Years ago, I was talking to my father and listening to him complain about misplacing his keys or forgetting to do what he considered a daily task. It worried him. He believed it was an indication of brain degeneration. I thought he was being silly because “everybody forgets.”
A while back, I found myself plagued with fear about my own cognitive health – a concern that has continued. I could not, for the life of me, recall someone’s name, someone I’ve known for over six years. I was blank. I picked up my phone to look through the contacts and thought, “I bet her name is at the end of the list,” so I reversed the order of my search and started in the V’s. Her name is filed at the beginning of the alphabet. Being wrong made the feeling worse.
I was horrified.
When JHP, JR was alive I called my forgetfulness “Vicarious Dementia” and pass it off as no big deal. This bit of forgetfulness where I couldn’t pull someone’s name from anywhere in my brain scared me more than forgetting one of my daughters’ many activities, or to call back a friend. This event scared me because as hard as I tried to remember the name, it was gone.
Of course, this got me to thinking about my own situation and what I would do if I was struck by dementia. I realized I’ve been taking steps, somewhat unconsciously, to lessen the likelihood that I will be in the same situation my father is in.
- I rarely drink anymore.
- I’ve upped my vitamin regimen to include nutritional supplements that work on the brain and memory.
- I exercise almost every day. Injuries and illnesses are the only things that stop me.
- I quit smoking.
These are things that normal people do normally, right? Up until a few years ago, I took my long-term health for granted thinking I was nearly invincible. Life changed and I began doing unhealthy things in reaction to my new life circumstances. My current life choices are both a response and a reaction to seeing what my father went through. And, as one dear friend says, I’m not a good drinker and my body lets me know how much it dislikes alcohol. While I have been secretly freaking out about what my situation might be like when I’m older, it turns out this is a worldwide fear. Out of the blue, I received a note from a good friend that included a link to a NY Times article entitled, “Our Irrational Fear of Forgetting,” by Margaret Morganroth Gullete.