Forgetting Foster by Dianne Touchell

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Allen & Unwin, 2016 ISBN 9781760110796
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Alzheimer's disease. Families. When Foster's father begins to forget things, the family jokes about it, but soon, little notes appear on the cupboard reminding him of things he needs to do, and some of the customary routines within the house change. Foster is told little but realises that his father needs more attention than before. And when he loses his job and Mum has to take on more shifts, then things change considerably. Dad runs away from home when Foster is caring for him. Miss Watson from next door comes to sit them, and both Foster and his Dad have no liking for her. When she strikes Dad, she is sent away but Mum still has to deal with him, admitting that sometimes she feels like hitting him herself. The disease is ever present in Foster's life, his aunt Linda is often there, despite the two women not liking each other. Things escalate until Mum is forced to ask for help. She has tried to cope alone but now she must admit that his dementia is beyond her. The strangely comic scene when the two social welfare officers come had me laughing out loud, but the effect of their visit means that mum now has some respite.
Readers will sympathise with the whole situation seeing Fossie trying to understand his father's decline and his mother's situation. She is coping from day to day, not wanting to look at things in the long term, hoping that things will improve. She declines offers of help, wanting to care for her husband herself, but pushes Fossie away in the process.
This book is an amazing look at a disease which many more children will see as the population ages, and for some reason, younger people are being afflicted. Not only is it a most readable story, but gives readers a raft of recognisable events, symptoms and words associated with the disease to learn. Fossie learns that his father is no longer the man he was and needs to learn how to adapt.
Fossie's attempts to make sense of his world parallels those of his father as he goes from forgetting, needing a locked front door and then violence in a short period of time. Touchell recreates this family so sympathetically that we are drawn into the world wondering how we would react, how we would cope. This is a masterful story, beautifully told.
Fran Knight