By gollies, for those that don’t know, June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. (Who determines these things?) Anyway, in a free newspaper I picked up in the lobby of the motel where we stayed for a salmon fishing trip, there it was…a terrifying article listing all the “Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s.”
Because my “forgetter” has been working overtime lately, I had to read the article from top to bottom. Sure enough, there I was: memory loss; trouble solving problems; problem finishing jobs; confusion about time and place; losing things; poor judgement; withdrawal from family and friends…all of it.
Scary, is what the list was, and then I focused on the list of “typical” age-related memory problems:
Forgetting names, but remembering them later. (I can relate to that one.)
Making errors in the check book. (How did the reporter know about that?)
Occasionally needing help with electronic stuff. (I’m paraphrasing here, but at number three on the list, I was beginning to feel hopeful.)
Getting confused as to the day of the week but figuring it out later. (Like retired people need to keep track of that?)
Vision changes. (I’ll let that one slide.)
Sometimes having trouble finding the right word. (I can relate that one, too. I am especially bad at remembering the names of flowers.)
Misplacing things. (If that’s a sign of old age, I’ve been old since age four or five.)
Making bad decisions once in a while. (Once in a while? Okay, as long as it’s only every once in a while.)
Depression. (Oops. Doesn’t life bring us stuff to be depressed about every once in a while? As long as we don’t get stuck there, it’s okay, I think.)
So, what can we “oldsters” do about memory problems? The article says, and I believe it, exercise, eat a healthy diet, read, challenge our minds with puzzles (crosswords, chess, mystery novels), get enough rest, manage our stress, keep in touch with friends.
My wife told me a story about a man who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He decided to do all of those things he had been putting off…regular exercise, eating right, traveling, hobbies, seeing people he had been too busy to visit…those kinds of things. At the end of several months of rest and relaxation, he again visited his doctor. His brain no longer showed signs of Alzheimer’s.
I don’t mean to make light of Alzheimer’s. My heart and prayers go to those who suffer from this terrible disease. But I draw comfort from knowing the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s and to know there are things we can all do to support our mental health.