The opening paragraphs of Goran Mijuk and Michael Mildner’s “House of Memories,” a masterly long article on dementia, evoke piercing horror and an almost unbearable poignancy. The story’s grim power, its terrifying images—and its equally exquisite description of the wonderful Adullam nursing home for the demented in Switzerland—has won a first-place award for the two Novartis journalists in the “Best Long Feature Article (Print and Electronic)” category of Ragan’s 2015 Employee Communication Awards.
Dementia, as described by Mijuk and Mildner, seems designed to plant despaimr in the very heart of humanity. The reader is shocked by the intensity of suffering of the caregiver whose husband suffers from Korsakoff’s syndrome, an uncommon type of dementia. Its power appears calculated to drag the healthy caregiver into the same cauldron of horror as her husband:
“It is even more difficult to bear when moments of lucidity keep occurring and the patient speaks and acts clearly as before, thus giving the impression that the disease can be stopped.”
But this nightmare is just setting up the loving caregiver for more horror:
“Lucid moments such as these—when the patients appear to think, speak and act normally—can also trigger problems because these deeply ingrained slivers of memory make dementia patients walk back and forth nervously, cry, or hide away in fear.”
The writers bring to life the victim’s descent and transformation into an unrecognizable version of his former self.
This is organizational journalism at its very best. Mijuk and Mildner grab their readers by the heart and throat, and their refusal to offer false or premature hope gives added power to their article.
Congratulations to Goran Mijuk and Michael Mildner, and to Novartis for believing that employees have the strength and courage to face this demon down and fight it to the very end. Kudos also to the photographer, Laurids Jensen.