Jul 27, 2016

Alzheimer's Patient Remembers 1922, But Not What She Had Just Eaten

Alzheimer's Patients can remember.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

What they remember is stored in their brain before the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

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Alzheimer's patients don't remember the recent past, or much of the now as dementia progresses in their brain.

Here is a good article by Carole Larkin that describes how memory works in dementia patients.

How the Loss of Memory Works in Alzheimer’s, and How Understanding This Could Help You

The brain of an Alzheimer's patient works the same way a computer works. Memories are stored in little files in the brain. The memories that are best remembered have strong emotions attached to them. Once the brain losses the ability to store new memories those memories are for the most part lost.

One night I was sitting with my mother at the kitchen table and we had just finished eating. I asked her, mom, do you remember where you went to first grade. She answered without hesitation - Saint Monica's. Saint Monica's was located in south Philadelphia.

Just so you know I asked this question in 2010! My mother had already scored a 14 on the MMSE an indication that she was already in the moderate to severe stage of Alzheimer's.

I should add that during the conversation my mother asked - are we going to eat today? Her empty plate was sitting right in front of her. She had already forgotten she had just eaten.

Another time, my mother started to sing a song that I had never heard before in my life. A little reseearch determinded that the song had first been made popular by Billie Holiday in 1932. My mother was 16 years old at the time. My mother sang this song in the most beautiful voice you ever heard.

If you would have asked me if this was possible before it happened I would have told you - Not a Ghost of a Chance.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).

The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.

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Tom and Karen Brenner, Montessori Gerontologists, Brenner Pathways