Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who Are You … My Biggest Fear



Aging is not for wimps.  Boomers are living longer than previous generations and often without the benefit of role models; our parents, in general, die or died at a younger age than we will.  Fiftieth birthdays used to be the entry point for final chapters of life.  Now they are the turning points for beginnings.

No matter how healthy we are at 50, however, we will begin to experience losses, some little, some large.  If we are not careful, fear of those losses can get in the way of living more than the actual losses.

My biggest fear is not cancer; there are cures and support.  It is not loss of mobility; physical therapy and wheelchairs can help with that.  Lack of libido?  Not a problem.  Losing a job because I can’t keep up with younger workers?  Not me.  Diseases related to family history, in my case diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease?  Plenty of ways to manage both.  My biggest fear as I get older is Alzheimer’s Disease. Although my parents and their siblings experienced some dementia in their final years, nobody in my family was ever diagnosed with “Big Al”.  But the thought of losing my memory and cognitive abilities in the way Alzheimer’s takes them scares the hell out of me.

You see people you’ve known all your life but you don’t know who they are.  You stubbed your toe but you can’t find the word for that body part you stubbed.  You see things going on around you but you can’t comprehend them. 

I saw a PBS show the other day… I think it was a PBS show … about Alzheimer’s and one of the guests was someone diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  She is only 59 and was diagnosed a couple of years ago.  She talked about some new medical advances that delay the symptoms and even the disease.  Oh yeah, the show was on RLTV.  By the way, not remembering little things like which channel that show was on could be viewed as the beginning of a memory-robbing disease.  Forgetting where you put your keys too.  But those kinds of things are also just normal forgetfulness; we are bombarded with so much data in our 21st Century lives that we can forget little things at any age.  So I’m not worried yet when I forget little things like that, especially because I have such a crazy recall for the littlest details of so many other things past and recent.

My Mother’s dementia didn’t really begin till the last year of her life.  The main thing I remember about the last time I saw her was that she didn’t remember who I was for the first three days of my four-day visit.  It frustrated her but it depressed me.  And my sister told me there were times when they’d be having a conversation about something and my sister would realize mid-paragraph that Mom through she was talking to her old childhood friend and not her daughter.

I don’t have any conclusion to this.  I just wanted to write about a fear.  I think I might finally start a journal, a very private but thorough journal expressing facts and feelings about my life so that if my fear ever happens, people around me can read what I was thinking when I the thoughts connected.

Oh, and I did see this today and thought it was pretty poignant.  It is sort of an Alzheimer’s person’ prayer.


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