Donna, 65, is a retired elementary school teacher diagnosed last year with early stage probable Alzheimer’s. She lives with her partner Betsey and their two cats, Shadow and Idgy, near the coast of Maine. Her three children and their families live close by.
After her retirement, Donna stayed active in education and in her community. She ran a family literacy program, and started and coordinated a community time bank. She’s cut back on her community work, but her involvement with the arts is growing. She plays African drums, and loves to read and write. Lately she’s been writing poetry and learning to paint with water colors.
This Christmas, she wrote a poem about memory that’s as rich as her life - full of seasons, tastes and smells, and family. [To read her poem, click here Download memoriesdonnabeveridge.doc]
Is she more creative now than before she started having problems with memory and thinking? “Given that it's only six months since diagnosis,” Donna says, “I'm not sure if I'm more creative now. What I do know is that creative expression is even more important to me - whether it's writing, painting, drumming. Each requires me to live in the moment, and isn't that a gift of Alzheimer's? I do that better now.”
So maybe it’s just that art becomes a priority. Or maybe there’s something about memory loss that promotes creativity – there have been reports that frontotemporal dementia, in particular, can enhance artistic talent. We may never know. But if there is an “epidemic” of Alzheimer’s as the baby boomers age, maybe it will be accompanied by a renaissance of the arts.