Hot Best Seller

On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear

Availability: Ready to download

For fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Eula Biss’s On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishing An estimated 50 million people in the world suffer from dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s For fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Eula Biss’s On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishing An estimated 50 million people in the world suffer from dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s erase parts of one’s memory but are also often said to erase the self. People don’t simply die from such diseases; they are imagined, in the clichés of our era, as vanishing in plain sight, fading away, or enduring a long goodbye. In On Vanishing, Lynn Casteel Harper, a Baptist minister and nursing home chaplain, investigates the myths and metaphors surrounding dementia and aging, addressing not only the indignities caused by the condition but also by the rhetoric surrounding it. Harper asks essential questions about the nature of our outsize fear of dementia, the stigma this fear may create, and what it might mean for us all to try to “vanish well.” Weaving together personal stories with theology, history, philosophy, literature, and science, Harper confronts our elemental fears of disappearance and death, drawing on her own experiences with people with dementia both in the U.S. health-care system and within her own family. In the course of unpacking her own stories and encounters—of leading a prayer group on a dementia unit; of meeting individuals dismissed as “already gone” and finding them still possessed of complex, vital inner lives; of witnessing her grandfather’s final years with Alzheimer’s and discovering her own heightened genetic risk of succumbing to the disease—Harper engages in an exploration of dementia that is unlike anything written before on the subject. Expanding our understanding of dementia beyond progressive vacancy and dread, On Vanishing makes room for beauty and hope, and opens a space in which we might start to consider better ways of caring for, and thinking about, our fellow human beings. It is a rich and startling work of nonfiction that reveals cognitive change as an essential aspect of what it means to be mortal.


Compare

For fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Eula Biss’s On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishing An estimated 50 million people in the world suffer from dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s For fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Eula Biss’s On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishing An estimated 50 million people in the world suffer from dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s erase parts of one’s memory but are also often said to erase the self. People don’t simply die from such diseases; they are imagined, in the clichés of our era, as vanishing in plain sight, fading away, or enduring a long goodbye. In On Vanishing, Lynn Casteel Harper, a Baptist minister and nursing home chaplain, investigates the myths and metaphors surrounding dementia and aging, addressing not only the indignities caused by the condition but also by the rhetoric surrounding it. Harper asks essential questions about the nature of our outsize fear of dementia, the stigma this fear may create, and what it might mean for us all to try to “vanish well.” Weaving together personal stories with theology, history, philosophy, literature, and science, Harper confronts our elemental fears of disappearance and death, drawing on her own experiences with people with dementia both in the U.S. health-care system and within her own family. In the course of unpacking her own stories and encounters—of leading a prayer group on a dementia unit; of meeting individuals dismissed as “already gone” and finding them still possessed of complex, vital inner lives; of witnessing her grandfather’s final years with Alzheimer’s and discovering her own heightened genetic risk of succumbing to the disease—Harper engages in an exploration of dementia that is unlike anything written before on the subject. Expanding our understanding of dementia beyond progressive vacancy and dread, On Vanishing makes room for beauty and hope, and opens a space in which we might start to consider better ways of caring for, and thinking about, our fellow human beings. It is a rich and startling work of nonfiction that reveals cognitive change as an essential aspect of what it means to be mortal.

30 review for On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear

  1. 4 out of 5

    etherealfire

    Thank you to Catapult Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book. On Vanishing is part personal narrative as well as a humane and compassionate treatise on the treatment of patients suffering from dementia. Much food for thought here and beautifully, movingly written. It gives me hope that there could be viable alternatives to caring for and preserving the dignity of those suffering from the heartbreaking, isolating aspects of dementia.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review! This was a very good book about dementia. When I'm at my internship, an in-patient psychiatric facility, I work with older adults on the senior unit. Most people admitted are there for behavioral problems with dementia. Wandering, sundowning, aggression, sexual behaviors, etc. Honestly, I've probably seen it all. So, this book was a refreshing look at dementia and how the perspectives beat into us that dementia is awful and tha I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review! This was a very good book about dementia. When I'm at my internship, an in-patient psychiatric facility, I work with older adults on the senior unit. Most people admitted are there for behavioral problems with dementia. Wandering, sundowning, aggression, sexual behaviors, etc. Honestly, I've probably seen it all. So, this book was a refreshing look at dementia and how the perspectives beat into us that dementia is awful and that the person who has the diagnosis is no longer the person you loved actually cause harm to that person. While they're very much alive, we pretend that they are already gone. It's part memoir and part writing about how dementia is compared with other progressive illnesses. It's very well-written and a fast read. They compare it to Atul Gawande's book Being Mortal, but it wasn't that for me. It was very good and a book, but it wasn't as impactful as that book was for me. I'd definitely recommend this book for people wanting to think differently about this diagnosis.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wes Durrwachter

    I read this book because (1) the author is my wife's aunt, (2) I assumed this book would be helpful for me as I aspire to continue ministering as a hospital chaplain, and (3) my own grandmother has dementia. I'm giving this book 5 stars because it was beautifully written, well argued, inspiring, and so helpful for thinking more deeply and honestly about the issues related to dementia and our culture's responses to dementia. I would recommend this book to anyone, but I would especially recommend I read this book because (1) the author is my wife's aunt, (2) I assumed this book would be helpful for me as I aspire to continue ministering as a hospital chaplain, and (3) my own grandmother has dementia. I'm giving this book 5 stars because it was beautifully written, well argued, inspiring, and so helpful for thinking more deeply and honestly about the issues related to dementia and our culture's responses to dementia. I would recommend this book to anyone, but I would especially recommend it to fellow CPE students and anyone with a friend or family member who has dementia.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marin

    A smart, cogent, and deeply felt exploration of life on with dementia, whether lived or witnessed—an act of empathy and a powerful call for inclusion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wade Snowden

    I am conflicted on if this is a 4 or 5 star read - but that is not the point. This book equally reaffirmed all of my beliefs about dementia & mortality while also pushing me to a new & higher thinking. It might not be for everyone, but given my work I can’t think of a more important book that I’ve read recently. “Vanishing” be it in death, dementia, or both is beautiful - & a part of life all of us will face eventually. Happy to see a work like this exists to challenge society’s views. “What I a I am conflicted on if this is a 4 or 5 star read - but that is not the point. This book equally reaffirmed all of my beliefs about dementia & mortality while also pushing me to a new & higher thinking. It might not be for everyone, but given my work I can’t think of a more important book that I’ve read recently. “Vanishing” be it in death, dementia, or both is beautiful - & a part of life all of us will face eventually. Happy to see a work like this exists to challenge society’s views. “What I am trying to say is this: I declare my will to live with dementia as an act of protest against a dominant culture that wishes not to be troubled by my presence.” - Lynn Casteel Harper

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ankush Gk

    Made me think about how I perceive anything related to mental illness in others. How the stigmatized cultural environment shapes our thoughts on such matters. It is beautifully written about Dementia, "The problem is not that the people forget, it is that they are forgotten." The book tells people how the social response to the Alzheimer's/Dementia has effects much worse than the disease itself. A good read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Claire- Louise

    I read this book for some insight but didn’t feel I really got anything from it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chris S.

    Have to be honest, this book was a lot more like a memoir than I expected. Perhaps because of that, I found the first half somewhat lackluster and jumbled, with some of the comparisons and lengthy metaphors seeming like stretches. However, I liked the second half much better than the first and felt that it seemed like it formed a more cohesive whole. Harper makes good arguments for a re-evaluation of how we see dementia and this is a good and necessary book, but since she's a minister, she does Have to be honest, this book was a lot more like a memoir than I expected. Perhaps because of that, I found the first half somewhat lackluster and jumbled, with some of the comparisons and lengthy metaphors seeming like stretches. However, I liked the second half much better than the first and felt that it seemed like it formed a more cohesive whole. Harper makes good arguments for a re-evaluation of how we see dementia and this is a good and necessary book, but since she's a minister, she does make a lot of Bible references. I came around to that eventually, and they are very thoughtful ways of looking at Christian scriptures, but if those aren't your thing, you might find this not quite up your alley. With that being said, she does take a good look at the experience of living with dementia and our cultural perceptions of it through a variety of disciplines, though there's definitely an emphasis on spirituality. I might have enjoyed something that looked at worldwide conceptions of dementia and was more expansive in scope a little better, but the concerns Harper lists do seem to primarily be with regards to the American health care system, so I suppose my expectations for this book didn't quite match what it attempted to do. I definitely found the last few chapters- chapters six through nine- to be especially strong and what led to me rating this four stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    The author's core point, I think, based on my reading & based on the book's title, is to question the idea of "vanishing" in connection with dementia. I think she believes there is some underlying "essence" of a person (she, an ordained Baptist minister, probably thinks of it as a person's soul), that is still there, even when a demented person has forgotten everything, recognizes nothing & no one, etc. That is, she defies the popular understanding that dementia means a person "vanishes." That be The author's core point, I think, based on my reading & based on the book's title, is to question the idea of "vanishing" in connection with dementia. I think she believes there is some underlying "essence" of a person (she, an ordained Baptist minister, probably thinks of it as a person's soul), that is still there, even when a demented person has forgotten everything, recognizes nothing & no one, etc. That is, she defies the popular understanding that dementia means a person "vanishes." That belief – a belief in a soul – is fundamentally a nonrational belief, something that can be neither proved or disproved by science. It's a belief I don't really share. Or, more precisely, it's a belief that I think is irrelevant when dealing with the reality of a person in advanced stages of dementia. As I said, that's the author's core point. Her subsidiary points are wide-ranging & thoughtful. She talks about treating people with dementia with respect & compassion, & she gives detailed examples, guidelines, & suggestions to that effect. She talks about society's overall discounting of older people & of people with diminished intellectual capacity, & suggests ways to avoid or overcome that kind of thinking. In one chapter she even waxes poetic on the subject of "light" & "darkness," & on appreciating the darkness along with the light. She also talks about her own prospects of dementia, given her family history, & how to think about that – a difficult & painful topic. Overall, I'm glad I read this & I recommend it to others dealing with dementia in people they love – and to those dealing with dementia, or the prospect of dementia, in themselves.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    Unexpected wonder! This gets 5 stars for beautiful writing, a poet's imagination explaining one of life's greatest living tragedies-dementia, and the depth of thought and learning that supports a loving kindness towards our elderly in it's grip. Lynn Casteel Harper has a mission to bring our common culture around to a kinder point of view of the demented. Senility has always been part of the human progression, but being "diagnosed" and labelled at the turn of the 20th century with the name of he Unexpected wonder! This gets 5 stars for beautiful writing, a poet's imagination explaining one of life's greatest living tragedies-dementia, and the depth of thought and learning that supports a loving kindness towards our elderly in it's grip. Lynn Casteel Harper has a mission to bring our common culture around to a kinder point of view of the demented. Senility has always been part of the human progression, but being "diagnosed" and labelled at the turn of the 20th century with the name of he who described it, "Alzheimer" disease has now become a medical condition to be cured. Did the condition change or did our culture shift in the acceptance of what was once endured in the common suffering of man? Somehow, we lost compassion, forbearance and kindness towards our afflicted elderly and those not so elderly. The author certainly has a poet's heart, I found myself drifting along with the song of her stories to realize she had uncovered a new perspective in it's telling. I had to stop myself to re-read the passage and recognize, re-organize and find a kernel of hope for all of us. I found this book revolutionary in the way the author's faith tradition meant it to be.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I picked up this book hoping that it would help reframe my perspective towards dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The author presented some helpful ideas in her aim to humanize people with Alzheimer’s and remove some of the stigma and anxiety surrounding the disease (e.g. understanding how the language we use to talk about dementia creates dread and ultimately ostracizes the people affected by it). Though the first and last two chapters did offer some insight, I found the rest of book overly phil I picked up this book hoping that it would help reframe my perspective towards dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The author presented some helpful ideas in her aim to humanize people with Alzheimer’s and remove some of the stigma and anxiety surrounding the disease (e.g. understanding how the language we use to talk about dementia creates dread and ultimately ostracizes the people affected by it). Though the first and last two chapters did offer some insight, I found the rest of book overly philosophical and heavy with unhelpful passages diving into tangentially-related metaphors. As a non-Christian, I was also put off by the wide use of religious anecdotes (though I knew the book was written by a minister when I bought it, so that one’s probably on me). To be totally honest, this book was challenging to read and despite taking away a few helpful ideas, it wasn’t for me. People more inclined towards religious and philosophical texts might get more out of it than I did.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Maeve Bolin

    This book fits into so many categories: memoir, philosophy, guide book, and spirituality. My father was diagnosed with cognitive impairment in 2018, and through Lynn Casteel Harper's experiences, I was able to conceptualize many of his struggles; however, the greater impact comes through her shared acceptance that we are all approaching some form of cognitive decline that we must learn to accept and embrace. In order to be more fully human it is up to us to prepare for old age. Then we can be th This book fits into so many categories: memoir, philosophy, guide book, and spirituality. My father was diagnosed with cognitive impairment in 2018, and through Lynn Casteel Harper's experiences, I was able to conceptualize many of his struggles; however, the greater impact comes through her shared acceptance that we are all approaching some form of cognitive decline that we must learn to accept and embrace. In order to be more fully human it is up to us to prepare for old age. Then we can be there for those who are vanishing while knowing how to respond when (not if) we have dementia. We owe it to our older generations and to our future selves to listen to what Casteel Harper has to say and to become more empathetic people in the process.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Arleth García

    Muy bueno ya que explica cosas de la vida como lo son la demencia ... Ya que Aceves hablamos de la demencia como algo fácil y sencillo ,cuando realmente es algo horrible porque cambia totalmente a la persona. Principalmente escogí este libro porque en cierto momento alguien me hizo una indirecta diciendo que sufría de demencia y yo apenas con 17 años jaja... Pero después de leerlo me doy cuenta que esa persona lo dijo por decir porque no conoce más sobre ese tema como yo ahora que lo leí

  14. 4 out of 5

    Beth Wang

    Beautiful book exploring how are identity is linked to our cognition and memory. What this means as we age of course, but also as we evolve over the course of our lifetime. So many interesting discussions here: about relationships, about medicine, about truth, about what death is, about what life is. Thoughtful, gentle promptings to explore our humanity.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Suzi

    Both my parents had dementia and my mother's mother did. Not thrilled with my prospects. This is an interesting read, written by the relative of a friend. Personally, I'm still depressed by my prospects, though.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chetana

    Meh. There're some interesting ideas in this book but that's about it. Feels like the author's trying to be thoughtful but she ultimately ends up making the same point over and over again. The writing is kinda jarring.

  17. 5 out of 5

    J. Bradley

    This is a tremendous collection of essays that deals with dementia that makes you think about your own mortality and how we deal with those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s a hard, but necessary read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Мирзаева Анна

    I liked this book

  19. 5 out of 5

    Catapult

    For fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Eula Biss’s On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishing

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris Britt

  21. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Shannon

  22. 4 out of 5

    S McDonald

  23. 4 out of 5

    Altaïr Pendràgon

  24. 4 out of 5

    margaret bondi

  25. 4 out of 5

    Edwin K. Killam

  26. 4 out of 5

    Benni Chisholm

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hongwei Liu

  28. 4 out of 5

    susie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne S

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.