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Madrona Resident Susan McCormick’s New Book

Granny Can’t Remember Me is a children’s picture book recently published by long-time Madrona resident, Susan McCormick. The book is a positive and helpful story about a young boy and his relationship with his grandmother who has Alzheimer’s. The idea for the story came to Susan as she watched her children’s relationship with her mother change as the Alzheimer’s disease progressed.

Before Alzheimer’s, Susan’s mother was sharp as a tack, especially when it came to finding the perfect word to describe something or a better way to organize a sentence. She was the one her sons turned to for help with homework since she always had the answer. But, when she developed Alzheimer’s, she could no longer remember which grandson was which. This was confusing to Peter and James (ages eight and eleven when she started to decline).

Susan, who works as a gastroenterologist at Virginia Mason and is a master at research, looked into ways to help her family relate to someone with memory loss. She discovered a few tricks that are illustrated in her book that helped her sons have happy visits with their grandmother and show that Alzheimer’s need not dim the powerful relationship between grandparent and grandchild.

For example, in the book, when the boys greeted their grandmother, they made sure to mention their names. This can help the person with Alzheimer’s avoid the need to ask, “Which one are you?” or “Who are you?”

Another trick for conversing with someone with Alzheimer’s is to never question what the person with Alzheimer’s is saying. In the book, the grandmother tells her grandson, Joey, that she has a fabulous dog named Pickles. Joey knows that Pickles died before he was even born, but he doesn’t mention this to his grandmother. Doing so would embarrass her or even cause her to argue. Joey just lets his grandmother tell him stories about Pickles. And then she continues with stories about the past — about his mother and uncle when they were young and what they enjoyed doing as children.

The third trick illustrated in the book is to not ask someone with Alzheimer’s a question. For example, it’s best not to say, “How was your day?” The person with Alzheimer’s may not quite remember their day and feel put on the spot. It’s best to say something like “Today is Friday and it’s bingo and milkshakes day.” Then, the person with Alzheimer’s can simply join in with, “I love ice cream.”

The story contains humor and warmth and can help a child who has a grandparent with Alzheimer’s understand that the behaviors associated with the disease are not uncommon and that there are ways to be able to continue and have fun with their confused grandparent.

The book ends with some excellent sources of information for people who have someone in their life with Alzheimer’s. The examples of how to relate to a grandparent with Alzheimer’s in Granny Can’t Remember Me are remarkably simple, sweet, humorous and effective, as is the book itself.

Susan and her husband Matt McCormick, live in Madrona with their two sons, James and Peter and their giant dog, Albert.

~Jennie Grant

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