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Friday, February 17, 2012

Now Where Was I?

A recent article in Reader’s Digest was reassuring for many of us losing our faculties (and we’re not talking higher education here). That is not to say that at some point in my life, I may not develop clinical
dementia, because the risk is high by age 85 (50%), but for now I'm making it.

I’m blessed with good genetics: my parents are in their late 80s and sharp as tacks, if you don’t count the fact that they are Republicans. My mom has some health issues, mostly related to years of smoking, but neither one has had diabetes or heart disease. So I figure if I take care of my health, I have half a chance of emulating their records and completing my 104-year plan. The trick, I believe, is being with it enough to enjoy it.

Some of the things the Reader’s Digest article brought out included:

Having certain words or phrases stuck in your head: In my case, it’s songs. My inner iPod turns
on at will and plagues me with a song until I mentally switch it to another one, which sticks in my head……

Their expert says this falls under the category of a compulsion, which is not abnormal by itself. The problem is our reaction. If we just go with the flow, we will either become more socially fascinating or at least learn something.

Trouble recalling names: I once drew a blank on my mother’s name when I was introducing her. The same with numbers, so when I’m working, I keep my address and phone number in front of me so I don’t appear to be a total space cadet on the phone. The solution may be to put all important information to music (see above) because I NEVER forget a song.

Apparently, this is normal for people over 50 (waaaay over 50). Estrogen has flown away never to return. Apparently, testosterone is involved as well, because my sweetie and I seem to send a lot of time trying to remind each other of what we’ve forgotten.

Then there are others I wish Reader’s Digest had explained:

Conflicting memories of an event: I can tell a story about someplace we went or something that
happened to a friend, only to have my “sweetie” correct me and say it didn’t happen that way at all. We were in New Jersey, not Oklahoma, and it was ten years ago, not five. Besides wanting to drop him on his head, I worry that something that seemed so clear was so wrong (if I believe his version).

According to Dr. Stuart Zola at Emory University School of Medicine, studies show that a process of memory distortion is at work. The longer the period of time between the event and its recall, the more likely it is that we will recall the event inaccurately or forget it entirely. My husband agrees and maintains that the reason he takes so many pictures is that if he didn’t, I’d never know I went anywhere. I live in hope that I will catch him doing the same thing, but he says that isn’t possible. HE remembers everything accurately.

Losing agility at multi-tasking: When I try to do too much simultaneously, I seem to forget most of them: to call a client for an interview, mail a card on time, keep the soup from burning. We seem to have to reduce the number of balls we have in the air at any one time. The comforting thing is that this type of problem starts being noticed in the 20s and 30s, so if it’s just getting to me now, I’m in great shape!

Other Causes of Memory Loss

Of all the things experts list as contributing to non-Alzheimer’s memory loss: stress, anxiety, depression, dugs, chronic disease, ADHD, alcoholism, infection, and vitamin B-12 deficiency, the only one that could conceivably apply is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. My sister Beth and I are pretty sure it applies to both of us. While not curable, like any chronic condition, it can be managed. So far I’ve managed to only irritate a few people. My goal is to continue to keep that to a damage control level.

An ophthalmologist I visited recently picked up some assymmetry in my optic nerves and has been doing research that sleep apnea (stopping breathing many times a night) is the leading reason for the visual changes and mental lapses like forgetting names and sequences. I jumped on that right away. If there is a physical cause of my memory problems and I can keep my vision, I'm all over it.

WebMD suggests some strategies that speak to my ADHD and memory lapses:

Focus attention on what’s happening now. We ADHD types miss a lot. After not-so-gentle reminders from my daughter-in-law (she was right), I never try and read or do other things when interacting with the family. The here and now is where life is happening. I wish I had cued in on that earlier.

Structure your environment. Like having my address and phone number in front of me when I’m on the phone, I also live and die by my to-do list, or lists: several strategically placed around the house help me keep on task.

Keep PIN and other numbers down to a manageable few variations and keep an accessible record of them. I’m amazed at all the stuff I need personal identification numbers and passwords for. They would be impossible to store in my memory—unless I put them to music, of course. # # #