On the Same Page - A Better Brain for Life

By Kristen Phillips. Published on 19/5/2022

This is the fourth in a series of book reviews from Kristen Phillips. Reading about other people’s experiences helped Kristen emotionally and practically around her father’s illness. Her hope is that these reviews will raise awareness of the ever-increasing number of books (fiction and non-fiction) available to support and educate those of us affected by dementia.

A Better Brain for Life: Preventing Dementia and Other Chronic Diseases
(Calico Publishing, 2022)
Angela Caughey
188 pages

Order from Calico publishing here

The purpose of this book is clear from the title and sub-title.  In A Better Brain for Life, over six chapters, Caughey sets out strategies for preventing dementia (and other chronic diseases).  Each of the chapters contains specific suggestions covering major life stages: pre-natal, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and late years.  

Apart from pre-natal, every chapter includes sections on Diet, Exercise, Stress, Sleep, Socialising, Stimulation (DESSSS).  Caughey’s main message – backed up by extensive, quoted research – is that dementia can be prevented or delayed, and that there are opportunities to do this at every stage of life.

Who would find this book helpful?
Two-thirds of A Better Brain for Life deals with the pre-natal to adolescent life stages; parents, in particular, would find lots of useful information and tips on what they can do for the brain health of their children. 

Readers with a medical background, or who enjoy reading medical studies would find a resource for further reading in the extensive (9 pages) Notes section.   

My reflections
A Better Brain for Life is a call to make life-style changes that will reduce the risk of dementia, no matter your age.  I liked all the practical actions suggested, based on Caughey’s lived experience and reading. This practical approach is very much in line with Caughey’s previous publications: Dealing Daily with Dementia 2000+ practical hints and strategies for carers (Calico Publishing, 2013) and HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS DEMENTIA:  A GUIDE FOR CARERS (Calico Publishing, 2018). 

Caughey makes complex medical research and concepts accessible, while also having a friendly and personable style.  It is rare to read an author publishing in their 90’s, so I appreciated Caughey’s perspective.

I found DESSSS – Diet, Exercise, Stress, Sleep, Socialising, Stimulation – a useful acronym for looking at what actions I can take to reduce the risk of dementia and other chronic diseases.

Matthew Croucher 
Kristen Phillips grew up in Te Awa Kairangi / Lower Hutt. She went travelling ‘for a year’ and returned to Aotearoa after thirty years based in London.  Her father, Don, was diagnosed with dementia in 2011 and died in 2019.  She currently lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara with her partner, the writer Mia Farlane.  As well as working part-time for Dementia Wellington, Kristen likes reading, walking and dancing Argentine Tango. 

If you have suggestions for books you would like to be reviewed, please leave a comment below with the title.



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