Am I Losing My Mind?
The EndGame #1, March30, 2021
Harold and I have been good friends for more than half a century. Living hundreds of miles apart, we only see each other about once a decade, so a telephone call from Harold is always a welcome event. When he called a few months ago, however, there was something odd in his tone that I couldn’t quite figure. As he told me about his latest events, his children and his grandchildren, there was a sense of wrapping up. Then he got down to the critical piece he’d been holding back.
“Things haven’t been right in my head lately,” he said. “I’m forgetting stuff – not like where did I put the keys but major stuff like what day is it? It seems to be getting worse. So next week I’m going to be evaluated for Alzheirmer’s.”
My stomach dropped and sadness pummeled me like an ocean wave. “That’s terrible,” I said. “That would be tragic.”
The talk continued, subdued and somber, then he wrapped it up and promised to let me know the results of the testing.
I was sad for a week, until I received a text from Harold: “Brain MRI was good.”
What a relief! And not, to be honest, a surprise. Because I have been having the Alzheimer scare myself for several years. As I think about it, it is probably a scarier thought than cancer. With cancer, at least, the treatments are improving and survivor rates are rising. Alzheimer’s, to date, is a disease without a cure.
And it is a horrible disease. That I can attest. I saw my mother’s long, slow decline from the woman I knew to a person whose memory of the recent past evaporated, then to one who seemed to remember nothing in her life since her 15th birthday. In the end she was a body inhabited by someone I did not recognize, a frightened, trapped animal who was mean, aggressive, and racist.
The notion that Alzheimer’s might be hereditary had me on early alert for warning signs. I found them, too. First I could not recall names – even of people I know well – even of people standing right in front of me. Then it was words and phrases. I would begin telling a story I’ve told often before and before I could reach the punch line, it had floated out of my brain. Words that I could once recall on speed dial now arrive via parcel post, if at all.
But this is normal “forgetfulness.” Doesn’t that sound better? It’s included in that package of mixed blessings we call aging. After six or more decades of living, the old noggin gets crowded with details, and those fleet-footed neurons that carry ideas from deep storage to accessible memory to tongue have lost some spring in their step. Some of them may use a walker. A few won’t travel until they have a nap.
Garden variety memory loss can be triggered by medications, alcohol, stress, depression, a blow to the head, not enough sleep, or not enough vitamin B1 and B12.
Some medical “experts” (i.e., online content creators) have dozens of helpful suggestions to help arrest memory loss. Believe whatever you want about the efficacy of working the crosswords, doing sudoku puzzles, playing violin, or eating kale. The best advice I’ve heard so far is: Suck it up and get used to it.
And be thankful it’s not Alzheimer’s.
For More Resources:
Home Tests for Alzheimer’s: https://www.verywellhealth.com/alzheimers-tests-98647