When to Make Decisions When Living with Dementia
A bad bout of bronchitis. That's the doctor's diagnosis of the illness with which I was plagued last week. I am no stranger to this malaise, but this time it affected my short-term memory and ability to make decisions. Let me explain...
In addition to hacking, coughing, wheezing and choking, I fought all week to remember-- where did I put my glasses? my Brain Game? my purse? I had trouble remembering to take my medication. I had lost much of my appetite and would tend to not eat much during the day (not a good thing for my diabetes). My husband had to repeat conversations we had, ones of which I had no recollection of having had...and I appeared to have a hard time making decisions. That was definitely a new problem for me!
Case in point: For weeks before I came down with the bronchitis, my husband and I had been cleaning out our shed. Having brought two households together three years ago, we had accumulated a lot of "good junk". Since we are trying to downsize, we thought this would be a good time to get rid of it. We had two places to take the items: Salvation Army and CSS, a community based support system. We had no trouble dividing up the treasures into two parts, so each place would receive some items. It was during this past week that we were deciding where to take what.
And therein lied the problem. Each time we discussed this, I gave a different opinion. In the beginning, my husband was taking it for granted that what I had said was how it would be. But by the next discussion, when I gave my opinion, it was the opposite of what it had been before. Indecision? NO! I had no memory of what I had said before. So, each time, my new opinion was exactly that - NEW to me.
My husband was becoming increasingly exasperated with each new discussion. We finally realized what was happening, talked about my inability to remember what I had said, and decided that he would make the final decision. On delivery day, our items were delivered successfully, and that stressful part of our week was done.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said of decision-making: "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide." This week I began to understand just what he meant. I am wondering if the inability to make a decision experienced by many dementia and Alzheimer's patients might not be directly caused by their lack of short-term memory. I can only believe that it may somehow hold a connection.
I know that illness does affect everyone in many ways. Even normal, healthy people will have trouble with patience, decision making, and memory when faced with a short-term acute illness. Because dementia has already weakened my short-term memory, it was made worse temporarily by the bronchitis. This, in turn, caused me to experience a temporary breakdown in decision making. What appeared to be a problem with decision making was really a problem with short-term memory. Thankfully, I am on the mend and my short-term memory, is returning to its wonderful (though limited) self. Why, this morning I even knew where my Brain Game was...
But, where's my purse?