From the Silver Pen of Kevin Montes

 

This week, we are honored to present the four winning essays recognized in Senior Living Communities’ Silver Pen writing competition.  The competition was open to high school seniors in Vero Beach, Fla., Melbourne, Fla., Spartanburg, S.C., and Carmel, Ind.  This year, we received over 100 entries and were thrilled with the amount of interest high school students showed in the aging process and in the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, specifically.  They were asked to write on the following topic:

“Nearly 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s which is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.  Contrary to scientific evidence, many caregivers with loved ones who are diagnosed with the disease believe that some memories never go away completely – they just emerge spontaneously and less often as the disease progresses.  Do you believe memories are a function of our physical bodies or do you believe that memories live on even if we cannot recall them?”

Each day this week, we will post the winning essay with a brief bio and picture of our winner. To learn more about the second, third and fourth place winners and read their essays, visit the Silver Pen website at http://silverpen-slc.com.

Today, we feature Kevin Montes from Viera, Florida.  Kevin is a senior at Viera High School, and will graduate as valedictorian in a class of 521 students.  Following graduation, he plans to attend the University of Florida to earn a Bachelor’s in Engineering, and pursue a graduate degree. Kevin is a life-long Melbourne resident and his free time is devoted to church ministry at Ascension Catholic Parish and playing soccer competitively.  He is particularly interested in the power of the mind, and participated in The Silver Pen due to his interest in Alzheimer’s disease and the nature of memory.

Kevin’s essay is as follows:

They say a man is the sum of his past experiences. Every friend we have met, every conversation we have had, and every encounter we have made all become a part of us on the most subconscious level. They influence the decisions we make, and thereby the habits we form and the people we become.   If the maxim is true, this storehouse of episodic information is vital to the identity of each and every one of us, which begs the question: what happens when we can’t remember any of it?

This is one of many questions that Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers have long been asking. Nowadays, one out of every eight older Americans suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and in light of the increasing elderly population, evidence suggests the number will continue to grow. The disorder brings with it impairment to cognitive functioning causing slow, progressive loss of memory. Yet “loss of memory” is a misleading term. Do patients really lose possession of the most intimate memories they have of their lives? This would be a sad reality, one in which Alzheimer’s patients slowly lose bits and pieces of their very selves until they can no longer grasp their own identities.

On the other hand, there is another possibility. Memories may not be gone forever as a result of physical damage, but rather misplaced, hidden, and almost waiting to be discovered.

Consider the lock and key analogy. A locked safe may harbor a beautiful treasure, yet it cannot be opened without the key whose design is specific to the lock itself. If a person is unable to see and hold the treasure, this does not mean that the treasure is any less tangible or real, but merely that the person lacks the key sufficient to acquire it. In the same way, memory functions much like a lock and key system. Alzheimer’s victims do not completely lose their memories, but merely lose the ability to recall them at their leisure. Any caregiver may notice this when suddenly her Alzheimer’s patient remembers the names and faces of the family that he had completely forgotten just days earlier. This is a sign that the patient has succeeded; he has found the right key.

The brain is a very beautiful yet complex organ. Perhaps the apparent “loss” of memory experienced by those with Alzheimer’s disease is simply its way of adding on bigger and better locks to safeguard treasures from pressing brain damage. We may never know what is going on inside the mind of one afflicted with matured Alzheimer’s disease, but we can remain hopeful that his treasures are safe. For that is what memories are – treasures that give us a true sense of self.

 


 

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