ALZHEIMER’S – COULD YOU BE NEXT?
Before we begin this discussion, perhaps we should consider what we want to accomplish. If you are reading articles covering the subject of Alzheimer’s Disease, what information are you seeking?
Are you worried because someone close to you has developed some rather questionable or “quirky” character traits? Maybe the person for whom you worry is a face you see each day in the mirror?
Are you worried because in the family history, signs of dementia have surfaced quite liberally across the generations? Could it be that although you read articles on this devastating issue, you might sit and worry for naught?
Rather than talking about statistics, let’s stop right here. Yes. Just stop. I am asking you to think about how unproductive that approach might be.
Before you get yourself all twisted around emotionally, consider why you would do that to yourself. Better still why would you let anyone cause you that much grief?
You will never need statistics to determine that everyday, you are one day older.
Each day that you awaken, you face the opportunity for some part of your package to fail or become obsolete.
Before you live to acquire all of those so-called age related ailments, you could be killed or maimed from merely falling out of bed.
In other words, you could become derailed in your efforts to lead a long and healthy life at any given moment in time. So, let’s change the path of this train of thought.
Strategies. Living is about developing strategies. Life is about having strategies for living and dying. How do you wish to die?
Some years ago, I arranged for a surprise birthday party for my mother. She was turning 74. In my family, the usual expectation is to reach the mid 80’s and then some. I asked people to think about how they would feel is she actually died; then celebrate the fact that she was still alive. I asked them to her all of the things they would say in her passing while she could listen and enjoy.
Mom had a wonderful time! She renewed old friendships and sent Thank You cards out for almost an entire year.
Next on the agenda: We started practicing for the possibility that she might live to at least 90. By suggesting 90 as the marker while she was still in her 70’s, it gave her some objective distance to work withsomething not so close as to strike fear in her heart.
Our conversations went something to the effect: From now until you reach 90, how would you like .
We had all sorts of questions based on the idea that she might live until she reached 90. We talked about how she would like people to treat her (professional practitioners included). We talked about what to do if she could not live on her own.
Sometimes it would happen that she would visit a doctor who might encourage her to do things we long ago decided would be more stressful than helpful.
One such doctor decided on her behalf that she should have teeth pulled and replaced. The ensuing discussion clarified the fact that her teeth had not been bothering her.
Another helpful doctor referred on to a specialist for a Barium Enema to follow up on known family history. The ensuing discussion in that instance gave way to the fact that if she were to find something in her bowel, the cure for her would be worse than the disease probably. My mother was not one who could “do” surgery. Recovery for her would have been brutal. We actually cancelled the appointment.
As it was, Mom died at 82 of bone cancer. If she had found it earlier, she would not have been able to cope with the barrage of tests that might have accompanied the disease. Instead, she had a wonderful time with only minimal medications.
On the other hand, my father had Alzheimer’s along with bone cancer when he died at 85. He had been saying, probably from when he was about 50, that he had Alzheimer’s Disease. It would not have made much difference in his life had he been assessed all of those years ago.
Dad’s life never really altered until the last couple of years of his life. In the last year of his life, my father was still climbing fences to take shortcuts to get to the clinic for doctors’ appointments. He only moved to a nursing home about a day or so before he died. So go figure.
You see the real issue is, are you completely honest about how well you cope with disease in any form? Many people say they want to know. Only until the reality is staring them down and they are caving at the knees. Everything else is jive.
A better suggestion would be to think about the support you can develop over the years. Alzheimer’s is a disease of the mind. If you are forgetful, is it possible to implement a life-style that allows for your worst-case scenario to be played out? If you live alone, and you find yourself forgetful, should you continue to live alone? Why would you wait until the memory loss leaves you that vulnerable?
While you are able to make decisions on your own, think about your own particular tolerances. Base your decisions and choices on things you feel you could learn to live with. Spend time considering the extremes. What would be your worst-case scenario and then what would be you r best? What you could live with and what would you never ever want featured in your life?
After you have done all that, go out there and live as if each day might be your last. After all, it really is a God thing, isn’t it?