Alheizheimer's, the Long Goodbye: Exploring Alzheimer's Disease

Alheizheimer's, the Long Goodbye: Exploring Alzheimer's Disease
Nancy Reagan: Science, Medicine, Inventions and tech

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: 2-3 class periods


On Saturday, June 5, 2004, President Ronald Reagan died after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.  Throughout those 10 years Nancy Reagan cared for her husband as she took on the cause of more funding for Alzheimer’s research.  This effort resulted in millions of dollars raised for research. Along the way she also became an articulate advocate for stem cell research.  In 2004, Patti Davis, the youngest Reagan child published a memoir of her father’s and mother’s battle with Alzheimer, The Long Goodbye.


Students who participate in this lesson will gain an understanding of the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a greater understanding of the power of memory and of all the things that can go wrong with memory if one has Alzheimer’s disease.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to PowerPoint; or access to a public library; paper, art supplies


To introduce this exploration of Alzheimer’s disease, have students watch the video, “My name is Lisa,” which is available on the website, “Alzheimer’s Association: Just for Kids and Teens,” listed under Resources, below.

Discuss student reactions to the video and ask if anyone in the class has a family member, or knows someone who has Alzheimer’s disease, or is taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease.  Encourage students to share stories of their know knowledge of the disease.

Explain to students that part of the effect of early Alzheimer’s disease is the loss of short term memory.  In order to demonstrate short term memory, divide the class into groups of two and give each dyad a bag containing 12 randomly selected objects.

Ask one member of the dyad to show the other member each object for 2-3 seconds, then put it back in the bag.  Ask the observing member to recall each object in the order in which it was shown.  Ask students to keep track of how many items were recalled correctly.  The point is to show how memory in healthy people is faulty – imagine how difficult remembering things is for a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

After this exercise, working individually or in small groups, students should research various aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and report their findings to the class in some manner – papers, poetry, drawings, PowerPoint presentations, etc.

Extending the Lesson:

Have students create a memory box for the current year, or for last year, if it is now early in the current year.  A shoebox works well for this project. The box can include both photos and artifacts.  It can include special people and events from home, school or both. Invite parents to help with the memory box. Encourage students time to decorate their memory box.

Sources & Resources:


Davis, Patti. The Long Goodbye.New York: Knopf, 2011.

Sakai. Sachiko Means Happiness. Hong Kong: Marwin Productions, 1990.

Scacco, Linda, Ph.D. Always My Grandpa: A Story for Children about Alzheimer’s 

Disease. Washington, D.C.: Magination Press, 2005.

Shriver, Maria.  What’s Happening to Grandpa?  New York: Little Brown and Company and Time Warner Books, 2004.


Alzheimer’s Association: Just for Kids and Teens

What Is Alzheimer's?

Fact Sheet on Alzheimer's

Alois Alzheimer

Alzheimer's First Patients



This lesson was developed by Debra L. Clark, Kent State University.