English instructor takes ‘punk rock’ approach to tell true stories about dementia care

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation

Peter Wilkins’ comic book is action-packed, but not in the way you might think. I Know How This Ends tells stories about dementia ‒ from the caregiver’s perspective.

Douglas College English instructor and author Peter Wilkins.
Peter Wilkins uses comics to make people think.

Read I Know How This Ends for free online.

 The Douglas College English instructor wrote his book based on interviews with Douglas College faculty and staff, all of whom have cared for relatives with dementia.

“The intention of the book is to present the emotions of the caregiver when their training doesn’t particularly help them care for their relative with dementia,” says Peter.

The comic is structured like a classical Greek tragedy, with a prologue, three episodes and an epilogue.

“The stories we worked with had the elements of tragedy: inevitability, stratagems to avoid fate that merely bring it on and catharsis of negative emotions.”

His book is a part of an increasingly popular use of comic art in healthcare called “graphic medicine,” the use of comics in medical education and patient care.

Read more: Comics open up whole new realm of literary possibilities for English instructor.

For Peter, the concept of graphic medicine makes perfect sense.

“I don’t care for the idea of comics as simplistic communication; I care for the idea of comics as provocative works of art that will make their audience think and think again,” says Peter.

I Know How This Ends is the second volume in a series from Parables of Care. Peter worked on the first book with Ernesto Priego from City University of London and Simon Grennan from the University of Chester. All three scholars wanted to explore comics to capture stories of health professionals.

Read more: This Chemistry instructor is turning coffee waste into biofuel.

Peter was specifically interested in the use of comic art as a research tool to explore subjects in ways that language alone may not be able to access, particularly emotional ideas.

“People underestimate the power of comics to address serious issues,” Peter says. “There’s something satisfying in working in a mode of art that has often been culturally derided as immature, ephemeral and even harmful. It’s punk rock.”

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