This summer I had my 65th birthday.
In my heart and mind I tell myself I’m somewhere around 50 years old; blessed with health; physical fitness; freedom in time and resources as compared to the earlier years of raising children and being employed; in love with my husband of 45 years; and have not been tested for nor diagnosed with dementia.
Thank you God, for all of the above.
However, there are times I: forget what I went to fetch when I go into another room; need to repeat a phone number several times to help (and hope) it sticks; can promptly forget your name a minute after I’m introduced to you.
Does this bother me? Uh, yes it does: enough for a part of me to keep “watching for dementia signs” but not enough to practice memorizing my shopping list – I think I’m forever stuck in my habit of using recycled envelopes for that.
The book Still Alice (referral link for novel written in 2007) and the movie that followed revealed the story how ruthless dementia is: affecting some earlier than later – irregardless of intelligence and keen cognition – bringing with it fear and loneliness with the sense of losing oneself as life weaves in and out of blurry stages.
Through observing a neighbour’s early-onset diagnosis and rapid decline, and supporting a friend with her children and their father, dementia’s Russian roulette capacity to show up ‘at will’ and steal life and personality has come ‘closer to home’.
But the reality is: we will all age.
We’re advised to do Sudoku puzzles and to eat the ‘healthy 10-food MIND list‘ which can be good practices for every age. Worry is a bigger struggle for some than others – but it’s probably safe to say everyone at some time has thought ‘will dementia will part of the aging process for me or someone in my close circles’?
For me I receive help and courage in facing this fear of ‘what might be or could be’ by:
Mitchell’s book is illuminating and brimming with courage: a helpful guide for people concerned and connected to all sides of the dementia diagnosis. I hope you will read it for yourself: here are just three highlights.
Following her diagnosis and “there’s nothing we can do, I’m afraid,’ Mitchell writes:
I can still remember the feelings of loss and fear and hopelessness…in the days and weeks that followed, all I could of was that word afraid. It felt so negative, so scary. They were afraid there was nothing….I was afraid there was nothing….if I’d been told yes the diagnosis is dementia….[but] I’ll put you in touch with people who can help you to adapt, who also have a diagnosis…to share tips and tricks…Immediately I would have had hope.
If you’re told by your boss day after day you’re stupid, you eventually feel that way.
A diagnosis [of dementia] is bad enough….devastating news – but that’s where negative language can stop…positive language can begin. If someone tells you day after day that you’re suffering from dementia, you end up believing it. We ‘struggle’ on a daily basis to outmaneuver the challenges we face but, often with help, we can find ways of overcoming those struggles…..[people should] replace the word sufferer with living with.
Wendy, a single Mom with two daughters who by necessity or personality was always extremely organized, uses Post-it Notes and technology to help remind her of routines. Another tool she uses to help outwit this disease was by creating a memory room as soon as she had her diagnosis.
Dementia isn’t an inspirational topic. But considering we don’t all have the privilege of the ‘long view of life’, it’s my hope that your take-away from reading this will be one of hope and some tips you hadn’t thought of before to help yourself or someone you love.
Love and gratitude for being here,
P.S. Whatever stage of life you’re in – I encourage you to be rejuvenated with healthy food, physical movement, living with purpose and joy. If you want to connect with me for a free short chat how I can help you work to help make this happen for you I’m available here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.