News about dementia is everywhere - online, newspapers, TV and radio. Awareness is wonderful, as dementia has for too long been denied or covered up. For many, dementia in the family has been a source of shame.
So, awareness is great. The more people can talk about dementia, understand that it is a disease that affects many families and that most of us at least know of someone with dementia, the less stigma is attached to the word.
Each new step toward learning more about the disease is closely watched by millions of people worldwide. Why? Because the more we hear about dementia, the more we worry about every little glitch in our own thinking or memory. News stories keep dementia in front of us on a regular basis, and we can begin to obsess. Is this good for us? Well, yes and no.
When to Relax
You've forgotten a dental cleaning and just got a card off to your parents' for their anniversary with a hair to spare. Then, you locked your car keys inside the car. Are you "losing it?" Should you run to the doctor for a checkup in case you are getting early on-set Alzheimer's?
First consider your stress level. If you are juggling a job, home life with teenagers, aging parents and a marriage, unless you are very unusual, you are stressed to some degree. To what degree depends on your makeup and on how well you take care of yourself. We live in a world that fairly demands multiple roles for us all. Why wouldn't we be stressed?
Simplify and delegate. Don't laugh or get mad because I'm stating the obvious - I know it's hard and often seems impossible to accomplish these changes. However, your stress level may be putting your health at risk. It also may be affecting the quality of your life. If your scattered brain is causing you to worry about your mental or physical health, that's a clue. It is affecting your quality of life.
If you are sick, stay home and take care of yourself. If you have vacation days coming, take time off from work. That seems obvious, but statistics show many of us don't even use our paid vacation days. We are obsessed with "doing."
Find ways to get rid of non-essentials. The house can be a bit messy. A few dust bunnies won't kill anyone. Make time for yourself a priority, not something for your "to do" list that you never get around to. Drop some of the volunteer things you are doing until you have your kids out of the nest or you get your parents some care so it all doesn't fall on you. Eat well and exercise.
Then, see your doctor for a physical. Yes, you can mention that you are forgetting appointments and the other things that bother you. In fact, you should. But while you wait for that appointment date (don't forget it), experiment with lowering your stress level. You may find that your memory improves significantly all by itself.
When to Wonder and Observe
Back to forgotten appointments and the car keys. How often are you doing this? Do you consistently forget appointments? Do you mix up the dates of your kids' birthdays or forget to pick them up at school? Are you slipping at work?