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Everything Old is New Again for Memoirist with Alzheimer’s

Published on July 7, 2012, by in Commentary, Guest Post.

One of my colleagues in the Association of Personal Historians, Joan Loven, posted to our group’s listserv recently about her work with a client experiencing memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease. Her story speaks to the tremendous benefits of having one’s life story recorded in a book.

Joan writes:

Do you remember Peter Allen’s lyrics to that old tune “Everything Old is New Again,” especially the line: “let’s go backward when forward fails”?

Along those poetic and humorous lines, my business partner Cindy Shoemaker and I at Life In Reflection had the opportunity to become involved in the memories of a retired doctor in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. We were novices as Personal Historians, but eager to give it a go.

His family knew him to be fun loving, adventurous, and always ready with funny stories and lightning quips. They told us that the onset of the disease was very apparent to them. His wife decided that capturing as many of his memories as possible could wait no longer.

She was very helpful in jogging his memory after he would say over and over, “I don’t remember.” Some of our appointments went better than others. But as we and she coaxed out the past, his face would light up in recognition, he’d have a slight smile, and, at times, an uproarious laugh.

The book was six months in the making. We were complimented by the family for having captured his sense of humor. They rejoiced in the results saying “it sounds just like Papa!” That was a great reward for Cindy and for me.

But the real reward came later. In that six month period, Doctor’s malady progressed. Much of his time was spent with loving caretakers – and his favorite book about his memories. They say he sits and reads it over and over, communicating his joy as best he can. At one time, I’m told, he said to his wife, “This is one funny guy!”

I love this business!

Joan Loven

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