Keeping Their Fire Burning, Even When Their Memory Gives Out

Eric J. Hall Health Guide
  • Holding on to Precious Memories


    My son, Arthur, recently received his first haircut. Arthur is 14 months old and every part of him has grown quickly, including his hair. We agonized over when and where to have his hair cut. Finally, after weeks of deliberations, my wife and I decided that this past Saturday was the day.


    We arrived at the children's barber shop and were anticipating the fight of our lives. He would never sit through it all, we told ourselves. He would probably end up getting hurt or causing the barber an enormous amount of aggravation. We sat Arthur in the chair and prepared for the worst.

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    You could imagine how surprised we were to see him sitting calmly and playing with the toys they had for him at the shop. A few times he looked around at the barber, wondering what she was up to, but then he returned to playing.


    I had a precious moment in the midst of it all. I became fully aware of what was happening: my son sitting through his first haircut, and my wife playing with him and his toys. The memory of the moment is so clear.


    Last week, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America's director of membership, Rosie Aponte, hosted a call with our Early-Stage Advisory Board. All of the members are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and are at various stages of its progression. At the moment, all of them are having some cognitive difficulties, but are still able to participate with enormous insight and vigor. The group is anxious to get involved and to speak for themselves. As members of the Early-Stage Advisory Board, they want to express their feelings about their disease and want to lend their voice to making a difference. Alzheimer's disease may be robbing them of their memories, but not their passion to make every moment count. I stand in awe of their commitment and their courage.


    Memories, like the one of Arthur's haircut, are a critical part of our lives. In many ways, memories make up who we are and what we stand for. It is heartbreaking when they disappear as a result of illnesses like Alzheimer's disease.


    But as Alzheimer's disease robs people of their memories, it is not able to extinguish the fire in the human heart: the fire of love, hope and dignity. We should all provide the highest quality of care for people with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses because we want to recognize and honor the responsibility of tending the fire that burns inside each of them.


Published On: August 29, 2007