More poems to live by

Alzheimer's is a disease that not only afflicts one of two people over age 85, but it also afflicts their families. My early response to learning my father has the disease was to write about the experience -- what I could observe of his experience and of course about my own emotional reaction to losing pieces of our family history, but by bit.

My dad has progressed and is now more confused by simple conversation. He's moving into the realm of advanced Alzheimer's, and in researching what they now call "memory care" for him, I've discovered interesting new techniques in caring for patients.

One of them involves poetry. The Alzheimer's Poetry Project involves reading classic poems to patients, poems they might have learned as children. Gary Mex Glazner is the director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (APP), which has been featured on NBC’s Today show and NPR’s Weekend Edition. APP's can be started in any community.

Their website states that the project serves people in late stages of Alzheimer’s, those who have a hard time holding a conversation or even speaking. Yet they respond to the poems by saying words and lines along with the poet. They often laugh at a funny poem or weep at a poignant one -- and even people who no longer recognize family members still recognize the poems of their youth.

This wonderful project raised in my mind a sad question -- what will they read to the next generation of patients, people who never learned poems as children? Now that poetry has all but disappeared from schools, along with the rest of the arts, will they try to use mathematical problems to spark aging memories?