced part of this story and if we haven't yet, we will in the future.” That is sadly so true.

Your first few paragraphs in chapter one set the tone beautifully, although not beautiful to read when experienced personally. I do like your initial lighthearted approach. The realisation that dementia has crept up and created a new dynamic in a family that had always been familiarly secure is one I shall never forget. It marks the decline of the home we once knew and transforms it into a surreal Kafkaesque world. As you say, the signs were there and hindsight is a wonderful but unwelcome element.

Your first chapter is absolutely compelling and I have immediately made room for ‘Joan’s Descent’ on my watchlist and have given it high stars. I’m currently in Spain for a few more days and internet is rather intermittent. When I return to England I’ll read your book and comment on it as I go along. In the meantime I will add it to our list of good reads at the opening intro on the group forum thread. Unfortunately the thread has gone a bit wild recently but I'm sure it's back on track now. I look forward to your contributions to the discussions.

Welcome to Authonomy Jill

With love,
Grace Lyssett
Harper True Life

KMac23 wrote 347 days ago

You tell your story with a sense of sadness for not knowing right away your mother had Alzheimer's. I think everyone knows that feeling when you look back and see what was really happening and yet don't knowledge of it, so are not as sympathetic or compassionate as you would have been having known. I read through your first six chapters and found your writing smooth and polished. Others would be able to identify with your feelings about your parents treating you more harshly and your brother who was sickly. It was good your brother and you could find common ground later on in your life.

There were a couple times I got confused with who you were talking about in the first chapter, especially when you spoke of ex-husbands, children, etc. There were a lot to remember. Other than that, I think I would enjoy reading more when I can to find out how you dealt with your mother.

A Gate Called Beautiful