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What is a legacy? It is how we will be remembered. Why is it significant? Our legacy will live on long after we are gone. The truth is we do not always choose our legacy, it is often created by the impression we leave on others like footprints in the sand.
“A legacy is the part of a patient that will persist into the future, even after death.”
This quote from the medical journal of humanitarian and scientist Dean Hart, perfectly summarizes the importance of preserving legacy for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. A legacy goes beyond who an individual is today, it is how they will go on to be remembered. Dean Hart explores the depths of Alzheimer’s Disease and expands on ensuring a person’s autonomy and legacy are preserved.
Person of the Lifetime
The term “person of the lifetime” refers to the patient’s past experiences and perception prior to diagnosis. Alzhemier’s Disease impacts the individual’s memory and hinders their previous aspirations through its profound effects. Dean Hart Alzheimer’s medical journal compares the “person of the lifetime” to the “person of the moment,” which is the patient experiencing memory loss after diagnosis. The disease creates a disconnect between these “personhood”. To assist in bridging the divide between personhood directives are crucial. Directives can be responsible for recognizing and maintaining the continuity of the individual despite the progression of the illness.
Philosophy, Values, and Legacy
Two elements that assimilate to form a personal legacy are the individual’s philosophies and values. During the course of eight to twelve years after diagnosis patient’s experience a progressive decline in their cognitive functions, however their values and philosophies remain intact at the root of their consciousness. It is highly recommended in the medical journal that Alzhemer’s patients document in detail their requests prior to significant memory loss and cognitive impairment. In preparing for the future, their wishes should additionally be documented and esteemed. A legacy is not solely decided by the future, it must focus on both parts of the individual’s identity, which include past and present life experiences.
Preparing for the Future
Alzheimer’s is devastating for individuals diagnosed and the people closest to them so it is pivotal that these patients feel their legacy will be intact. After the course of a lifetime a legacy lives on. Through early preparation and diagnosis, patients can better secure their sense of legacy for themselves as much as the ones who love them.
Hart, D. (2021). Advance Directives and Research Advance Directives: Preserving Legacy and Autonomy in Alzheimer’s Disease. Voices in Bioethics, 7. https://doi.org/10.52214/vib.v7i.8594
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