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Alzheimer’s and Audio books

27 July 2018

Audio books can be a valuable resource as dementia progresses, providing access to hobbies and interests as cognition diminishes and ensuring those living with the condition retain the freedom to read.                                        

When told they have dementia a person does not shoulder the diagnosis alone; their family has to come to terms with their own emotions at the thought of what lies ahead as well as learn how best to care for their loved-one. It is obviously a difficult time for all touched by it, but it isn’t a hopeless one. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, there is a lot of support available for both those affected and their families and there are strategies that can be used to slow down progression or help cope with the symptoms.

Person-centred care

This is where it is vital to focus on person-centred care; understanding that everyone is an individual, with unique circumstances and is affected in a different way. It is important not to dehumanise the person with dementia, which is just one aspect of their life, and to remember there is a personality at heart of the diagnosis. We all have our own hobbies, interests and activities that we enjoy (or don’t!) and remembering this can help us help those with dementia achieve the best quality of living possible.

Audio books for improved quality of life

Research has shown that reading can help improve the quality of life for someone living with dementia. Calibre Audio Library is a charity that provides audio books to those who are unable to read standard print for whatever reason. This gives many the freedom to ‘read’ via listening to books when it would otherwise be lost.

In the earlier stages of dementia many can still enjoy reading the written word although they may have some trouble remembering what they have read or need to reread sections. As the condition progresses, diminished cognition makes this harder to manage and reading can become more troublesome rather than pleasurable. The decline in comprehension means understanding words and reading sentences is no longer possible, however many people can still get enjoyment from listening to audio books.

While studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients read more slowly with less accurate pronunciation, audio books can help fill a gap for those struggling to read the words themselves. Whether it is soothing listening or a welcome distraction, a voice in the room can be the companion that many seek. The subject or story can provide engagement or be a portal for reminiscence, taking the listener to another place and time.

Book suggestions from Calibre Audio Library’s catalogue

With 10,500 books to choose from, Calibre Audio Library has a huge range genres to appeal to all readers. Some may like to listen to books relating to a long-held hobby, such as gardening or the natural world. Others may prefer short story collections, poetry and non-fiction. It is helpful to note that as the condition worsens some people may prefer reminiscence stories and activities to novels and t longer books that were previously enjoyed.

Books can be searched for by title, author or category; here are a few suggestions from a selection of reading genres that might appeal to people living with dementia, along with their catalogue numbers:

Home & Gardens

A 1950s Housewife: Marriage and Homemaking in the 1950s by Shelia Hardy 9613

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson 11874

The Country Diaries: A Year in the British Countryside by Alan Taylor (ed.) 8596

Poems for Gardeners by Germaine Greer 7971


The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas 10155

D H Lawrence: A selection of poems 3263

Family Values by Wendy Cope 8937

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T S Elliot 11612

Short Stories

Agatha Christie: Collected Short Stories 8292

The Breaking Point: Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier 9346

Complete Short Stories (Calibre Selection) by L P Hartley 3595

The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories by Malcolm Bradbury (ed.) 10064

British History

A 1950s' Childhood: From tin baths to bread and dripping by Paul Feeny 12201

Behind Closed Doors: At home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery 11539

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell 9112

The Bletchley Girls by Tessa Dunlop 11036

Blitz Diary: Life under fire in the Second World War by Carol Harris 9176

London War Notes 1939-1945 by Mollie Panter-Downes 10781

Resources and information


          Dementia Together is a podcast produced six times a year by the Alzheimer’s Society. You can listen to it here or email them to request a transcript. It is aimed at everyone who is living with or touched by dementia.




How to Join Calibre Audio Library

If you would like to try our service we have a free 3-month trial; after that there is just a one-off joining fee of £35 for a lifetime membership. There is no annual subscription – once you’ve joined, it is free to use for as long as you like! You can sign up online or call our Membership Services on 01296 432 339.