2007 - A Good Year In Spite of Dementia
With the new year approaching, I am being reflective. I don't know what 2008 will hold for me. This year, 2007, brought me dementia and time to get used to the diagnosis.
The year 2007 started out innocently enough. I had signs of a problem: forgetfulness, inability to follow directions given in any form, etc. My neurologist was concerned, so I was sent to George Washington Hospital for testing with a psychologist. I was diagnosed with Cognitive Disorder NOS. Social Security then sent me to one of their doctors where I received the final diagnosis of dementia.
My family and I had to get used to the diagnosis of dementia. My husband has been a true partner in every sense of the word. At first, I lamented about having gotten him involved with someone with dementia-after all, we had been married less than 3 years. (I immediately considered "letting him go" so that he wouldn't be saddled with me. Thankfully, he rejected that idea, saying we are a team. And what will be, will be. And that he is here with me forever. Boy, do I love that man!)
Before the diagnosis, I thought we had the rest of our lives to enjoy one another. Now we know that we have only today, and maybe, hopefully, many tomorrows of enjoyment. But we also know that the dementia can and will worsen and that someday he will be my caregiver.
As for the rest of my family, I think my daughter and granddaughter choose to ignore the facts. They live far enough away that they are not faced with it very much. My only sister has finally accepted my dementia and looks for ways to help me. My brothers and father don't really acknowledge it unless it rears its ugly head and they can see direct results of the dementia, such as my forgetfulness. A favorite cousin reads my blog faithfully and comments often, encouraging me.
Other aspects of my life have been affected. I have always been religiously oriented and 2007's diagnosis did not cause me to waver in my faith. If anything, it has given me greater strength. It has opened my eyes to the beauty of life and all that it entails. It has sharpened my senses, somewhat, even though my memory lags behind. My faith allows me to look at life as a constant renewal of God's love.
In the midst of this faith and reverence of life, I do have my down moments, too. I get frustrated with my lack of short term memory. I don't enjoy being in crowds. Meeting people and not knowing them is both frustrating and embarrassing. Telling people I have dementia and having them laugh and respond that they forget things, too, is getting old. I want them to accept what I say and not think it is a joke - dementia is anything but funny. I want them to recognize the face of dementia, to accept it, ask about it, be aware of it. Not pass it off as if I've made a joke.
I have made some adjustments in 2007 for my condition. We have a cleaning lady every two weeks. Dinners, when made, are usually quite simple.Medication lists are kept and checked off. Notes of reminders are put on our front door with magnets - a place where I will be sure to see them. My husband constantly asks if I've taken my medicines (and it's only a fifty-fifty chance that I have).
I try to help in the decision making, but have turned over the mundane everyday ones to my husband. I use a Palm Pilot AND a purse calendar to keep me aware of appointments. I make a list on Sunday telling me what I am doing each day that week. I drive every day so I can keep in my mind the steps needed to operate a car. I write this blog to keep my mind sharp and to fill the need to communicate as much as I can in as many ways as I can. I read all different types of books, taking notes as I go in the margin. This helps me when I pick that book up again to remember what I have read. I meet with friends to exercise my social skills. I use both of Nintendo's Brain Age games to improve my cognitive abilities. I go to the doctor for regular follow-ups.
In reflection of 2007, I see then, that I have changed. Life has changed. I have chosen to face it straight on. I am in the battle of my life and I am not giving up. Looking back, even with the diagnosis of dementia, 2007 was not such a bad year after all. I can hardly wait to see what 2008 has in store...