Saturday, May 6, 2017

Did You Forget Something?

     "Honey, where did you put the coffee?" I called out to B in the living room. She went to Costco yesterday to pick up some things, mostly for her church picnic, but I had asked her to buy one of Costco's big jars of coffee. Now I was looking for it in the kitchen cabinet.

     "It's on the top shelf," she called back.

     I looked again at the top shelf. But it wasn't there. I looked in a couple of other cabinets. Then B came in and searched around the kitchen. "I don't know," she said. "Maybe I left it in the car."

     "Don't worry about it," I said. "We have enough coffee for this morning. We can check the car later."

     "No I'd rather do it now, while I'm thinking about it." Then, a  few seconds later she asked me: "Do you have the car keys?" They weren't in their regular place.

Where's the coffee? No joking matter.
     We were out late last night, and I drove home. Where were the keys? I looked on the bookshelf where we usually keep them. Not there. I looked on the dining room table. Then I went into the bedroom and found them on my bureau, under a couple of papers ... realizing I had to look for something first, in order to then go look for something else!

     The coffee wasn't in the car. B came back inside. "Did I buy the coffee?" she asked herself. "I'm pretty sure I did." She checked her Costco receipt. It was there. And finally, a minute later, she found the coffee, behind a big jar of pretzels and a bag of cookies sitting on the kitchen table.

     Does this scenario sounds familiar? Do you forget things? Last night we were talking and the movie Sophie's Choice came up in conversation. Who starred in Sophie's Choice? We could both picture the actress, but couldn't retrieve her name. Until later, when it finally came to us: Meryl Streep.

     Then the same thing with Sex in the City. An hour later, while we were doing something completely different, B suddenly blurted out: "Sarah Jessica Parker!"

     The early stages of Alzheimer's disease? Well, despite the evidence, I don't think so. I recently read a long New York Times story called "Fraying at the Edges" about a woman who, at age 69, walked into the bathroom, looked herself in the mirror ... and didn't recognize her own face. She'd been having some problems. She'd lost her train of thought at a meeting and someone else had to bail her out. She kept getting confused over which string to pull to raise and lower the blinds in her bedroom. One day she got off a train, and couldn't figure out what she was doing there.

     She saw a neurologist who administered a cognition test -- count backward from 100 in intervals of seven; say the phrase "No ifs, ands or buts," remember three common words for later (she recalled one) -- and the doctor did indeed diagnose early-stage Alzheimer's.

     Alzheimer's is "degenerative and incurable, and democratic in its reach," as the Times put it. Worldwide, 44 million people have Alzheimer's or related dementia. It is most common in Western Europe, with North America close behind. More than 5 million Americans are believed to have it. The disease affects women more than men, mostly because it's primarily a disease of old age and women live longer than men. People on average live with Alzheimer's about 8 to 10 years, though some of course live longer.

     The doctor put this woman on a drug, Aricept, and she later was included in a trial for a new experimental drug that did seem to slow her decline. She joined a support group. The people shared their stories, played memory games, talked about ways they and their families coped with the disease.

     She found she started relying on her iPhone to make notes, keep her schedule, even to take pictures of places where she had gone so she could remember them. She leaned on her husband, who watched over her schedule, made sure she didn't get lost ... and who drove her around. She had to give up driving after she had a couple of minor mishaps on the road.

     What helped her most, though, was finding a new purpose in life. She and her husband began to talk to groups about living with Alzheimer's. They worked with several organizations to develop strategies for coping with the ravages of the disease. They fought against the stigma of Alzheimer's -- how so many people are in the closet because they're afraid they will be dismissed by friends and colleagues, dropped from social situations, considered no longer relevant.

     Today, five years later, the woman, now 74, is still dealing with the everyday challenges of Alzheimer's. But she is still very much alive.

     Hopefully, neither B nor I will have to face these issues. B's mother is losing the mental sharpness she once had. But B's mother is 100 years old, going on 101. Otherwise, we have no history of dementia in either of our families. But if we ever do become afflicted with Alzheimer's, or any other disease or disability, I hope we will be able to still find some purpose in life, as this woman has found a new meaning in Alzheimer's -- which, after all, is a challenge for all of us retired people, in sickness or in health.
    

22 comments:

Stephen Hayes said...

I seem to be getting more forgetful as I get older, which is problematic since our house has lots of stairs. Whatever I want is usually on a different floor and I'm always retrieving things.

Mona McGinnis said...

It's been said that it's ok to forget where the keys are or the coffee. It's when you can't remember what the keys and coffee are for, that it's a problem.

Terra Hangen said...

That is a brave lady to help others, it is a heart breaking condition or disease. My husband's sister had Alzheimers. I am forgetful just as you describe, where are the keys? the coffee? I do find them though.

Olga Hebert said...

I am forgetful but I comfort myself with the knowledge that I was always that way.

Celia said...

I am forgetful too. My best friend and I have many conversations with a key word, name or place seems unreachable but both of us sigh with relief when the missing word is blurted out of context later. I have my fingers crossed; both my parents made it out of this world with their faculties intact.

Tabor said...

Both hubby and I are losing memory. His mother short-term memory loss in her early 80s and then pretty forgot most of her life in the later years. It was not Alzheimer's but it was not fun. We all can only hope they come up with better medicine.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

We are facing early onet dementis in hubby and it does now have challenging moments. Buddy by virtue of being Sown syndrome is supposedly at risk. Momentarily he is sharper than either of us especially witn movie titles abd TV shows and songs.

retirementreflections said...

When we moved to Beijing, the first Mandarin phrase that our 12-year old son learned was "Nǐ jiànguò wǒ de...ma" ("Have you seen my....?". He then filled in the blank what he currently couldn't find (phone, wallet, backpack...you name it)! He needed this phase to survive his teenage 'forgetfulness'! When I currently 'misplace' something, I use this example and try to have memory strategies in place. I agree that if the signs are persistent or more serious, seeing your doctor and being proactive is key. Great post!

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! While I agree that Alzheimer's can be a terrible disease (my mom had it) I am so encouraged by all the new studies and reports coming out that suggest it isn't nearly as prevalent as our fears sometimes make it seems. Because it is so awful there is the tendency to watch for every little sign, but most of our forgetfulness is just a super busy brain trying to process millions of bits of data. We all know the world is so much faster and busier than just 10 or 20 years ago but we don't give our brains a break and accept that we can't do everything all at once...including bits of information that we don't file away as important. So, optimist than I am I am doing my best to stay healthy as possible but not worried. ~Kathy

JustThinking said...

Counting back from 100 by 7's involves math that I have always wanted paper to work out!

JudyC said...

When applying for LTC insurance I had to count backwards from 100 by threes. Some months later the nurse of my Primary physician said my insurance now required a mental test and said to count backwards from 100. I just figured it was the same test so I counted backward by threes. She looked strange and said try again, so I counted backwards by threes again and went well into the negative number for good measure. Then she went and got the doctor. I finally realized that she did not say "by threes" so I counted correctly and we all had a laugh.

gigihawaii said...

Alcohol kills brain cells.

Still the Lucky Few said...

The issue with your coffee sounds so familiar! At times, Bob and I forget several things in one morning, especially the names of people we haven't seen or talked about for a while, or movies we saw a while ago. We laugh about this—it's been going on for years, and doesn't seem to be escalating, so I don't think we are getting Alzheimers. We are watching it, though, and plan to keep our doctors informed!

Janette said...

Count backwards by 3's? Not happening. LOL. I would be using my fingers and toes.
My new thing is to take a picture of where my car is parked- space number or place in the lot. I have been losing my car for twenty years now. If I forget where I parked a grandchild, I would begin to worry.
Great post---and comments.

Rian said...

My mom, her sister, and my dad's sister all had Alzheimer's. Mom wasn't diagnosed until her 90's, but in hindsight, it did explain a lot. Do I worry about it? No... but it stays in the back of my mind.

And I agree that being a bit forgetful of where you put things isn't an indication, but remembering what you used them for is. I think we all forget words or names as we age... and remember them later.

They say that learning new things (especially a language)creates new challenges for your brain and may hinder Alzheimer's. I read that people who spoke more than one language (and had Alzheimer') had more access to areas of the brain... and thus, less problems. Interesting.

JudyC said...

Referring to comment I made above. Now that I think about it, it may have been to count backwards from 20, not 100. I just can't remember! :-)

Anonymous said...

Looks like a lot more exercise can help. http://www.prevention.com/fitness/how-exercise-can-help-prevent-alzheimers-disease

Tom Sightings said...

Hah, Stephen, but it's good exercise! And Kathy, thanks for your perspective ... I think you're right.

Royce Shook said...

Here is an interesting link about why we may forget. There is a reason for this problem and it is not about age or dementia for most of us. Take a look. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcWUSuMpdso

Wisewebwoman said...

Great post Tom. I had a friend who lived over 20 years with this but in my opinion it was dreadful and it still haunts me.

A long time ago I heard a quick test was closing one's eyes and envisioning a clock at 1.50. I do it all the time to check when I'm all over the place looking for stuff.lol.

XO
WWW

Carole said...

Great post Tom. My husband is in the advanced stages of dementia. He has anosognomia, which essentially means he does not have insight into his medical condition. This part of his brain has been damaged. For him, it is a blessing that he is not aware, as I fear he would be very despondent.

It is a cruel disease, and as you point out, anyone can become afflicted. I predict that as the baby boomers age, this will become even more of a health crisis for our country.

Barbara said...

I confess that I am scared of Alzheimers. No one in my family has had it and I pray that I will not get it either. Of course, the more medicine improves, the more diseases there are out there. Oh well, we do the best we can.