An Aging Benefit

With aging comes experience (most of the time). And as we and our parents or children age, the more family members within two generations can understand each other. My parents have become elderly in the last several years, and I returned to Brooklyn partly to help them. Perhaps my experience with PTSD, poor memory in particular, has catapulted me into a zone of understanding with my parents. Even my mom brought it up, mentioning an article she read in a medical paper (she was a doctor) saying that people with PTSD are 56% more likely to develop dementia.

Unfortunately for me, signs of dementia are clear at the age of 45. But this experience brings me closer to my dad who, just yesterday, asked me if I was taking him home that day even though we are scheduled to drive back to my parents’ house tomorrow.

Unlike my dad, I do things to improve my memory. I play games that are good for the brain. I have a lifetime subscription to Lumosity. I eat fats, including Omega-3s, and often from whole foods. And then there are coping tools. I keep pens and paper handy to jot down notes to telephone conversations. I ask my co-workers to send me emails or instant messages, which I keep as transcripts in the program Adium. I often refer to these. I’m big on text messaging and I archive messages. But he is unwilling to do anything to combat dementia. I don’t think he fully accepts it. I would write, “Dad, I hope you read this.” But I’m pretty sure he won’t.

The signs of dementia for me are clear in mundane things.

Multiple times in an evening, before going to bed, I start to prepare to brush my teeth. The first time, it’s clear my teeth need flossing and brushing, so I proceed. But the second time, I go into the bathroom, and before reaching for my toothbrush I think, “My teeth feel funny. Did I brush them already?” Sometimes I feel my toothbrush to make sure. This happens with washing my face also. Often my washcloth tells me whether I washed or not. I’m not sure, but I think this happens almost every day. I’m pretty sure some evenings I brush twice.

Tonight, I waited until ready for bed to brush my teeth. For a moment I wondered if I had washed my face, but today I could tell that it was clean. I washed after coming home from a party. For a while I could not remember if it was in the shower or over the sink. I only remembered while typing that it was over the sink.

This experience makes me more patient with my dad. He is pretty stubborn, so sometimes I speak firmly to him. But more and more, I relate to his forgetfulness. Sometimes being firm is needed to help another person remember. Memory is stronger when there is an emotional component, hence, more mundane things being easier to forget. Sometimes I wish others would be more firm with me to help me remember things. For now, I continue to seek ways to help my plastic brain re-form.