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Children's book helps families introduce Alzheimer's disease to kids

'The Urban Life of Barney Buzzard' is available on Amazon

SAN ANTONIO – Jim McDonough and his wife loved to watch the buzzards in their North Side neighborhood. 

"They would circle around and wouldn't flap their wings and she was fascinated by that," he recalled.

"We had to give their leader a name, and that was Barney Buzzard."

Barney was a character he encouraged his wife to write a book about, but she never got the chance. She entered long-term memory care in November 2017 due to a battle with Alzheimer's disease. 

"I was a sole caregiver. All of a sudden I had a lot of time," he said. 

With that time, McDonough decided to write Barney's story himself in the form of a children's book. He chose that genre based on experience. 

"My grandsons would come in and they were confused as to how grandmother was answering questions," he said. "She didn't know their name and she'd get mixed up and they were confused."

In "The Urban Life of Barney Buzzard," Barney is the sole caregiver for his uncle, Billy, who has Alzheimer's. At one point, Uncle Billy forgets how to stand up and hangs from telephone lines upside down. 

The book was published in February of this year and is a family affair, with illustrations done by his daughter Beth Bonham, of Southlake. 

Feedback on the book, McDonough said, is positive. Families affected by Alzheimer's have told him it's a great tool to show their children or grandchildren. McDonough believes his book is unique because it's told through the perspective of an animal and not a human, unlike other books. 

McDonough has read the book to his wife, who was initially a tough critic. 

"The first time she said, ‘I don't like the graphics,' and I said, 'Your daughter did that.'"

Eventually, he said, she liked the book and was even able to read it once herself. 

McDonough hopes the book will help families explain the disease to children and teach patience in the process. 

So far, McDonough estimates about 400 copies have been distributed. The book is available on Amazon and currently has a 5-star rating. A portion of the proceeds go to The Alzheimer's Association.