Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reading the memory book

As we closed our notebooks and laptops from a NaNoWriMo writing session at Robin's house, almost as an afterthought, Elaine mentioned the Sunday supplement article.  I'd read it, a delightful surprise sandwiched between the celebrity gossip and Thanksgiving recipes in Parade magazine's November 21 issue.  Titled "Unlocking the Silent Prison," it discussed the persistence of reading ability among Alzheimer's patients.  "Even when dementia is so advanced that people cannot speak," writer Christine Wicker quoted speech-pathology professor Michelle S. Bourgeois, "they can read if the words are large enough.  We know because they smile, make pleasant sounds, and stroke photos of loved ones with captions."

Practical woman that she is, Elaine plans to carry this step further, with a dated memory notebook for her nonagenarian grandmother.  Although not suffering from Alzheimer's, the grandmother struggles with short-term memory problems.  Elaine hopes the notebook will tether her grandmother to the present, whose events otherwise flit by too fast to register, events like "today we visited the doctor to see about my knee." Or, "this is a picture of my granddaughter Elaine, who visited me."

Another friend had told me her mother collected crossword puzzles before an anticipated nursing home stay.  I think I'd rather collect memory books.  I can start with a picture of someone I love and write a caption in letters big enough for my eyes to read when they're ninety years old.  "This is my daughter Sylvia.  Yesterday we went to the park.  I read, she crocheted.  We watched the kids playing."  I hope to remember that forever.

To read the complete article, see

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