Senior Moments?

Senior Moments? - After seeing the movie Still Alice, Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, worries about having Alzheimer's.I entered the gym thinking about the movie, Still Alice, wondering if I had early Alzheimer’s since I misplaced my wallet and had more than my regular share of senior moments the past week. Forgetfulness, memory loss, slowed thinking, difficulty concentrating, losing track of time, anxiety, depression, feeling detached and isolating oneself are symptoms common to both Alzheimer’s and grief. It’s been almost four years since my daughter died but lately I’ve been losing and forgetting everything, all over the place. And after seeing Still Alice, I dreaded getting Alzheimer’s as much as I dreaded getting cancer.

“Robin?” A voice grabbed me from my thoughts. “Shoshanna, Marika’s friend,” said a beautiful young woman who did not look familiar. I thought, Shoshanna? I only know one Shoshanna, my daughter’s friend. But this isn’t Shoshanna. The stranger hugged me. I was aware she was warm from her workout while I was cold from outside.

“Oh hi. How are you? What are you doing these days?” I asked, searching her eyes for some connection. For a full minute I listened and hoped my face did not reveal my confusion. It felt like the scene from the movie where Alice stands, lost, staring at a spot she’d frequented most of her life.
Slowly, as this vibrant young woman spoke, it came back to me: Shoshanna as a kid sitting on a staircase outside her mother’s house, her father snapping pictures at a prom, Shoshanna at the house, visiting Marika at the hospital. Wild, unpredictable. Loyal. The breathy awkwardness of the younger Shoshanna was now replaced by a smooth confidence radiating from the adult before me.

Showering after my exercise class, I wondered how different Marika would have looked as a twenty-six year old. I thought of Shoshanna. This was someone who will remember my daughter long after I die or if I sink into Alzheimer’s and can no longer remember what I have or have lost. I wished I had recognized her sooner and greeted her more warmly. She would have left the gym by the time I dressed. “Visiting my parents for the break, … DC, … Michigan,” she’d said. Maybe I’d never see her again. Maybe if I did, I would not recognize her at all next time. And perhaps, if I slid down the slopes of dementia, she would not recognize me. It’s probably a good thing that what I worry about is heavier than what I can hang onto.

 

Does anyone else ever fret about getting Alzheimer’s? What keeps you up at night?

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14 thoughts on “Senior Moments?

  1. SusanB

    Hi Robin, a timely blog post as I’m fed up with the fog that fills my head, and the railroad of fragmented thoughts that runs all night long keeping me awake and increasing the weariness.
    I also understand the tangle of emotions when the transformed childhood friends of my son present themselves to me bursting with (a) liveliness and I’m left starving, the massive hole inside overwhelming with its emptiness.
    I think I’ve got all the symptoms of menopause, although I’m fearful as well because all the women on my father’s side died with dementia. Yet, you and I don’t need a doctor to tell us were are suffering with post – traumatic stress.

    80% of the patients I care for are old and with some form of dementia. We are going to die. Our culture is so afraid of death that we hang on. We prolong the suffering of those we love when we need to let go and not get in the way just because WE can’t bear to live without them. We can stop all medications, but control pain, and let our old die when it is their time. We’re not meant to live forever. (I’m off the soap box).

    Just lately I’ve begun to meditate, and even thought I can only manage 15 seconds or so – seriously  – it really helps to bring me back from dithering, or daydreaming, or fretting, in the least I’m feeling I can take back control.

    Two very helpful books:
    Buddhist Boot Camp by Timber Hawkeye – also on FB
    The Zen Path Through Depression – Phillip Martin
    I’m also taking a product with collagen and berries that helps with clarity, but I’m a distributor so won’t say anymore unless you’re interested.
    Hugs dear Robin.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thanks, Susan. I’ve actually been thinking of starting up meditation again. It was good for me once and I lost track or time or something – I never meant to just drop it. But even more, as you mentioned, I need to do something to get over the fear of death. Just attending Death Cafes isn’t enough. Going through a beloved one’s dying has made life dearer but we all need to recognize when it’s coming to the end, and embrace that. Cheers to you.

      Reply
  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    I saw STILL ALICE recently also, Robin, and sobbed my way through it, since I watched Adrian live with it before he died. I cried when Alice said to her husband, “You work all the time.” That’s what I did to Adrian.

    For me, watching the movie was painful, but meaningful. We had watched Adrian’s mother live with and then die from Alzheimer’s when I was married to Adrian. It is a horrible, scary disease. But none of us knows what lies around the corner for us–except death in some form. One moment at a time.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yeah, Lynne. And we just have to try to love the good and the bad times because that’s what we have. It must have been so hard to go through that with Adrian’s mother, and then Adrian. Watching some of what I’ve lived through in a movie feels almost validating. It is fascinating even though it jerks me to tears. Mostly it assures me I’m not alone and that this is part of life – I am part of life. “Painful, but meaningful” is exactly right. Many cheers!

      Reply
  3. Elaine Mansfield

    I get it, Robin. I ask myself similar questions about losing things and keeping order. Sometimes I seem to live in a dream. I also share in your musings about how things might have been without death. With Vic, it’s about missing the icing on the cake at the end of life. Harder with Marika, I imagine. A sense of disbelief. I’m glad there are old friends who remember. So glad.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I guess we get to lick the icing off the cake ourselves, Elaine. With whoever we want to share it with. And keep in our thoughts that they would have wanted us to have and enjoy. And lift a glass or light a candle and blow a kiss to them, wherever they are. Glad too.

      Reply
  4. Kimberly Ryan

    Oh Markia, I can so relate to all you say. Unfortunately I don’t run into any of Matthew’s friends, I think they’ve mostly moved away from our area. Almost 5 and half years since he hasr Matthew crossed over …… and I too (just the other day in fact) wonder what he would look and be like at age 34 (this October), a young adult but yet closer to a more mature man, would his hair be turning gray? Would his physique have changed? Heavier? slimmer? more robust?
    One thing I know for sure, the twinkle in his eye when he smiled would still be there.
    Thanks so much for an opportunity to write about this, your Canuck friend, Kimberly

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I love to hear about Matthew so write about him anytime here. Maybe it’s better not running into his friends. This morning I was at a gym class with the mother of one of Marika’s friends. I asked about her daughter, hoping it wouldn’t freak her out. The friends and the mothers of the friends were all important people to me before. And they are real people who I may run into again and again, living in a town like Ithaca. So it would be grand if we all could accept what happened. But I know it is still hard for many. When some see me, they see The Mother Of The Girl Who Died. But when I see them, especially Marika’s old friends, I see life going on. For a moment I get to remember that Marika would have been 25 now and it’s neat to get a glimpse of what that might look like. Cheers to you, Kimberly. (gotta look up Canuck)

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hi Leslie. It is so good to hear from you. Just seeing your name on my site brought smiles. I hope you’re well. And yes, I’m over sixty now, so I guess I’m in good company for worrying about this. And a million other things on my body that can break down. I like the term you used, “unspoken fear.” Isn’t it great to be able to write about it or look online and find that everybody else you know is on the same channel?
      Thank you for responding. And for helping Valentina. Cheers!

      Reply
  5. Annette Corth

    Dear Robin,

    I frequently think about Alzheimer’s especially since I am forgetting names and words more and more these days. But the show goes on! At my age more than half of the people will fail victim to the disease. Nothing can be done about it, so eat, drink, be merry. The worst thing is the burden it puts on one’s family when it comes to caregiving. .

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Well, as you said, let’s eat, drink, and be merry. Neither you nor I have much family that’s gonna be there for care-giving. Might as well keep paying the bills for longterm health insurance and dance as long as we can. I wonder if old inhibitions go first? Hugs!

      Reply
  6. Robert

    Alzheimer’s is indicated when a memory is gone. You never get it back. If you forget something, but eventually remember it, then you are not suffering from Alzheimer’s.

    If you notice your memory is “sluggish” but works eventually, then it could be another issue. Anything from cholesterol slowing down the synaptic nerves in the brain (Lipitor or another statin will with help this) to dementia (challenge the brain with things like crossword puzzles, etc to reduce the effect). Also check your diet.

    A good medical diagnostician is a great help in figuring out what is happening. I just went through this myself, and we inferred that it was the cholesterol problem. A daily statin tablet and I am seeing a slow yet identifiable improvement.

    If you are noticing just a little forgetfulness then it could simply be age related. Our brains begin slowing around age 45 or so. Always put your keys in the same place, and park your car in the same place at the store. It won’t improve your memory, but people will think you have great recall as they search for their vehicle and you know exactly where you park, every time!

    Have a great day, Robin!
    -Robert

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you so much, Robert. I’m still sorting things out but it feels great to have someone knowledgeable, or one who has visited the same territory, on my support squad. I already figured out the parking “trick” after who-knows-how-many times I had to circle the parking lots at Wegmans. And these days I keep the keys tied to the purse (please don’t say, “what if you forget your purse?” – it’s actually a backpack now so it’s always attached to me) but the next thing is bringing this up with my primary care doc. Last year I forgot.

      Reply

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