Speech and Language Rehab for PPA Patients

Word retrieval therapy shows promise for patients with primary progressive aphasia

A November 2013 article from the journal Brain and Language discusses a treatment that might help improve language performance in patients diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia (PPA). PPA causes deterioration in areas of the brain that control speech and language, causing a gradual decline in communication abilities. Read more

The Art of Coping

How to address the behavioral changes in patients with Alzheimer’s disease

photo of mother and daughter
The formal definition of a caregiver is “a person providing direct care to an individual (adult or child)”—Webster’s Dictionary. Read more

December Poem of the Month: “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” by W.B. Yeats

Selected for the UCSF Memory and Aging Center by Hellman Visiting Artist Jane Hirshfield

John Singer Sargent Portrait of William Butler Yeats, 1908

John Singer Sargent Portrait of William Butler Yeats, 1908

For the final of this year-long series of poems that touch on aging, memory, and the gathering-up of a life as it enters its final turnings, I can think of no poem more richly apt than “The Circus Animals’ Desertion,” by W.B. Yeats (1865–1939).

Ralph Waldo Emerson described a poem as “not meter, but a meter-making argument.” Yeats himself said that an argument with others is merely rhetoric: a poem is an argument the poet is having with himself. The central argument of this poem is not, as it first may appear, about inspiration’s diminishment in age, or writer’s block. It is an artist’s—and art’s—own self-questioning: Does a life given over to imagination’s workings feel, in the end, one that has been worthy? “Players and painted stage took all my love,/ And not those things that they were emblems of”—the admission is not dishonest. Yet this poem, a wrestling with rhyme and memory, with history and this moment’s clear-seeing, proves its own statement false. Yeats’s final, much-quoted lines return us to a realm in which art’s aspirations and the unembellished, unbeautied world (“the rag and bone shop of the heart”) are recognized for what they truly are: inseparable. However difficult, at times impossible, the heart-mysteries’ unfolding, the task of expansion and expression is not vain.

I thank the Memory and Aging Center and Hellman family’s generosity for the privilege of having been the Hellman Artist in Residence this past year. Read more