Mondays With Mother: An Alzheimer's Story

In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It is a hard road, and we live it one day at a time. This is a chronicle of her disease and my Monday visits with her.

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Name: Anne Robertson
Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Remembering in the body

I'm on a posting spree today but wanted to share one bit of information I got while here at Conference. I guess it's not really new information...just confirmation of an important facet of this terrible disease.

It was early on at The Birches that one of the staff there told us that their philosophy was to create a steady stream of happy moments. She explained to us that even though a person with memory loss may not remember the event itself, the body retains the emotion. A person will stay happy after a pleasant event, even though they haven't got a clue how they got happy in the first place.

Yesterday at lunch I was with a group of other clergy who lead non-profits as I now do. We each told stories that reflected the work we do and the organizations we serve. One woman spoke of her work at Spiral Arts, Inc., a non-profit in Portland, Maine that seeks to transform through spirituality, art, and learning. They serve people in all sorts of different circumstances, but for her little introduction, this woman spoke of what she considered their most meaningful work--their work with elders with dementia. They work with this population to create artwork and she told of a group from a residential facility in the area who they spent an hour or so with creating various works of art.

While those who participated had various levels of success with their projects, depending on their limitations, she noted that the staff at the facility reported that while most of the residents didn't remember a thing about doing the artwork, there was a sense of calm and tranquility that permeated the whole facility for the entire day.

It was an important reminder, and since Spiral Arts (like many non-profits in these difficult economic times) is struggling to keep its ministry afloat, I thought I would give it a plug here. You can follow the links above to their website, contact them at or write them at 156 High Street, Portland, ME 04101.

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