Book Review: Missing Mary by J. Keith McMullin

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that afflicts more than 5.3 million people in the United States and is the sixth leading cause of death for Americans. Behind the numbers and definitions, Alzheimer’s robs its victims of the ability to carry out the most basic daily tasks, and families often use words like “brutal” and “unrelenting” to describe its effects. At this point, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. It claims 100 percent of its victims.

In Missing Mary: A crash course in Alzheimer’s Dementia, J. Keith McMullin, shares the struggle of Alzheimer’s from the perspective of a caregiver. McMullin’s mother, Mary Compton McMullin, a former mathematics professor with a genius I.Q., succumbed to the disease in 2013. With insight and humor, McMullin describes the twists and turns a family experiences resulting from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He also offers practical guidance for managing the disease and candidly discusses the challenges associated with selecting an assisted living facility that would provide the highest quality care for his mother. Narrowing the list of options from the more than 100 senior care facilities in Richmond, Virginia, — Miss Mary’s home — could have been an arduous task, McMullin writes. In reality, “funneling the list down to a handful of facilities was far easier than it first seemed.”

For Miss Mary, the community that best met her needs was Lakewood, a LifeSpire of Virginia continuing care retirement community in Richmond’s West End. Lakewood provided the care McMullin’s mother would need until the end of her life, including hospice care. “There was no way my mother could play musical chairs and manage changing facilities and care teams every time her care needs increased,” McMullin writes. Her preference for a faith-based community narrowed the list of options even further.

Missing Mary is more than an easy, well-written read about the struggle with Alzheimer’s dementia. Ultimately, it is a story of love given and love received — a lasting tribute to a remarkable woman with the spirit of a champion.

Missing Mary: A Crash Course in Alzheimer’s Dementia by J. Keith McMullin is available for purchase from Amazon. The author will hold a reading and book signing, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, at 5 p.m. in the Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital Education Center (Room 161), 5801 Bremo Road, Richmond, Virginia. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit


Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.